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The Importance of An Exceptional Book Cover

​When you walk into a bookstore what is the first thing your eye is drawn to? Unless you are on a mission to find a particular title, you will most likely be attracted to the most intriguing and well-designed cover art. While we would love to embrace the adage of “never judge a book by its cover”, the truth is that we as human beings are visual creatures. First impressions are largely made initially by our visual interpretation of something or someone – if we are immediately curious about something based on first looks the likelihood that we will take the time to investigate it further becomes slim.

This is why the cover of your book may be just as important as the interior content. On average today one has approximately ten to twenty seconds (and that is generous) to grab someone’s attention. After over fifteen years of intense inundation of social media, reality TV, and other media distractions, we have now become the short attention span generation. Humanity’s propensity for leisurely focus has been replaced with bold and flashy infographics, which they also demand immediately. Whether you are selling a product or a book you need to be able to stand out from the masses.

Regardless of whether you have a traditional publisher or have decided to go the increasingly popular route of self-publishing it is important to do your research ahead of time. Go to a bookstore and peruse the aisle where your topic or genre is featured. What book covers grab your eye? What is it about these covers that make them stand out from the rest? Is it the image, the fonts, the overall layout? Are they informative – would someone immediately know what the book is about? Are they exciting and inspiring – do you want to personally buy them as a first impression? Whether you will be engaging a freelance designer or communicating with the designer at your publisher’s office, you will need to be able to verbalize what you are looking for in the finished design.

If you have been offered a contract for your book with a traditional publisher, you will be assigned a graphic designer for your book. Depending on the publisher and the content of your book, you may also be assigned an illustrator for the cover art. Do not hesitate to ask your publisher for examples of their previous work ahead of time to make sure you are pleased with their style and professionalism. In addition, once a cover design is sent to you for your review do not feel as if you have to accept the first draft. Provide feedback and, if the design is not living up to your expectation, request revisions. Remember, you will be locked into the cover you approve for the duration of your publishing contract, which could be anywhere from five to seven years.

If you are going the route of self-publishing, and are not personally a professionally trained graphic designer or illustrator, you will need to engage a freelance graphic designer. So, how to go about this? There are many ways you can connect with designers and illustrators including online job boards such as and, Craig’s List, and your local college job boards (some amazing designers may still be in school). If you go this route, attempt to find one who is located in or near your city so that you may meet on a regular basis. Also be sure to request a portfolio and references of past clients so that you are fully informed of the professionalism of the person you are hiring. And, if it is possible, try to find a designer with previous book cover design experience.

There are also companies, which specialize solely in the creation of book cover designs. However, keep in mind many of these companies work from a template base – if the cost is too good to be true, take a look at their previous titles to see if they meet the criteria for your own book. This also goes for hiring an independent freelancer – if they are offering to work for less than minimum wage, you will definitely get what you pay for.

Do you have any additional insight into the creation of the perfect book cover? Tweet to me @Gabrielle_Faust.


This article was originally written by myself, for Michelle Prince's motivational speaking blog in 2015. I hope you will also find it highly interesting and useful.

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