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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Designing (and Redesigning!) Your Book's Cover: Five Points to Consider

What does a book cover say?

Capturing the essence of a book in a single image is a daunting task. A quick search on many classic titles shows that one book may have presented different marketing faces to different audiences. This post by provides an excellent primer on the basics of good and bad cover design.

Each type of book, whether ebook, paperback or hardcover, will have specifics for its cover needs. An ebook is the simplest and least time consuming cover because the author only has to decide on the front cover's image. There are no spines, back covers or dust flaps to contend with. Most authors use the same image for their ebooks as they do for the paperbacks and hardcovers. When initially launching a book, keeping the same cover is a good idea, especially for a new or indie author.

Finding that one image is a daunting task. There are any number of services to help with cover designs. Check out and to post your project and find a designer. Sites like and Flickr have a trove of reasonably priced images to choose from if you're bold enough to try one of the do-it-yourself cover creators.

Additional points to consider:

1. What will your image look like in thumbnail?

Even sales through a brick and mortar store are often made after a reader has researched a book online. The best covers are recognizable, crisp, and evocative even when less that one inch high. If you have an image you like, test a smaller version of it:
  • Bring a view of the image onto your computer screen;
  • Minimize the screen by hitting the "_" in the upper right corner (for most computers);
  • Cursor over the toolbar. A small image of the screen will appear that closely approximates what a thumbnail of a potential cover will look like.
2. Don't ignore the additional horsepower of the back cover and dust flaps.

Most online sales are ebook sales. No mystery there. Many authors forget or are not aware of the additional marketing power of back covers. Take a look at any paperback book on Amazon and you'll have an option to "flip" the book over to read the back. Even if the sale is going to be a Kindle, many readers take the time to read the back cover of the paperback. Amazon also allows authors and publishers to add content "From the Inside Flap" whether the potential sale is for a Kindle or hardcover. Also, the back cover provides additional emotional cues which hint at the story within. Author pictures are not required.

3. Listen to feedback.

A book may have a great cover, but an author may get feedback that the cover does not fit the book. If you hear there is a disconnect between what the cover says and what the content is, consider redesigning it.

4. Use the redesign as a mini re-launch.

Any reason to talk about your book is a good thing. Use the redesign to generate conversation and buzz. Engage your readers and potential readers in a dialogue. Time the release of the new cover with some event like a reader, interview or blog tour. This way, you can transition the reader's awareness of your book away from the old image to the new image and keep your existing fans with you.

5. New ISBN is not needed.

According to Bowker, a new ISBN is not needed for a new cover and/or minor interior editorial changes. If there is a substantial change to the content that would spark a consumer complaint, then a new ISBN would be needed.

What's your redesign story?

Good luck!