When you are working with a book cover designer, there are many elements you need to think about. Some are obvious–like the title–some are optional and not as obvious–like cover quotes. Do try to have an idea of what you’re looking for in each of these elements. It will be a huge help to your cover designer, and increase the likelihood of you loving the finished product.
Let’s take a look at each element.
The image is one of the two most important elements. You want it to capture your book, communicate the genre (setting reader expectations), and be as eye-catching as possible. People really do judge books by their covers. We could write several blog posts on the cover image and probably will.
This is an obvious one. You’ll always have this on your books covers. The bigger the author, the more real-estate the name will take up on the cover.
If an author is best-selling or award-winning, they may include the type (international, NY Times, USA Today, etc.) just under or above their name in smaller text. Or they may include a “from best-selling author…”
Also an obvious one. The goal is to make this readable when the book cover is in thumbnail size on the Amazon search results. The look of the title can be as important as the images you select. Many authors miss this fact. Go look at book covers that truly capture your interest, and see how the title compliments and is incorporated with the image. Sometimes the title is the MOST important element on the cover. So don’t just slap a title on there.
Include if you have a subtitle. Typically this is smaller text directly below the title.
Include if this book is part of a series. Typically this is smaller text directly below the title. Hopefully you don’t have both a subtitle and a series title. It’ll look ridiculous.
A series logo can be an actual logo, or it can be a graphic scroll or some other graphic device to place above/below/around your series title. If you include it on book 1, then include it on all the books for consistency.
If the series needs to be read in order, then include the number this book is in the series. If the books can be read out of order, it’s up to you if you include this or not.
An optional element. A tagline is a pithy, one-liner that helps sum up the book and additionally snag the attention of readers. Only include this if you can come up with a good tagline, otherwise, don’t bother.
An optional element. A cover quote is from a fell author or possibly from a review from a well-known publication which is typically a pithy, one-line sentence about how fabulous this book or your writing is. The more well-known the name in your genre the better.
This element is typically determined by the publisher. Many publishers with multiple imprints will include an imprint element on their cover. For a self-published author, this element is unnecessary.
Typically this will be oriented vertically. Sometimes the words may be stacked if the spine is thick enough. Sometimes, if the spine is thick and the title short, the title might even remain horizontal. You want it in the same font as on the front cover.
Same situation as the book title on the spine. Whether you put the title on top or the author name on top is up to you. Our preference is title on top. However, for those big-name authors, typically their name will be on top. In addition, big-name authors may only include their last name on the spine.
Optional. Only include if it’s short enough to take up little space and still be readable.
If you have a series logo which can fit on the spine, we recommend including. It’s a good branding technique for the series.
Include if you have put the book number on the front cover. You can have just the number, or you can put the number below the series title, series logo, and/or the word “book.”
This logo is usually at the very top or very bottom of the spine. If you are a self-published author, consider creating your own publishing company and including your logo.
Often with wraps either the image from the front cover continues around the spine to the back cover, or the back cover sports a complimentary image. Location of that image depends on how well text shows up over it or not.
The 2-3 paragraphs which tease the reader with an idea of what your book is about.
Assuming you’re using CreateSpace, you leave a part of your back cover (bottom right corner) for the bar code. You don’t need a white square for it. They’ll add it over whatever image is there.
If there is space, sometimes an author headshot is included.
If there is space, sometimes a short author bio is included. (Most often below the blurb).
Other Books In Series
If this book is in a series and you have the other book covers, you can include thumbnail images of them (usually below the blurb) to entice readers with the rest of the books.
As with the spine, sometimes the publisher logo and/or imprint logo may be included on the back cover as well.
Remember with a wrap that the main elements (particularly text) will need to look a tad off center. Print books cut off the edges, and the cover design needs to account for that.
These are the most often seen elements on any given book cover. Remember, you DON’T have to do everything suggested here. We highly recommend you spend time look at covers in your genre and finding ones you really like. Ask yourself what you like about them, and try to incorporate those elements–in your own unique fashion, of course, if/when you can.