The Purpose of Book Design

The purpose of book cover design

What is the purpose of a book cover?

The purpose of your book cover is this:

To connect with the right audience and genre.

There’s no point in trying to sell a book about family and tragedy to someone who enjoys a light, happy romance to read on their holidays.

Occasionally authors I work with explain their target audience is ‘everyone’, or ‘readers aged 18-80’. This does not help your readers, or your book sales. If you haven’t read it yet check out the section on genre and why it’s so important to aim for a target market.

who is your target audience

Your book cover is intended to wave at your perfect reader and say with no uncertain terms,

“I am the right book for you.”

The secondary purpose of your book cover is: To sell your book and get readers to read the blurb.

Reading like crazy

You have spent hours, days, months, possibly years writing your book. You’ve put your heart and soul into it, and you want to share that same experience with your readers. Your book cover is not the place for this.

I understand you feel the need to connect to the design of your book, it’s totally normal to feel that way. But view your book like a logo for your business, your brand. Is a business logo designed to make the business owner happy, or to capture the attention of the audience?

The role of your book cover is not to make you, the author happy, but to sell the book. You may end up with a book cover that don’t really like. If it does the job, then it doesn’t matter.

A lot of traditionally published authors don’t like the covers supplied to them by their publishers either. But publishers know how to sell books, they know what works, and the ultimate happiness, much to the disappointment of a lot of authors, is not the top priority. The bigger your name the more chance you have of getting input, but for anyone new to the scene be prepared to get little or no input at all. And it would be any publisher’s delight to have the author absolutely love their cover, while meeting the saleability need, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen.

Remember: the Taleist Self-Publishing Survey shared the results and authors noted an 18% increase in their sales because they hired a professional designer.


Don’t let it be personal

Be ok if you’re not crazy about the first design. Yes, the first design If you get amazing feedback from potential readers, then go with it. A book cover isn’t permanent; you’re allowed to change it over the course of its life. If it isn’t working, then try again. Test and tweak as you go.

When it comes to a book cover, your opinion is not what matters. What your readers think is what matters.


What a book cover is not:

What not to do on a book cover

  • A visual way to convey an explicit scene or character to your readers
  • A platform for the author to show whatever they want
  • A way to attract an audience of everyone

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