In a nod to Forrest, Forrest Gump, “Momma said you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Words more true have never been spoken.
Particularly if you’re a writer.
As a writer, it’s all about grabbing a reader’s attention and getting them serious about another look.
Think about it for a moment.
Say you want to get an agent’s attention. What do you need? An amazingly effective query letter. It doesn’t matter if your manuscript is out of this world, you have to quickly grab the agent’s attention and keep it.
Say you want to get the reader to move past the first page. Your first line has to be enough to get them to the second line, then to the next then to the end of the page and beyond.
Keep in mind readers have any number of things they could be doing other than reading your book. In fact, before a reader even gets to the first page, they have to get the book in their hands.
Here the first impression is of paramount importance.
How does your book make a first impression? Either have a well-funded ad campaign behind it or have a great cover (though both really helps). Since most of us don’t have huge ad budgets, we get to go with the cover approach.
You need a cover that sets your book apart and makes it really stand out.
Take a look at the cover. Something about this just makes you want to read the book.
Check this one out. How could you not want to read that book?
Then there’s this one. Personally, one of my favorites.
Now, I will say that not every great book has a great cover. One of my favorite books, A Confederacy of Dunces, has an interesting cover, but it, in my humble opinion, the cover doesn’t really make you rush right over and want to dive in. It more so makes you stop, wander over and wonder what the book possibly could be about. If your wondering, check out the review here.
So what do you need for a good cover?
1 – Go Professional
If you have a publisher, follow their lead. Your publisher knows what sells and what works. They will be motivated to have your book grab attention and fly off the shelf. They want that first impression to be a reaction that makes the reader reach for their wallet. If your publisher suggests a cover, give it really careful attention.
So you don’t have a publisher? Spend some money to have a professional with a tight portfolio design your cover. There are loads of firms online that provide the service at all price points, so shop around. One firm you might want to check out is Novel Publicity. (I don’t own the company or even get a kickback, but they are great people who do good work.) The point here is money spent to put a great cover on your book will always be an excellent investment.
It’s your book, but remember you’re a writer not a design professional. (Unless you happen to be a design professional who is also a writer.) Get a pro involved.
2 – Keep it Simple
The one thing I like about effective book covers is that they aren’t too busy. They pick a theme and convey it in a straightforward fashion. If a cover is too busy you run the risk of having the reader move on to the next and more appealing cover.
If a reader is browsing the bookstore shelves they may spend perhaps 2 seconds on a particular cover.
So you have 2 seconds to grab their attention. The previous paragraph is less 20 words and it likely took you longer than 2 seconds to read it. You have to grab and keep a reader’s attention.
Short and simple. Powerful and effective. Those are the covers that scream, “READ THIS BOOK!” Of course, without literally saying that.
3 – Color or Black and White
Ah, there’s the rub. As with many things in the writer’s realm, there is no simple answer. Think mood. What are you trying to convey? You may not want to have a black and white cover for a tale of hope and wonder, but for a edgy tale black and white may be just the thing. Check this one out.
The same is true for graphics or a photograph. It depends on the mood you are trying to convey and what you are wanting to get across to the reader. My book, The Trust, has a photograph on the cover, but the photo yields to the theme and feel of the book.
4 – Options and more Options
Before you decide on a final cover for your book, work through several options. Get input from other readers, from friends and even those off of the street. A second opinion is always important and a third and fourth are even better. Particularly when it deals with the face you’re putting forward on your book.
That all being said, there are no hard fast rules for covers. Perhaps the one rule that covers all situations is, “Don’t have a bad cover.” Another good catchall rule is, ”When in doubt, less is more.” There is nothing wrong with a simple design. No one can complain about a text only publisher.
At the end of the day the cover of the book is the face the world will see. Make sure it is one everyone wants to look at again and again. As long as it is effective then the cover is right for you!
So while you’re here why not read a chapter from my book or even buy a copy of your own. Feel free to leave a comment, even if it is about my cover. A portion of all proceeds from the sale of The Trust will be donated to canine related charities.
Sean Keefer is the author of The Trust, a tale of mystery/suspense set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
The Trust is the Debut Novel from Sean Keefer.
I'm happy to consider books for review. I'll review hard and paperbacks. I'll also be happy to review eBooks but can only do Nook or PDF format. Email me from the Contact page for more information. Thanks!