Writing Step 6: Your Book Cover

The Book Cover is a crucial part in creating a book that people will be interested in! It needs just as much thought and care put into it as the story you wrote. Yes, it really is that important! Think of it as your advertisement to the world, your story’s “poster”, so to speak, representing what the story within will be like.

To Begin: 

Take a Look at Your Own Preferences

Gather up your favorite books and take a look at their covers, and ask yourself: What about them appeals to you? Did the covers attract you in some way? What enticed you to purchase each book?

Analyzing your own reasons for choosing one particular book over 100’s of others will give you an idea of what many other readers, like yourself, are looking for and willing to spend their money on.

I am a fantasy/science fiction reader, myself, and going through my own little library I’ve noticed several similarities in the cover designs of my book collection: they are colorful, have an interesting and sometimes mysterious background, and always one character or more standing out in the foreground, posing and looking cool or in adventure-mode (riding a ship, horse or something). *Keep in mind though, as colorful and interesting as the covers were, they were never overly crowded or too gaudy.

Another interesting thing I noticed about my specific tastes is that, within the fantasy/science fiction genre, whenever I see a book cover with a real person or photograph on it I usually move on to the next book. Maybe it’s just me, but real people on this genre’s covers make me feel like the story is going to be a little lame and maybe poorly done—like a movie poster gone wrong (this is not always the case, I am only referring to my own tastes and in no way mean to criticize anyone). Problem for me is, even if the story inside turns out to be a great one, I’ll never know because that lame feeling I get from the cover steers me clear. This is a shame, because some good book series would never find their way into my library except if a friend got me interested in them. This could just be my taste in particular, but drawn-and-painted characters on covers appeal to me far more than a photo, and makes me feel the story inside will be interesting and exciting and in a whole different world I want to explore—Even if the artwork isn’t perfect, I enjoy it far more! Perhaps it reminds me of the old classics, like Narnia and Lord of the Rings. There’s just something nostalgic and intriguing that, for me, only artwork can pull off in the fantasy/science fiction genre. It’s something to keep in mind, what reactions potential readers may have to different styles of covers—Analyze yourself and learn what your own unique tastes are!

Each genre is different, and their covers will have to use different tactics to appeal to their particular readers, but if you analyze yourself, as I have myself, you will gain a mound of knowledge to use in your quest for creating an appealing cover for your genre 🙂 !

Start Brainstorming the Design

Colors and Content:

Your target audience will be the key factor in determining how to go about designing your cover. Analyzing yourself, as I mentioned above, will be a big help with this! But, if you are writing for a much younger audience, then you may want to instead google or flip through current catalog listings of best selling books for young readers to form ideas.

Once you know what appeals and most attracts your target audience, begin sketching out designs! Try more than one idea, and then show it around to people already interested in that genre. Ask if it would stand out to them among the flow of 1000’s of books they pass by online and in bookstores. Does the cover make them think: “I want to buy this now!” or do they instead think: “Hmm, I’ll think about it. Maybe later I’ll buy it, if I don’t forget.”


Color attracts, and makes some objects stand out more than others. And it’s the same for books! However, don’t use a bunch of bright and flashy colors—it will work against you. You want 2 or 3 colors that go well together and complement each other, with only one acting as the bright color which stands out. Only one bright, attracting color—you don’t want more than that. I understand that fiction and fantasy can get away with doing more if the cover is like a painting, but still, you don’t want to use too many colors—You can use shades and hues of the selected 2 or 3 colors, or a subtle background of varying tones, but keep only one color as your bright and eye-catching color. If you have more than one bright, attracting color it will no longer stand out and the cover could end up looking busy and noisy. Choose colors wisely. Using opposite colors on the color wheel are a nice option!

Popular mixes right now include: “black/gray, white and red”; “teal and orange”.

Walking by a movie theater, I noticed with a casual glance that the set up row of movie posters on display all looked the same. At first, I said to myself: “What are they thinking? Is every poster for the same movie or something?”, and then I realized what the problem was. All the posters were using the same set of opposite colors scheme. Every single one of them was a version of teal paired with orange. On their own, the posters were cool, but placed together in a row, side-by-side, just made them all blend together and look dull. So that’s something else to keep in mind: being aware of what other books in your genre are doing, so your book can stand out more and not simply “blend in” to their set color scheme.


One or more characters on a book cover tempts and lures the eye to pause, take a moment and see what it’s about. I recommend, after you have picked out your color scheme, thinking about adding a character or two to use this lure. Think about what he/she will be doing on the cover and what message it will send. Is he/she: “posing and looking cool”, or giving the readers a sense of the “adventure” held within the pages? Is he/she wearing a “determined” expression, a “triumphant look”, or a “painful and heartfelt” look which hints at impending tragedy and struggles the character will have to face, enticing the reader to read on?

Further Notes:

It is especially important that your first and second books have appealing, no-clutter no-gaudy covers—even if you are not too happy about restricting your creative spirit. I feel your pain, if there’s an awesome cover you came up with and want to use sooo badly, but people and friends disagree with you… However, take their advice—hard as it may be—for the 1st and 2nd books, at least. The covers are made for the readers, after all, and not for yourself—and keeping the first several covers appealing to readers will get you a better chance of being noticed online and in bookstores. Once people are into you and your awesome work, then maybe you can toy around and do more with covers the way you first wanted to (still a good idea to keep clutter and gaudy levels low-ish, though 🙂 ).

I came across this article full of info about covers and tricks and tips that you absolutely must read!: 8-cover-design-secrets-publishers-use-to-manipulate-readers-into-buying-books and this: 5 common book cover myths

And here is a Template for Word, which you can play around in and brainstorm ideas for your final cover: How to Make Your Own Cover in Word

I wish you all the best in this journey, finding the perfect design and color scheme for your cover! It may take a lot of time and effort, but, in the end, you will have a fantastic book which you can be proud of! Feel free to write in and ask questions. Or, if you have advice and tips you would like to share, please do! ^_^

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