Six steps to a book cover that sells (part I)


Today's guest post comes from children's author Beth Bacon, on how to make sure your book cover actually generates sales.

Six steps to a book cover that sells (part I)

A book with a well-designed, attention-grabbing cover is hard to resist. A book’s cover is one of its most important sales tools.

The purpose of your cover is to sell books by generating a mood and a hook that piques the readers’ interest.

So how does that happen?

Step 1: Create suspense. A well-designed book cover makes potential readers eager to read. To build eagerness, you’ve got to pique their interest by presenting an imbalance of some sort.

If your book is called Murder In The Bowling Alley, don’t simply depict a bowling pin and a gun. If your book is called The Skateboard Romance, don’t just show two people on skateboards holding hands.

The information in those titles is simply repeated in the images, and creates no new suspense. Select some other details from your book and highlight them on the cover.

I write books for children, and my book covers use contradictions to generate interest. The word “Hate” in I Hate Reading is surrounded by a heart.

With my book The Book No One Wants To Read, I employ irony in the cover. Why, a reader may ask, doesn’t anyone want to read it? Is that stop sign daring me to stay away?

A really tempting cover should raise as many questions as it answers.  


Love or hate? This cover creates suspense with the juxtaposition of word and image.

This cover begs the question, “Why doesn’t anyone want to read this book?”

Step 2: Conform to genre. As mentioned above, your book cover should create suspense—but it needs to create suspense within the expectations of its genre.

If your book is a space fantasy, for example, you may want to tap into the instant recognition you’ll get by using an illustration that shows planets against a colorful sky.

If your book is an alpha-male romance, for example, you should be aware that your readers are expecting a hunky guy with a bowtie on the cover.

Out-of-the-box thinking does not apply to genre. The creativity of your book cover needs to come from the way you juxtapose the title and the images within your book’s traditional genre standards.

Step 3: Choose fonts wisely. Fonts have personalities. Be sure the fonts you select match the spirit of your book.

Also, don’t forget that some fonts are difficult to read when reduced to a small size. All of my covers use a hefty font called Agenda in their title.

My book called Blank Space takes that font to the next level by giving the words big, gray shadows. This draws attention to the “blank space” around them.  

The shadows of the bold font in the book Blank Space draw attention to the blank space on the cover.

Head here for steps four through six!

About the author

Beth Bacon loves to read and write — and laugh! She writes funny books intermediate reluctant readers ages six to nine.

Beth holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She also has a degree in communication theory from NYU and a degree in Literature from Harvard University.

Contact Beth through her website.