Book covers can be the last thing you think about as an author, but ultimately, they’re the first thing your readers will see. So how do you find a book cover that will perfectly complement the story you’ve written, edited, and worked so hard to create?

These days, there are plenty of options. You can create your own with a picture or photo. You can ask a friend or colleague to make one, or you can pay someone to design one for you. And, if you’re publishing your book electronically, you can always change the cover down the road–once you’re tired of the old one or have made enough money to replace it.

So what should you look for in a book cover in the first place? 


Accurately “Showing” the Genre

If you’re writing a romance story, you’ll want your cover to say that through color, composition, and artistry. You’ll also want to hint at the kind of romance story inside. Historical? Think about using an appropriate graphic, like a fan or sword or a main character dressed in period garments.

Suspense? Darker colors or an alarming graphic might be more appropriate. Sweet? Brighter colors and a more “sunshiny” feel might be in order. No matter your genre and sub-genre, a picture can only be worth “a thousand words” if it conveys the right ones.


Striking Imagery

When it comes time to pick a cover, it can help to look at your market. What sorts of covers are currently popular? Which ones do you like as you scroll through books, and why? Which ones catch your interest?

One of the best things about having a cover is standing out in the crowd. Your book is no longer just a title floating through space. It has an image to go with it…but that image needs to catch the readers’ eyes. So you’ll want to be aware of the trends, but not copy them too closely, as your book’s cover needs to stand out, not look like just another version of this year’s bestseller.


Clarity and Quality

The quality of the image will make a difference. Cheaper photos or images might look fabulous as a thumbnail, but what happens when readers put it on their e-Reader? What happens if they click on it on their computer to see more detail, when bloggers and book reviewers post the image on their websites? You don’t want your cover to look grainy, especially when it becomes the “face” of your work.


Lack of Clutter

You might think that the more images you can pack into the cover, the better, as it’s that much more you’re conveying, but you have to think about the cover as an artistic whole. Too many bits and pieces, shapes and colors, and it’ll just look overwhelming and hard-to-read. You want would-be readers to come away with three things: the title, the genre of the book, and the author. Once you’ve achieved that, it’s time to refine the image rather than keep adding things.


Continuity with Your Other Books

If you’ve written and published more than one book within the same genre, you’ll want them to follow some of the same rules and “look good next to each other.” It’s part of your branding as an author.

So you might look at using the same kind of font for your title and name or using the same kinds of images. If the first one had a photo-like feel to it, you might continue that in the next. Even if you’re not writing a series, you want your readers to quickly know it’s you, just from the style of the cover.