A good first impression can set the tone in an interaction with a new person. In the world of publishing, this lesson is just as important for books trying to catch a reader’s eye in an ever-growing market. There are different ways a book can win over a reader once they give it a proper once over. Still, when it comes to getting noticed, the first impression a reader will ever get from your book is made by your cover design.

With the news that Draft2Digital acquired SelfPubBookCovers.com, the graphic designers on our team have a lot to say about good cover design. With their help, we’re here to point your cover art in the right direction.

Cover Design Trends vs. Constants

Book covers are as diverse as books themselves, and the popular trends vary by genre and are subject to change like any trend. When working with your artist to design a cover, you will want to research the covers in your genre and decide what works best for your book and how much you want to adopt popular trends in cover design.

Despite the ethereal nature of cover design tropes, there are still constants you can rely on. No rule is absolute, but there are still best practices to keep in mind when designing your cover art.

Give Your Edges Breathing Room

Your cover is the canvas where your artistic vision will live, but not all real estate on that canvas is equal in value.

When our eyes look at a book cover, they can only process so much of the cover at a glance. If you want your potential reader to get an idea of what to expect from your book, you don’t want to create visual tension with busy designs drawing your reader to the edge of your cover design.

Your text and cover art should draw your reader to the center of your design, leaving some buffer space on the top, bottom, left, and right of the cover where things aren’t as busy. (In Print Publishing, this even gives you the added benefit of keeping your text out of bleed zones!)

Clear and Consistent Fonts

You can have the prettiest cover art in the world, but it still can’t tell your reader everything. The words on your cover let your reader know your intriguing title, your snappy taglines, and just as importantly, your pen name.

It is important for your text to look clean and legible in your cover design. This starts with size; If your reader can’t find the words, they might as well not be on your cover. This is important in an age where many people are introduced to your cover as a thumbnail.

For the Number of Fonts, Less is More

Make sure your font color contrasts well enough with your art to stand out. Also be sure the font isn’t so complex or busy that the letters are hard to differentiate at a glance.

You also want to keep the number of fonts to a minimum. Two fonts is a safe target, with one bolder, decorative font to grab the reader’s attention, and a second sleek font to compliment and contrast it. You can use more than two fonts, but the more varied font designs you fit onto the same cover, the less cohesive the overall product looks.

Set Your Book’s Tone Through Cover Design

The cover design you choose lets your reader know what to expect if they pick up your book, but that isn’t limited to characters and settings. If you want to catch the right readers for your book, you want to accurately sell the tone of your book through your cover art.

If your book is a psychological thriller, your cover should deliver on that serious tone. A darker color palette and sparse, intense art might speak the language of a thriller reader. If you choose warm colors and smiling characters, that same thriller reader might pass over your book, (though you may give a cozy romance reader an unexpected surprise.)

There are no required rules for how to publish your book. There will always be exceptions to every suggestion of “good cover design,” but we hope these best practices will give you a place to start when designing your next book cover.

To connect with cover designers and find the cover art that works for you, check out SelfPubBookCovers.com