Designing a Book Cover

by Winter Murray

During my internship at IOM, I got to be involved in the cover design process for books from genres ranging from self-help to memoir to children’s books. These genres may sound very different, but to my surprise, the cover design process for each book started with the same step: research.

Even though you may have some concrete ideas in mind about what you want the cover of your book to look like, researching book cover trends is still an important step. This is because the cover of your book is the first impression readers will get of your work, and even though we’re taught practically from birth to not judge books by their covers, it’s still an inevitable, instinctive response. From a marketing perspective, it’s important to know what covers are the most visually appealing to readers to give your work the best possible chance of being noticed where it sits on the shelf, surrounded by other books. Once your cover has caught a reader’s interest, that’s when your story takes over in keeping the reader’s attention.

As an intern, one of my responsibilities was putting together research for cover design during the publication process. To accomplish this, I would research some of the top-selling books by genre. I would read bestseller articles and filter by “most popular” on websites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. In doing so, I could identify patterns in colors, images, and font styles to see what trends were most appealing to the genre’s audience.

When cover design begins, these patterns and trends inform the process. As a company, IOM places a lot of importance on collaboration and communication. To honor these principles, we typically begin cover design by having a conversation with the writer to find out if they have any thoughts or inspiration they would like to include. We then go through multiple rounds of feedback, working with the cover designer to reach a final product that everyone is happy with. With each round of feedback, we consider the writer’s wants and the trends we identified to most effectively integrate everyone’s ideas. 

Of course, while this research provides a useful starting point for the cover design process, a book’s final cover is ultimately dependent on its contents. There are many things to consider, such as the book’s themes and any key images as well as the colors and fonts that most effectively represent the book. If the book is a part of a series, we also have to keep in mind that the whole series has to be visually cohesive in terms of images, colors, and fonts. Research is an important component of the cover design process, but it’s only the first step, and the book may necessitate us moving in a completely different direction. Ultimately, while the final product should be informed by research, the most important part of cover design is making sure that it’s representative of the contents of the contents of the book.

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