I’m in the middle of choosing the cover for my new illustrated children’s book: There Once Was a Cat. It’s hard to capture an entire story in a single image! Picking a book cover is hard because you want to give your book the chance to catch reader’s attention, but you also want it to tell a story that gives a sense of your book and ties into words beyond the cover. I’m proud to have the support of artist Pavel Kulsha (an artist and family friend from Belarus). But having a fantastic artist on hand to help create a book design makes the decision that much harder. I really want to choose a book cover that tells my story and if you’re a writer, I want to share what I’ve learned to help you once you get to this pivotal point with your book as well.
First, know your role.
You’re the author; no one expects you to also be the graphic designer. I highly recommend working with a design professional you trust to do what they do best. It will relieve a lot of potential stress in the long run. A book cover designer can also help you choose fonts and colors that go with the imagery you choose.
Come with a concept.
The artist or designer who creates your book cover will probably be working from a short synopsis of the book to come up with a few design options. But they probably won’t read the entire book; that’s why it’s good to provide some direction on what you think would make the most sense for the story. My first children’s book-The Kingdom of the Lizards-has a cover that’s pretty bright and colorful instead of a black and white cover or a photo of a lizard because the concept of enlisting Clara’s help to save the kingdom was the moment that made the most sense to show on the cover. Think of parts of your story that would fit well in a background image.
Does it speak to you?
One thing that helped me narrow to my top two book cover choices was a gut check. Ask yourself: does it feel right and does it speak to me? If not, then trust your author’s instincts and move on! People really DO judge books by their covers, and only pick up books (or buy them online) with covers that grab their attention. If you as the writer don’t love it, then your target audience probably won’t either.
Is it legal?
Even at 13, I know that there’s a lot of things that are copyright, and need permission to use them. It’s like writing a book report but not citing where needed. Again, I’m very lucky to have an artist who helps create the perfect look for my books, but a lot of writers just search online for an image that speaks to them. So if you’re self-publishing, make sure to look for royalty free images that you can purchase if you feel that an image is the best graphic for your book cover. You can even ask a designer about using stock images as well that will suit your needs.
Trust me, I get it that choosing an illustration or photo for your book cover can be a bit daunting. In the case of a book cover, every picture really is worth a thousand words (and cover art needs to sell 50,000 of them). You wrote a great book and it deserves a wonderful cover that just so happens to be pretty enough for reader’s to pick up.
Want to help me out? I’m torn between these two covers for my new children’s book: There Once Was a Cat. Click here to vote on which one you’d reach for on the shelves!