Choosing a Winning Book Cover

To be honest, we all judge books by their covers. This is true today more than ever. While there has been much fear and speculation over the decline in sales of “real” books alongside the rise of e-books, that is not true. Physical books are selling better than ever. This is due to three main reasons:

  • there are more people on the planet than ever (as well as more people in developed nations with equal access to education); therefore, more people buying books than ever
  • the power of social media and globalized networking
  • because so many things are online and intangible, people want to put their money into buying quality physical products. Publishers today are putting increasing amounts of money into design and quality of books. People want to buy beautiful books.

For example, I own a 99-cent copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice on my Kindle. However, when Juniper Books, in collaboration with Penguin Publishing artist Coralie Bickford-Smith, came out with their new Jane Austen book covers, I willingly threw my money at them (see image below). That’s not because it was new content; I wanted to own this beautiful new copy and put the cover on my shelf.


Beautiful, compelling book covers matter tremendously to the success of a book. With that in mind, here are some tips for choosing a winning cover design for yours:

  1. Pick a good title. Read our previous blog about how to pick a book title:
  2. Browse Amazon and search for other books in your genre.Is there a noticeable design pattern? What colors are generally used? What type of typography? Minimalistic or crowded? Be aware of what is selling in your genre and use the marketing research that has already gone into those books.
  3. Hire a trusted designer. Don’t skimp on design. A professional and beautifully designed book will be one of your biggest marketing tools. One of the key signs of badly done self-publishing is bad design, so make sure your designer knows her (or his) stuff!
  4. Don’t try to accomplish too much through intuition. The entire subplot and theme of your book does not need to be hidden in the cover. Don’t try to include secret clues or messages in the cover. Just because you use the imagery of a wave in your book does not mean that is the best for your cover.
  5. If in doubt, go for a classic and professional-looking design. A professional cover is timeless, straightforward, and (hopefully) beautiful. Can’t go wrong there!

If you do decide you want to solicit the opinions of others to help you make a decision on your book cover, get feedback from a qualified focus group composed of prospective readers in your market segment who are interested in your specific topic. They are your target audience. As the author, you are very likely too close to it to be able to make a completely objective assessment. And, your family members and friends are probably too close to YOU to make an objective assessment!

Research shows that bookstore browsers spend an average of eight seconds looking at the front cover of a book and 15 seconds studying the back cover before making the decision to buy it (or not). Online bookstores like Amazon reduce the decision time even further. In mere seconds, your cover compels a reader to buy—or to click through to the next book on the list.

In the world of visual marketing, your cover matters. Your cover will likely correspond with your brand (think website and social media platforms) as well as be the first impression people get of your book. Make it a good one!

This post was written by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor. 

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