Book Design: Front Cover Hierarchy - article

Everyone has art philosophy when it comes to front cover design, but what about the practical elements of front cover design? Read on to learn what you should include in the front cover and how to factor in the idea of hierarchy – that all things cannot be equally important and some pieces of information should stand out on the cover. 

As you know, the front cover will need the author's name, publisher's name, title, and possibly sub-title. Make the title larger than the author's name unless the author is well-known. You don't necessarily need previous publishing history, as previous publishing history does not necessarily make your name big. When deciding whether or not to make your name bigger than the title, think about the number of your faithful followers. World-famous physicist? Make that name big. Six-time published little-known author? Keep it small. The hierarchy (order of priority) of important elements goes like this, then: Title, Author's Name, Sub-title, Publisher's Name.

How do you emphasize the important elements? Use colors that stand out from the background, large text, and creative fonts. According to designer Mark Geolette, text should not spread out too far and fill up the cover. Gelotte said you should not overuse a single font for all text, but subtly mix and match fonts. Use professional photos, or they will distract from the title. Never allow your creative images to overpower or hide the most important elements. As you may have read in our article on book spine design, simpler designs are often better. Gelotte says gaudy color is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

You are more likely to get a good design if you use a professional book designer. But if this isn’t in your budget, try to get a feel for what “good” covers look like by looking at tons of other books in your space (your genre, your audience, your topic…). Look at books from a mix of big name authors and lesser known authors, big presses, small presses, and indie works. Get a feel for the styles used, elements included, and tone of the cover design. Consider what draws you in, ask others what appeals to them in a cover, and really evaluate the covers.

Whatever your choice about designers, make sure your book-cover meets the requirements of your genre. Different genres have different expectations for covers, and while you don't want your book to look like everyone else's on the shelf, you want to attract readers by putting them in mind of something they already like. Remember, your front cover's only purpose in life is to get the reader to read the back and open the book.

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