Your book’s first sales based on the cover | Design a cover that sells

Book covers are first impressions. Make your book cover a first impression that leads to sales. Think about it, would you date someone who showed up in raggedy old sweaty gym clothing to a first date? Would you buy a book that the author didn’t think was worth investing in to create a cover that wows?

DIY or Professional Covers

You are an author which means you understand your content well. That doesn’t mean you can translate that into a cover that compels readers to buy your book. Some authors are designer too, and want to take on the design of their book cover. However, if you are going to DIY your book cover, which I don’t recommend, keep the following in mind.

Know Your Audience

First before anything else, know your audience. Who are they? What do they like? What will stop them from scrolling through all the books or browsing a shelf to look at your book. And remember if they are browsing in a bricks and mortar store, all they might see is the spine of the book. So the spine matters.

If they are browsing online, they see a thumbnail of the cover, so it better look good small. Whatever is on the cover had better be distinguishable when tiny and the title must be legible. You can tell me that the title will be on the bookstore page, and I’ll say, people still will look at your cover. That is what matters first.

Use a Captivating Image

Think about what image captures people and represents the book’s content and the feelings of the book. Happy books have happy covers. Tragedies do not. Nonfiction books need compelling covers too. You want potentials reader to stop and look.

Within the image and for the entire cover, think about colours and the impact of those colours on people. Think about the font. Go look at other books similar to yours and don’t stray too far from what is working while still making your book stand out. No easy task.

As I said, the spine is important too. So the front, the spine, and the back all matter, for different reasons.

Emotional Buying

When you are creating your cover appeal to emotion, not logic. We think we make rational decisions but we make emotional decisions, and that includes nonfiction books. No matter how much you’d like to think otherwise. The front cover jumps out and grabs the reader, as does the spine. The back cover closes the sale. The back cover has description, author bio, and importantly, a rave review or two. If you want to sell in bookstores, make sure the back cover also has the ISBN and bar code.

Experiment and Test

Try out different fonts, images, colours and ask potential readers what they think. Go to a bookstore and look at the spot where your book will sit with other books. Ask yourself, how can I make my spine stand out? You will want it to contrast with the other titles on the shelf while keeping uniform with your front and back cover. Keeping things like font the same as other books in your genre says, I belong here where you get your favorite books.

Do I Recommend Every Author Read This Book? 

If you are going to DIY your own book cover, at the very least follow these suggestions and get tons of feedback from other authors and readers in your genre. Your book cover is a make or break marketing decision. Take your time. Do it well so it will create the impact you need to sell your book.


For other great tips on promoting your book, grab the Author Nation Promotion Checklist. For even more support and resources, join Author Nation.

– Keep writing and promoting.

Melody Ann

Author Nation is your go-to resource for becoming a successful nonfiction author, from planning to promotion and everything in between. Download the resource for the stage you are in.

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