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The First Two Steps to Picking Your Book's Perfect Front Cover

Think about all the books you have on your shelf at home. Now think about all their front covers. There’s probably a wide variety of pictures or graphics, human interest or scenery, and bold colors or pastel colors or muted colors or…

The list goes on.

And on.

And on.

When it comes to your manuscript's outward appearance, fiction or non-fiction, realistic or fantastical, you’ve got a lot of options to choose from. Maybe too many, in fact.

How do you select the book's perfect front cover out of countless possibilities? I’m not saying it’s exactly easy. But you can make it a lot less painful by paying attention to today’s Writing Challenge below.

Recognize your ideal reader.

When designing your book’s front cover, you can’t please everyone, so don’t even try. Your time and efforts will be much better utilized by pleasing your ideal reader.

I know we touched on this last week with our book title Challenge and also way back with Writing Rule #35. And Writing Rule #27 too, come to think of it. But it bears repeating now that we’re designing our front covers.

This isn’t just about presenting a pretty picture. There’s a science behind this art.

I’m not a graphic designer, and I don’t play one on TV. So I can’t tell you the ins and outs of this science on my own. I’m hoping that Roseanna White of Roseanna White Designs will write a guest blog post on that subject in 2018.

But for now, here’s how to get yourself started on designing your book's perfect front cover:

  1. Know your genre. Each genre has certain guidelines that it follows for everything, including how your book looks at first glance. What are those guidelines exactly? The best way to figure that out is to study professional work. Go into a bookstore, find your manuscript’s genre section and start picking up your competition. Some examples are inevitably going to break the mold, but look for as many commonalities as you can. Do they tend to feature people or places or things? Or maybe just colors? Are they sensuous or serious? Do they give off fun vibes or intense ones? Take notes, mental or otherwise. What you find there should be the basis of your book’s front cover... for the simple reason that the graphic designers who designed them know your ideal reader like the back of their electronic styli.

  2. Know your manuscript. Just because you know your genre hardly means you’re ready to go. You also have to take your particular story or presentation into account. What’s so special about your book? Is it the main characters that stand out the most? What they do? How they do it? What they’re fighting against or fighting for? If you’ve got a non-fiction manuscript, then what’s the main point you’re trying to get across? Are you teaching about something? Inspiring a certain type of person? Telling your story? Figure out what the most compelling aspect of your narrative is, and then see how you can fit that in with what you learned about the already-published books in your genre.

  3. Know thy font. This means you have to read tomorrow’s blog post, because we’ve genuinely run out of room in today’s. Believe it or not, how to present letters properly – in print and online – is a graphic design study in and of itself. So that part of picking your book's perfect front cover will just have to wait until Friday.

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