How to design a book cover: 7 tricks to sell more books
This is the preface to my revised book marketing guide, you can find the whole series on Medium or download the free PDF.
A few years ago I did a case study with 10 authors; I remade their book covers for free to see what kind of difference it would make on their sales. All of them saw sales double immediately. Whatever kind of marketing or promotion you’re thinking about doing, there’s no better investment than getting a nicer book cover.
And you probably already agree. You might even think it’s obvious. After all, everybody says this. The hard part shows up when I start talking about what kind of covers actually sell books and why. On one of my YouTube videos about why tropes sell books, I routinely get comments from authors who say they hate those commercial book covers, which don’t appeal to them at all. They are “drawn to” the more artsy, creative or unusual covers.
Firstly, forget that you’re wandering through a bookstore browsing with your eyes and fingertips, deliberately allowing your senses to be quietly seduced by pretty covers. If you’re self-publishing, your book probably won’t be in bookstores. You’ll be competing against millions of books on Amazon, where readers are browsing quickly, are actively tuning out distractions and interruptions and making quick purchasing decisions with as little brain power as possible. They aren’t going to pick your book up, smell it, think about it. They aren’t even going to notice it, at all (unless they notice how terrible it is, ugly covers always stand out).
Designing for online sales, for self-publishing in general, is not the same as designing for famous, traditionally published authors. Specifically, when you Google “best book cover design examples” you’ll get a lot of clever, weird but artistic book cover designs, often for modern remakes of classical books; and mostly for literary fiction. For that genre, marketplace and audience, those covers make sense. Partly because, the cover doesn’t need to do any work. Famous books will sell anyway, despite the cover. For indie authors, on the other hand, the cover is everything.