08 March 2017

Elements of a Book Cover

As I get closer and closer to publishing my newest historical fiction novel The Country Girl Empress, the question of what kind of book cover it should have came up. With a little care a book cover can produce big results. Look at lots of book covers for inspiration. A stunning book cover is the dream of every author, traditional or indie. Whether you create the cover yourself or hire someone, there are certain basic elements you should keep in mind:

The Book Title

Make your book title big and bold, as many people browse for their next book to read on their mobile devices. The best book covers have a large, easy-to-read title. This makes it much easier for readers to identify the book. Reduce your cover design on-screen to the size of a thumbnail and see if you can still read it. If not, you might want to simplify it.

The Cover Image

The book cover should focus on one idea or image. Sometimes illustrations work better than photographs, as they often indicate that a book is of a non-fiction nature. Simple and striking works best. There is no need to put an image of every character, setting and theme on the front cover. Your book will do that for you. Your aim should be to entice your reader into picking up the book. Don’t give away the ending on your cover! White backgrounds will most likely make your book disappear, as it will more often than not be displayed against a white backdrop.

The Author

The author’s name is considered, by many, the third most important element on a cover after the title and the central image. Don't be afraid to display it in a prominent manner!

If your biography is part of the cover, it should be brief. It is important to emphasize the areas of yourself that resonate with the book and with the times. If you have other published works, consider mentioning them, as this adds to your credibility. Keep in mind that you only have this little biography write-up and your picture to introduce yourself to the reader. Which brings me to my next point...

Don't forget about the author portrait! While an author photo is not always used, it is a chance to add your personality to the book. Readers have a natural curiosity to see what the writer looks like. Get a professional portrait, if possible. Are you writing a book about animals? Then have a photographer take a picture of you with your pet. Are you writing a gardening book? Then perhaps a photo of yourself surrounded by oodles of flowers would be a good idea. No matter the circumstances, the author should always look approachable and respectable.


We are all familiar with the effects of colour on emotions. So, don’t forget about it when you are thinking about a cover design. I try to avoid white backgrounds, which disappear on retailer’s white screens. I prefer to use a colour, texture, or background illustration instead. If you don’t feel comfortable picking colours, look at some colour palettes for inspiration. 


Use a font that is easy to read. It makes no sense to use a font that’s unreadable when it’s reduced. Watch out for script typefaces, you know, the kind that look like elegant lace at full size; they tend to disappear when small.

Certain font choices are often associated with certain genres. For example: Popular fiction aimed at female readers uses a lot of handwriting fonts. Historical fiction books should fit the time period. Romance novels often uses cursive or decorative scripts, and thrillers are often in all caps Sans Serif. 

Book Blurb

Look at many samples. Browse online in your genre and select the ones you find most intriguing. Analyze the structure and which words have the most impact.

Keep your book blurb short; 100 to 200 words are usually sufficient. Use short sentences; readers are usually just skimming through text, so the easier it is to read your blurb, the more enticing it will be.

Tell the readers about the main character(s). Readers often look to identify with a central protagonist.

This might seem like a no-brainer but avoid story spoilers or summarize the entire story line, even though it might be very tempting.  You wouldn't want to give the whole story away beforehand. What motivation would there be left for anyone to read your book if they already know how the story ends?!


The book cover should show which genre the book belongs to. A good book cover "speaks" to its readers through the typography, title, and imagery.

I hope you found this short list at least somewhat useful. Since it isn't all inclusive, feel free to add to it in the comment section!

Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added her debut historical fiction novel In the Shadow of Her Majesty to her ever-expanding collection of published writings. When she isn't busy typing away on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookGoodreads and Google+.

No comments:

Post a Comment