A strong book cover helps the read identify the genre, the target audience, and the intensity of the book. Most readers wouldn’t take a horror novel seriously if the front was a cartoon of a young child walking a kitten. The cover doesn’t match the genre or reader expectations.
Let’s say a romance novel has the picture of a toned fellow with six-pack abs, but the romantic characters only share a chaste kiss in the entire book. Readers would be disappointed and are less likely to buy another book from that author. If a romance book cover contains an alien, and the alien character is not a romantic lead and only plays a tertiary role in the book, then again, readers will be disappointed.
Here are some factors that make a great book cover:
- The central image contains the main character(s) or the main theme of the book. Research book covers on online retailers and compare the book covers within a genre. For example, a hard boil detective novel is more likely to have the detective on the cover than a cozy mystery’s cover. A cozy mystery is more likely to have an idyllic setting with gardens or a picturesque village on its cover than a police procedural. Review the best-selling books you’ve read and analyse their covers
- The colours used are in keeping with the tone and setting (i.e. No neon pink if it’s a western historical romance)
- The fonts of the author’s name and title are in keeping with genre expectations. For example, children’s books tend to have larger lettering than literary fiction. Horror books are more likely to have ‘slasher-style’ fonts with jagged edges
- The items on the cover are proportional to their importance or relevance in the book
- The book cover clearly identifies if the book is part of a series
- The back cover is equally important. The back cover is what encourages the reader to flip through the pages to see if they want to read the book. The back cover introduced the main character(s), the central conflict, and stakes.
Here’s a simple formula for a back cover:
- Sentence one: introduce main character and their central objective
- Sentence two: introduce major obstacles to achieving goal
- Sentence three: describe what will happen (good or bad, usually bad) if the main character doesn’t achieve their goals (death of a loved one, destitution, world destruction, etc.)
- Sentence four: tagline of book
If you’re writing a longer book or have a more nuanced plot, you make consider adding an extra sentence to the first part. A back cover is usually 100 to 200 words. Quick enough for a reader to skim but containing enough information to entice the reader to flip through pages and eventually buy the book.
I'd like to thank @SundownersBook for the topic suggestion. Readers are welcome to reach out to me on Twitter @reneegendron to discuss the post and suggest blog topics. Image is from Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.