10 Important Tips for your Book Cover Design

LisaHainline12by Lisa Hainline of  Lionsgate Book Design

No matter how much we ’shouldn’t judge a book by its cover’ unfortunately most people still do. Can you risk putting so much time and money into a book that people will not pick up? Don’t rush this important aspect of the book as it could be the lifeline of the book, so consider a spirit of excellence when you consider hiring a professional to design it, and consider what drove you to write the book in the first place.

1. ) Know your audience.

When designing a cover, you first need to define the target audience; who are they and would attract that readership? If your audience is mostly women, then creating a masculine cover would not make women pick up your cover. Marketing statistics have a few guidelines to also consider, such as how Women will pick up a cover with a man on the front but not vice versa. Speak to your audience. (Christians; the Lord may have given you a “vision” for your story but that may have been to keep you focused on the goal and intent and not necessarily for the front cover image that will inspire your readers. They are reading for a different reason than you are writing for most of the time.) Know what is PROMISED in your book, meaning what will the reader get out of reading your book and why should they even pick it up.

I designed these covers to attract a different audience for each book. Though many different demographic groups may be interested in reading the books, can you name an age group and sex which may appeal to each of these?

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2.) Know your competition.

With over 3,000,000 books being published yearly, yours has to stand out and you should be aware of those it will stand up against in a line-up on sites like Amazon. If you can, research books like yours to see what is out there and at least look at top-selling authors to see the types of covers that DO sell. If your book looks like it was done in 1957 by a very unprofessional outfit, who will buy it? KEEP IT TIMELY!

I designed the book on the left…which one intrigues you more? Do you get a different feel about the message inside based on the cover?

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 3.) Keep it simple

You don’t have to show every character in the story (if fiction) nor a complicated scene out of the book but make more of a “reference” in imagery, giving a HINT of what we can see inside to entice them.

The covers below I designed to show a PART of a scene, (not a whole story line) which still intrigues  the reader to want to find out what the rest of the book is about.

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4.) Title should be easy to read.

If people have to search for the title as they skim the shelves or online book source, they may pass it by.  If your title is too long, the same thing may happen but it helps to have one or two words larger than the rest (see image below).

All 3 of these covers I designed giving more importance to some words over others. 

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I designed the book cover on the left…which one can you read…which one would you buy?

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5.) Consider the thumbnail.

Again, look at the book images above. Consider your present cover design at about 2 inches high, as that is how it will be shown at times on such sites as Amazon. You don’t have to make the subtitle readable at this size for the whole cover may be screaming by then and people will read the description if the image and title are grabbing them.

Below are 2 covers on Amazon and at the size you will see them at. I designed the one on the left…which can you read at this size? Which would you buy, and why?
The next two are more examples of hard-t0-read-titles on Amazon.

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6.) Font choice should fit the book.

Don’t use dated fonts such as comic sans unless it’s a humor book. Fiction books can get away with fonts that have more drama or are more creative but they should still be easy to read and fit the design. This is where you really have to rely on a seasoned graphic designer with a proven portfolio.

The top 3 book covers have text fonts that are just not showing off the book well.

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Here are 4 covers that I designed for Christian authors where I had room to play with the fonts to suit the story feel.

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7.) Color is important.

Your book needs to catch the reader’s eye even before they read the title, so make it attractive. If it looks like Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and your design fights with your headline, readers may pass it by for a more simple and easy-to-read design (remember step above). In saying that, white book covers may not pop on book sites such as Amazon.

Below are 3 covers that may just be a little much…or off-putting choices that confuse the reader where to look or are just uncomfortable to look at.

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Below are 3 covers that I designed using an array of colors that are hopefully a little more  easy on the eyes and guide you into what the author wants you to know about the book.

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8.) Don’t use your own artwork

…or that of your children and friends. We love them…but they may not be the best fit for the audience and feel of your book and rarely works. When I search out illustrators I consider hundreds of styles to find the right fit, and search through stock photo sources that have a catalog of billions of images. This is NOT the place to save money!

Here is a “before/after” that I redesigned for a client for a more professional look, though I know she loves her son and would display his work anywhere else in the house.












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9.) Avoid junking it up

…Gradients, images in boxes, loud or garish images, cartoons or clipart, and certainly no fluffy clouds, or ocean scenes (unless it’s a travel guide to the Virgin Islands).  I would throw in their sunsets or sunrises but as a Christian book cover designer, I have found that there are ways to sometimes incorporate these to create peace and inspire the atmosphere that some Christian books need (already showed you a bunch of these!).


10.) Finally, Avoid doing your own cover.

You may think you have great ideas but you’re not impartial, nor a seasoned professional graphic designer, and even then, don’t do it. I am my own worse client and can’t design myself out of a box when it comes to my own material. You would be hard pressed to find a best-selling author who designs their own covers.

Who doesn’t love “before / after” shots?

Below are just a few of my redesigns on reprints or just when the author knew that the book they are selling…
is not selling.



front cover designsm

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Christian Book Cover, Before and after, Cross and crucifixion
Christian Book Cover Before & After


Sometimes it doesn’t take much. Lorilyn went from selling about 30 books a month with this design to an average of 385 per month, and won 3 book awards and 1 cover design award with this new revamp.

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Lisa Hainline is the designer and owner of Lionsgate Book Design. Lisa has over 38 years of design, illustration and marketing for major corporations such as Kimberly Clark, Sargento, Miller Brewing Co., Coors, Mercury Ourboards and others but now spends her efforts helping authors but a “face to the baby” with cover design but other marketing and promotional materials as well. Contact Lisa Hainline for a quote on your next project.

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