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So, you’ve spend months, or perhaps years perfecting your book, forsaking all objectives except committing your imagination or knowledge to paper. Finally it is the kind of book you’ve dreamt of, but what does it look like?

Whether you are publishing an ebook or a more traditional printed book, the cover for your book may not be the last hurdle to literary success but it is still an important one. Some authors have clear vision of their cover, rendered in full technicolour and waiting to be brought to life by an accomplished designer, others may ponder exactly what the perfect cover for their work should look like, unsure yet eager to get it exactly right.

I have supported both types of author in providing the perfect cover design for their work. However, if you fall into the latter category and are searching for inspiration for your cover, here are some quick tips which might help.

1. Research book covers within the same genre of your book

This may sound obvious but there is more to it than just comparing imagery. If you open up your browser of choice and go to any one of the ebook stores, or any bookstore for that matter (its even more fun if you go to a bricks and mortar store, they often have coffee) and browse the top 20 books in your genre. You should pay special attention to the colour palettes and contrasting colours used, the placement of the title text and author name, as well as the typefaces used and how specifically they have been styled; are they in bold, or all uppercase, and is the font serif or sans-serif, regimented or hand-drawn?

You may notice some commonality amongst the various cover designs in that genre top 20, and whilst there are always exceptions (usually if the author is extremely well known) there is a reason for these shared traits. Whether they known it or not readers have become used to their favourite genre looking a certain way; this shared styling is akin to a form of visual short-hand which informs the reader what to expect, and therefore which books they might like.

Adopting some of the characteristics found on the covers in your genre top 20, in a manner unique to your book, helps to visually establish your work as being part of that genre instantly to readers looking specifically for that type of book. Each genre has this visual formula and many of the big publishing companies adhere to this approach for maximum effect.

2. Who is your ideal reader?

Who was the ideal reader you had in mind when you wrote your book? What is their age, gender, likes, dislikes and interests? The characteristics that help define your reader as a person are of utmost important when considering your cover design.

For example; It is easier to imagine the perfect cover when the target reader of your book is a twenty something woman with an interest in horses and travel. Consequently, it is a lot easier to pique the interest of this particular target group with a cover design that speaks to their interests and aspirations.

3. What imagery defines your work?

When designing a book cover the old adage of ‘keep it simple’ certainly applies. You will need a single image (cover) to represent an entire work rather than illustrating a portion or portions of it. Your book cover also has to be identifiable at smaller sizes, such as when it is displayed as a thumbnail image on ebook stores, and to catch potential readers’ eyes at a distance across (hopefully) crowded bookshops far and wide.

This can mean working with a designer to create an image or cover design which efficiently speaks to your target reader as identified above, either as a literal visual representation of your book or your book reimagined as a visual concept, in full or in part.

What kind of imagery springs to mind when you think about your book? Are there any themes, locations or items (real or imagined/invented for the sake of your novel) that feature prominently within?

4. Don’t be afraid to doodle.

With design, just as it is with writing, inspiration has to find you working. No matter how bad you think your drawing skills are, sketching out your cover ideas can be a fun and exciting activity even if you’re not a designer. Similarly, don’t be afraid to send your designer your sketches showing the thoughts you have had about your cover design, they should thank you for taking the time to fully and literally illustrate the sort of cover you are seeking.

It is important to be prepared for open, constructive feedback on your concepts as well as to give open, constructive feedback on the concepts you designer creates for you, after all, both you and your designer want just one thing; a stunning cover design that is optimised exclusively to sell your book.

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