by Lauren Sapala


Studies have proven again and again that humans make purchasing decisions based on emotional factors. This probably happens most frequently in the glittering online jungle known as I read recently that Amazon is the only search engine people use with the mouse in one hand, and a credit card in the other.

For me, a regular Amazon customer, I don’t even need my credit card. The site has my payment information recorded and it’s as simple as one click to send a new book to my Kindle.

If you’re a writer, and a reader, I know this is true for you too.

Emotional decision making + split-second purchasing power =

You better have a damn good book cover.


Too many self-pubbing authors have book covers that get lost in the deluge of 99 cent Kindle deals. The cover might be too generic, too bland; it doesn’t stand out when potential readers are skimming through hundreds of titles. Or the cover is too bright and the colors are all wrong; it comes off as gaudy and garish and turns off otherwise loyal fans of a genre.

The key is balance. Your book cover should speak volumes with one fantastic image, and draw in die-hard followers as well as those readers who didn’t even know they were your audience.

To master the perfect cover, you need to know these three things:


Know Your Designer
You should feel comfortable with your book cover designer right from that very first email. A good designer will explain the process to you in detail and promptly answer any questions you might have (even if they seem obvious). A good designer will also be upfront about their pricing, letting you know what you can expect to pay extra for and what’s included in their basic package.

Most designers will offer to provide you with multiple drafts of the design until you’re satisfied that they’ve gotten it right, and every designer should be someone who you feel is really listening to you as you explain what you want and how you see it executed in the final product.

Best Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask about anything that confuses or concerns you. A good designer will be happy to provide you with all the answers you need to move forward.


Know Your Book
There are tons of awesome book cover designers out there, but I guarantee that not one of them has time to read your book. They’re going to rely on you to give them at least a basic premise so they know what type of book it is and who it’s aimed at in terms of audience. If you have this information ready to go before you start the design process it will make things easier on everyone.

Think about your obvious audience, and then think about other people on the fringe of that audience who might be brought into your fan base. What other kinds of things are those people attracted to? Do a little research and dig deeper. For instance, my husband is big into the heavy metal music scene, and I’ve noticed there’s a significant crossover between heavy metal and horror movie fans. Look for the subtle crossovers in your audience and think about bringing in some of those elements.

Best Tip: Write a short blurb, pitch, or tagline describing your book and send it to your designer. Consider any unique themes that show up in that blurb and how they might be incorporated into your design.


Know Your Audience
You want your book cover to be one-of-a-kind, but there’s also something to be said for perusing through the covers of other books in your genre. What are fans of that genre used to seeing? Much of the time, the human brain runs in the deep grooves of habit and familiarity. And much of the time, we select things based on what we’ve already identified as “what we’re looking for” or “what we like.”

The takeaway is to definitely still strive for your own individual flavor, but also take into account what other popular and successful authors in your field are doing with their covers. If you see a book cover that you know just works, ask yourself what makes it work and send it to your designer as an example.

Best Tip: Do a little real-world research. Ask people you know who read within your genre to send you their top five favorite book covers of all time.


Most importantly, take your time with this process. Hire the designer you really want and don’t skimp on the price. Your book cover will be your biggest, most noticeable piece of marketing. It will follow you onto your social media profiles and maybe even your business cards. Make it something that makes you proud.





Guest post contributed by Lauren Sapala. Lauren is a writing coach who specializes in personal growth and artistic development for introverted intuitive writers. She is the author of The INFJ Writer and currently blogs on writing, creativity and personality theory at She lives in San Francisco.