On a scale of 1-10, your cover is probably a 12, as far as importance goes. The cover is the first thing the reader sees, and it's what influences them to pick your book up to read the blurb on the back. You only get one shot to hook 'em, and you need to make that shot count.
So what are the key points on your cover?
1. The Image
This may seem a bit obvious, but the image is the first thing that will catch a reader's eyes. It needs to be intriguing and it needs to tell a story. For example, in this cover, there is a girl. She's walking into a bright light. Where is she going? Why is she doing that? Who is she?
These are the types of questions that will pop into your readers minds. Keep in mind this takes seconds. Seconds. Your image needs to be compelling, and it needs to look professional. None of that clipart put together in Paint stuff.
There are lots of great sites now-a-days that can help you build a cover, including Shutterstock, Pixabay, and a ton more, but if you don't know what you're doing (design, design elements, ratios, how to use the programs, etc.) then leave it to someone who does.
People say don't judge a book by it's cover, but they really do.
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Titles are hard to come up with sometimes. They need to be simple and intriguing, with few exceptions. If your book is a series, ideally the titles need to have some sort of cohesiveness and be similar enough that the reader knows it's part of the same series.
The title also needs to match the image, and also the story. This is where font becomes important. A great font can give the reader a ton of information, including genre and perhaps content (i.e., is this a horror? is it a fantasy?)
Placement is important, too. You don't want your title to overshadow your image, and you don't want it to be too difficult for your reader to see. If anything will turn a reader away, it's a cover that's too difficult to look at.
The blurb is key! If your image and title have done their jobs, this is where you'll snag the reader and reel them in!
Again, it needs to be compelling and intriguing, but not give too much away about the story. You want to highlight the characters, the conflict, and then leave the reader hanging as to how the conflict will be resolved.
Blurbs can be really hard, especially for the author. You know all the intricacies of the book. How could you possibly condense all of that work into a few paragraphs or sentences??
If you're having trouble, ask your beta reader to help you. Many times they will be able to give you the Cliffnotes version of your book and help you get it into an exciting blurb!
Still need help! Let us write one for you!
4. Your Name
Unfortunately, unless you're a best-selling author, your name doesn't really matter very much. If you're an indie author, chances are that the average reader has never heard of you. For the most part, you want to make sure to leave your name smaller than your title. This keeps it from getting in the way. Once you have more books/become more well-known, feel free to make it bigger!
5. Series Title
If your book is part of a series, a series title or emblem is a great thing to have! It lets your reader know that there is more to come, and that is often a compelling selling point for readers. Readers love a good series!
6. Barcode, Author Info, and Publisher Info
All three of these things are important, but have very little to do with influencing your reader. Be sure to put them at the bottom of the back cover to keep them from being in the way of the reader's attention when they are looking at your front cover and blurb.
Spines are great to look at. In the case of this cover, it matches the front and back and helps to make the book look great. The text is easy to read and it has the author's name at the bottom. It's eye-catching for when it's put facing out on the shelf, once again thanks to the font and the image used. It also helps ease into the back cover.
When all of these elements are combined in a professional way, they create the thing that readers see. Many messages are conveyed by the design elements, and it's important to understand what your design looks like to other people and what it conveys to your reader about your book. Again, it's often best to hire a professional, but if you're determined to do it yourself, look at other books in your genre and try to mimic what you see. Also, don't be afraid to ask your readers for their opinion!
What are some of your favorite cover designs?