A book consists of two design elements: the cover on the outside and the layout and formatting on the inside. Today I'd like to talk about
THE FRONT COVER
The front cover needs to be exciting or eye-catching, yet simple. The ONLY three items it should contain are the title of the book, a graphic or photo, and the name of the author.
The first item on the front cover is the title. It should be prominent and describe what the book is about. If this can’t be done—for example, you want a short, “catchy” title—then use a sub-title to further explain your topic. For example, one of my children’s book authors chose the title “Whitey”, a catchy one-word title, but what does it tell us about the book? The author added a subtitle.
Story of a Little Lamb
NOW we know!
Another author’s title is “Self-Hypnosis”. He added a subtitle to give the reader more information, but added it above the title:
Uproot Your Past, Nourish Your Present, Enhance Your Future Through
Just a change in the order of title and subtitle made his book cover distinct!
A new trend that is becoming popular these days is using a short sales pitch, rather than a sub-title. It is usually in the form of a question and can be above or below the title. It too compliments the title and gives the reader more insight into the book's content. Here is an example:
Can one woman find happiness in spite of her past?
DESERVING OF LOVE
The title should be in a font that complements the illustration or gives the reader/ buyer a hint of what the book is about. For example, if the book has a Western topic, your designer may perhaps choose an Old West font. A scary children’s book with a font dripping blood would be effective. Fonts can also be “feminine” and “masculine”, convey a sense of fun, or seriousness for a book on business, or heavy for a book on weight-lifting, or have flowing script for a book on romance, and so on.
The second item on the front cover is an illustration. There MUST be an illustration —either a graphic, drawing or photo. Books having just text are boring and generally don’t attract the buyer’s attention. Of course, a book such as a Dictionary would only have text, but here the buyer is looking for a specific book, not browsing through a bookstore.
If your book has a serious topic, for example, a business book, a photograph is your best choice. This lends credibility to your topic and elegance to the front cover. You must be sure that you own the rights to the photo. You can’t just open any book and scan in a photo to use. You may use one that you took yourself (get the subject’s permission, if necessary), you may buy a photo from an online photo site, which is then owned by you, or you may buy CDs or books to use, but be sure they say that the photos are “royalty free”. If not, you could be sued by the owner of the photo for using something that belongs to someone! If you don't have something specific in mind, your book designer can help you find and choose an appropriate photograph.
A graphic for the front cover could also be serious, if drawn nicely, or could be fun, such as a cartoon. You want to draw attention to the cover so that the reader/buyer will pick it up. So, using a bright cartoon, if it complements the title and content of the book, of course, would do just that. Again, you/your designer must own the rights to the graphic.
One of my clients found the perfect graphic on the Internet for me to use to design a logo for her business to add to her back cover. I told her that we couldn’t just use someone’s art so she found the artist’s e-mail address on the site and wrote to ask his permission. He was complimented that someone would want to use his art for a logo, and not only gave his permission, but also sent her a large, high-resolution copy of the art for me to use. He might have charged her a fee as well, which would have been appropriate.
You may wish your book designer to use a drawing or painting for your cover. This is also very effective and makes your book unique, with a one-of-a-kind illustration. You may draw or paint the picture yourself, or pay someone to do it and you would then own the painting. To get it to the cover, you would stand it up against the wall—be sure that it is straight, not on a slant! Then take a picture of it with a digital camera. For a smaller drawing or painting, you can lay it on the bed of a scanner and scan and save it to your computer. Your designer can give you further information on the size and resolution needed.
The third item on the front cover is the name of the author. Now, if you are a well-known and famous author, your name would go on the top of the front cover in big, bold letters. This is actually done to MARKET the book by advertising it as being by a famous author. If you were to do this on your first book, it would be laughable! You need to have your name in fairly small letters on the bottom of the front cover. It should also be in a font that is NOT the same as the title/subtitle font, or it looks like it is part of the title.