Judge Your Book By Its Cover

New York Times Bestselling author Adam Grant recently said, “Instead of telling kids they shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, should we teach them to judge negative and positive examples differently? Don’t doom a book by a bad cover—but give a book with a great cover a chance.” Adam makes a good point, as he often does.

The thing about covers is: No one intentionally makes a bad cover. No one wants to “doom” their book, but so many often do. In today’s email, let’s find a way to follow Adam’s advice by giving your book a better chance with a great cover.

Here are three tips (plus one bonus tip) for creating a great book cover:

  1. Know Your Genre. If you’re writing a detective novel or a thriller, you know the elements that tell your reader what type of book this is. Once upon a time, Amish fiction was a hot genre in publishing. That means the cover had to feature a bonnet. Whether it was on the head or in the hands of a character, it had to have a bonnet to signal to the reader what it was. Not sure about your genre? Do some research on Amazon or visit a local bookstore (Yes, they still exist) to learn more.
  2. Who’s Your Audience? Do you really know who your reader is? If not, you're guessing at the type of cover you think they’ll like. By knowing your audience, you can create the type of cover that gives it the “better chance” Adam is talking about.
  3. Typography, Typography, Typography. Nothing screams amateur-like typography. Great design begins with typography. When we’re talking about doomed book covers and ones that have a better chance, much of that rests on the typography. A good indicator is: Do you notice the typography? Great typography is subtle. It doesn’t call attention to the cover as much as it compliments the other elements. Think of the last doomed book cover you saw? We bet the first thing that signaled this was the typography. Make sure your cover gets the typography right.
  4. Bonus tip: Beware of Images and Author Photos. These elements date your cover incredibly fast. The clothes: Styles are already dated the moment you publish and print the cover.  Be aware of the choices you make when including images. Unless you’re a celebrity and are instantly recognizable, we wouldn’t recommend including your photo on the cover. 


“Bad covers carry weak signals, but good covers send strong signals.” 

Adam Grant 


Covers can be tricky. Everyone has an opinion, and while we don’t think you should judge a book by its cover, we do think you should follow these rules to create the best cover possible. Remember what Adam said - “...give a book with a great cover a chance.” Use these tips when creating your cover and you’ll give it a great chance. 

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