Go ahead; judge books by their covers!

Never judge a book by its cover?  Nonsense!  There is little reason to follow that advice.

A book’s cover tells us many things.  The first is whether the collection of words, sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters is professionally done.  This is surmised at a fairly quick glance, within a few seconds.

Then a chain of visual examinations takes place.  Every bookseller wants to pass them with the highest score possible.  A better cover equals more sales.

So, if you are considering publishing a book (even in the distant future), here is a checklist for its representative cover.

1)      Does the overall image catch the eye? This is important when the book will be displayed alongside competitors’ books.

2)      Is the author (are you) famous?  If so, is the author’s name appearing sufficiently big.  For best-selling writers, the author’s name is far more important than the book’s title.  If the title is a sequel to a previous successful release, it made need equal billing with the author’s name.  Take advantage of the recognition either or both may achieve.

3)      Is the layout done in accordance with the rules of good design?  Some basic book-cover layout tips:  a) begin with a dominant element.  Is that the title?  Author’s name?  Graphic image?  Photograph?  Dominant means the first (most attention-grabbing) thing a person will see when looking at the book cover;  b) The second largest element, and third, and so on, should stair-step to smaller sizes in the order you want the onlooker’s eye to follow.

4)     Do the colors used enhance or negate the impression you want to make?

5)      Is the title appropriate?  Is it succinct but telling about the book’s content?  Does it entice further investigation?  Often the best titles are two-parters.  The first is a short, slug-type phrase—two or three words—followed by a bit more lengthy and descriptive sentence.   For example: Guts N’ Gunships: What it was really like to fly helicopters in Vietnam by Mark Garrison.

6)      Is the sales pitch the best it can be?  Many books are helped to the cash register by a great sentence or two designed to seal the deal.  It is the hook that the title and subtitle are unable to achieve because of their brevity.

7)      Will the above items make the potential reader flip the book over?  If so, the back cover is another chance to convince the person to buy.  By this time, the reader probably has decided the book is wanted and the back cover is an opportunity to provide supportive evidence.  This is the space to give the sales pitch, if it isn’t on the front cover.  It also can display short, positive reviews resulting from pre-launch marketing to critics or test readers.

Even if you aren’t chasing an onslaught of sales, you certainly don’t want your name associated with a less-than-professional product.

If done right, the book can be used to gain credibility as an expert in your chosen field or profession.

With that in mind, it is a good idea to give unyielding attention and effort to perfecting your book’s cover and—of course—the numerous pages in between.  The time and energy will be well spent.