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How Do You Know When Your Cover Design Is Right?

andrew mackay

Another great post from our archives, Torrey Sharp from Faceout Studio explains how to know when a cover design is working.

Design is all about communication. Design delivers a message -- a value proposition. But the right one? Or one at all? Every author out there wants their cover design to be the perfect compliment to their writing. Essentially the cover becomes part of the content. It should not only truthfully reflect the content but inspire a potential reader to engage the content. To pick the book up. To read the back cover copy. To flip to chapter one and give the first page a chance. A book's cover plays a very crucial role in the complete package and overall value proposition. So . . .  it's very important that your cover delivers the right message to the right audience.  How do you know if your cover design is the right one?  The simple answer is that you hire very qualified designers and trust their instincts and professionalism! Not what you wanted to hear, I know. I will post an entry later than will give you some tips on how to ensure the designer you've hired is indeed a good fit for you.

But, back to the question at hand. How do you know you have a great design on your hands? First of all, design is very subjective. There could be hundreds of ways to solve your cover design. A designer could focus on  powerful and emotive imagery, intricate typography, a clever concept or striking colors. Many variables come into play. The primary role of the author should be to consider how the design works with the content and the intended audience. Leave the problem solving and the techniques to the designer. Here is a list of ten things to consider when evaluating your cover design. Walking through this process will help you gain some peace of mind on whether you have a strong cover or should keep exploring other solutions.

First, run the DISTINCTION test:
  • Is the concept unique?
  • Is the imagery unique?
  • Is they typography unique? Basically, does your design stand out from other books in it's category? It has to stand out and if it does, the cover is promising that the content between the covers is going to stand out as well.
Second, run the RELEVANCY test:
  • Is the design style appropriate for the content?
  • Is the design style appropriate for the author (brand)?
  • Is the design style appropriate for the genre?  Being unique only makes sense if you are being true to your content and your brand. Cool for cool's sake is not cool.
Then run the MARKETABILITY test:
  • Will the design solution compel a response from the intended audience (sales) and the market (buzz)?
  • Will the design solution stand apart from competing product?
  • Is the size and style of type appropriate for the intended audience (legibility)?
And lastly, run the RISK TOLERANCE test:
  • Can you risk an innovative design solution--one that might cause a lot of chatter/word of mouth response but is pushing  the envelope and stands the chance of being misunderstood by your target audience?

Will these questions answer everything? Will they guarantee a great cover? No on both accounts.

But it's  a worthy process to go through and in running through these questions with your designer, you will at least be part of the process and gain a sense if the cover is indeed  communicating the value proposition you intend.