You can tell a book by its cover! A great cover will tell readers there’s a great book inside—one they may want to read. As with editing, cover design is both an art and a science. Artistically, a great cover has a memorable title, an eye-catching photo or illustration, beautifully formed type, and intriguing back cover copy. Technically, the cover must meet printer specifications, be formatted according to industry standards, and appeal to the intended audience. All of these elements are important and should work together to communicate what’s inside and why the reader should buy your book.

The front cover design is the most important marketing element of the book. In three to five seconds it should catch the reader’s attention and communicate what the book is about, while arousing interest in the content. The cover photo or illustration must be appropriate to the subject matter and must be book cover quality (premium stock photo or professionally illustrated). It’s important to find just the right image—a great image can make a great cover.

The title is the most important element of the front cover design. It should be unique, memorable, and appropriate. Don’t miss wordsmithing the title. You’ve spent a lot of time on the manuscript, don’t let your title be an afterthought. The fonts in the title should be designed as though you were designing a logo. A good rule of thumb is to use two to three compatible fonts on the book cover. One more thing about the title, can you read it from several feet away?

The back cover of your book is the “ad” for your book. It must not only describe the contents, it must sell the reader on the benefits of reading your book. These benefits must be overtly obvious, believable, and relevant to your intended audience.

With all of these elements in place, your cover will not only be a work of art, it will be an effective marketing tool.