This is What You Need To Do First:

Book cover design is the most important part of your book marketing plan. It’s your advertisement, your product packaging, your handshake that greets the world.

Whether you’re planning to create your own book cover, or hire a professional book cover designer and becoming the project manager, you really need to do your homework, that includes:

  • understanding what purpose your book cover serves
  • identifying your target audience
  • doing extensive research on what’s selling in your genre

There’s no sense spending money for a professional book cover designer and then directing her to create an amateurish looking cover.

The first thing I’d recommend is to watch this video. It’s a Ted Talk by book cover design guru Chip Kidd. Pay special attention to the part where he discusses an apple. This is a common issue with smaller publishing houses; Then do your research. Check out what’s selling on the NYT’s best sellers’ list, and other relevant review sites.

I spend much of my time studying covers and last year I wrote an article for the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA). You’ll find some useful information here on identifying trends:

“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts,” Mr. Brownlow observed in Oliver Twist. Back in Oliver Twist’s time, book cover content usually consisted of little more than the title and the author’s name on a plain background. Since then, book covers have become an essential marketing tool, sometimes credited with making or breaking a book’s success.

One of the most difficult aspects of designing a book cover is trying to predict what the public will like. Everyone has theories and ideas, but after years of studying cover designs, I’ve come to believe there are two good predictors . . . read more on the IBPA site.

Even if you make a misstep, don’t worry. It’s simply not true that a book cover is a permanent branding feature. Big publishing houses change covers all the time and have multiple covers on the market at the same time. Whatever you decide to do, have fun. Make sure it’s a labor of love.