Why Book Cover Design Matters

book cover design for authors

Book Cover Design for Authors

Book cover design. Title. Burb.

These comprise the holy trinity of indie publishing success.

In a recent post to the 20Booksto50K forum, super indie author Craig Martelle challenged authors to post the title of their latest book, plus the first few lines from the blurb. For those of you wondering, the blurb is the description readers see when they view your book on Amazon.

The Importance of Book Covers

Since your cover is the first hurdle readers cross when choosing their next book, it’s important your cover screams, “This is your target genre!”

A book cover is more than just eye candy. It’s your first marketing pitch, a visual billboard aimed at not just readers but also at algorithms that suggest “similar titles you might enjoy.” For many authors, especially those just starting out, it can be tempting to skimp on the cover design to save money. But this is precisely the area where investment pays off.

Imagine walking into a bookstore filled with thousands of books. Your eyes naturally wander toward covers that grab your attention, covers that speak the unspoken language of your favorite genres—be it the looming spaceships for science fiction aficionados or a moody, rain-soaked alley for the die-hard mystery fans. Your book cover should not only stop potential readers in their tracks but also whisper the essence of your story in their ears.

Now, don’t mistake this for mere aesthetic value. A good cover is a strategic asset. It instantly communicates the genre, tone, and quality of the writing. By aligning with reader expectations, you’re increasing the odds of a click-through when your book pops up in an online search or recommendation list. Let’s not forget that we live in an age where social sharing can make or break a book’s success.

A cover that’s both beautiful and genre-appropriate is far more likely to be shared across social media platforms, doing much of the heavy lifting in your promotional efforts. So when you’re pondering over the budget for your next title, remember this: cutting corners on your book cover is like pulling the rug out from under your own feet. Give your book the opportunity it deserves to be seen, clicked, read, and shared.

Did you design your own cover? If so, I hope you’re a professional cover designer. Did you purchase a second-rate cover because the cheap price attracted you? Sorry, no sale.

Genre-Specific Book Titles

Let’s talk about another unsung hero of book marketing—the title. A good, genre-specific title is like the secret handshake that opens doors to exclusive clubs, in this case, the club of dedicated readers in your genre. When your title resonates with the conventions and expectations of your genre, you’re signaling to potential readers that “Hey, I speak your language.”

You wouldn’t call a gritty detective novel “Sunflowers and Rainbows”; that title belongs in the children’s section or perhaps a feel-good romance. A genre-appropriate title not only captures the essence of your story but also acts as a guiding star leading fans of that genre straight to your work. It’s like attaching a genre GPS to your book—extremely helpful in the crowded marketplace.

Your title is also an SEO dynamo, often underestimated but mighty. Search engines and recommendation algorithms pay close attention to titles. Have you ever typed a vague book description into Google, like “fantasy book about wizard school,” and marveled at how accurately the search engine pinpoints your request? That’s the power of a well-chosen title, coupled with algorithmic magic.

So, when you’re brainstorming titles, think like a reader searching for their next favorite book in your genre. A spot-on title will not only capture the essence of your story but also make it discoverable, acting like a magnet pulling your target readers towards itself. Don’t miss out on this key opportunity to make a strong first impression; give your book the title it—and your future fans—deserve.

I’ll give you an example of a bad book title. Don’t worry, it’s mine.

I named my first novel Storberry. Can you guess the genre? Neither can I. Storberry doesn’t tell potential readers they’re about to read a vampire horror novel. My name isn’t Stephen King, and I can’t name my novels “The Shining” or “Tommyknockers” and expect readers to figure out the genre. 

Storberry has a so-so cover and a decent blurb. Neither are good enough to overcome the horrible title. Unless you’re a household name, you need to nail the cover, title, and blurb to experience success as an author.

Is your title too clever for its own good? Unless the title fits your target genre, readers won’t know what your book is about and will pass you by. 

Competition is fierce if you want to write for a living, and you can’t survive with second-rate covers, weird titles, and poor blurbs.

What about your blurb? How much effort did you put into your book description? Unless your description sells the book, readers will walk away without buying.

Case Study

Now let’s examine the first novel in my Wolf Lake series. First, the cover.

Caroline Teagle Johnson designed the cover for Her Last Breath. I love it. The moment I showed the cover to a thriller writer’s group I belong to, writers heaped praise and asked me who created the design. It fits the dark thriller (or serial killer thriller) genre and is instantly recognizable to potential readers. Put a check in box one.

The title Her Last Breath also fits the genre. The title need not be overly artistic. In fact, I’ll argue it shouldn’t be. Come straight at your readers. As my Calculus II professor once told me, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.”

And now the description:

He’s hunting a psychopath. And now the killer wants him dead.

After he’s shot in the line of duty, Detective Thomas Shepherd returns to Wolf Lake to pick up the pieces of his shattered life. Living beside the water, he finds peace…until the body of a missing woman washes up on his shore and the town blames a teenage boy with a history of violence. Is a killer stalking the sleepy resort village?

Thomas isn’t convinced the teenager committed murder. Challenging a village that wants justice at any cost, he pursues the real killer as evidence mounts against the teenager. If he fails, an innocent boy will go to prison.

Can Thomas clear the boy’s name before he becomes the killer’s next victim?

And there’s your genre-specific, hooky blurb.

Her Last Breath currently ranks #8 in U.S. Horror on Amazon. When you nail the cover, title, and blurb, you give yourself a chance for success.

Now it’s your turn. List the title of your book, plus the first few lines from the description. Let’s see if everyone can guess the genre.

*** But no links. Just your title and blurb. ***

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