Authors, Writers, Publishers, and Book Readers

There’s no question that books are judged by their covers, particularly when they’re written by new or lesser-known authors. Before convincing the viewer to turn over the book and read the blurb on the back, or click on the link for more info, the cover has to be enticing enough to encourage further interaction. That’s a fact, which is why a professionally designed cover is absolutely crucial to the popularity and sales of every book.

The cover sets the tone of the book, informs the viewer on what they may be introduced to within its pages, and provides the impetus to take the next step in the reading or purchasing process. Every element of a good cover gives crucial information to a potential reader, which ultimately influences their reading decision.

So, what makes a quality cover?

There are 5 key aspects to creating a cover that creates interest, provides information, looks enticing and ultimately sells – Tone, Relevance, Attraction, Interest and Legibility  (TRAIL).


Probably the most important element of the cover is the tone. The tone is the feeling the reader gets with a quick glance at the cover. Before they read the title or pay attention to the visual, the tone MUST grab their attention. The tone tells the viewer if this is a supense thriller, a comedy or a sci-fi fantasy novel. In a split second it conveys the theme of the book. The tone is set through the shades and hues used, the size and style of the font, and the use of space vs imagery in the cover arrangement. A simple layout vs a complex arrangement conveys a message to the viewer. You’ll notice that no mention is made of what the words or images are – at this point, they simply don’t matter.

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One would think this would be obvious, but often I see covers where this element is lacking. The cover needs to be relevant to the content of the book and the images need to be relevant to the title. If your novel consists of a serial rapist and his eventual capture, the cover should not have the pyramids of Egypt on. There are many ways to create relevance in a cover, without having to make the link too obvious. Relevance can be created through emotion (fear, love, mystery), locations (Egypt, Forest, Moon), Characters (Hero, Villian, Couple), Key tools (Knife, Gun, Flowers), etc. Relevance hints at the content, without giving away the story. It’s essential in creating interest to delve further.

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Books don’t open themselves. Attracting a potential reader to open a novel or download an ebook is really the ultimate goal of a cover in the first place. And that means the cover needs to look good. It needs to be ATTRACTIVE to compel a reader to pick it up. Often this is where many self-publishers struggle. In an understandable attempt to keep costs down, self-publishing writers often create their own covers or get their sister’s friend’s boyfriend to do it for next-to-nothing. However, this can often lead to a poor quality cover, which can severely limit sales.

An attractive design by a reputable, professional specialist cover designer does not need to cost a fortune, and can make a world of difference to the ultimate success of your novel. There are many professional cover designers out there (just google book cover design), and costs can range from $250 to $1250 dollars for a professional, print-ready or Kindle-ready cover.

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Drawing the interest of a potential reader is very important to the success of any cover. What makes the cover interesting? What is unusual or extraordinary about the cover that helps it to stand out from the thousands of other covers competing for a reader’s attention? Whether it’s the image, the layout or the font choice, every cover needs a unique element that creates interest.

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This is another seemingly obvious requirement that is often neglected, particularly when it comes to ebook covers. The title (most importantly) and author name (less importantly) must be legible in thumbnail size. With millions of readers now shopping for their books online, and cover  thumbnails usually only a few pixels wide, you need a legible font. Font choice often lets an otherwise reasonable cover down. If the reader can’t make out your title when skimming hundreds of potential reading choices, your book is severely disadvantaged.

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There are thousands of examples of effective, interesting and beautiful covers out there, and even more poor ones. Following the TRAIL formula won’t guarantee your novel is a bestseller but it should, at the very least, convince a potential reader to open to page one.

If you're looking for a professional cover designer, please check out my website - - or e-mail me at

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