book cover

Book cover - How to win readers at first sight

The book cover is your book's calling card, centerpiece, and flagship. The book cover makes the reader linger on the book or not, it inspires or deters, it fascinates or bores. A few seconds decide whether a reader will take a closer look at your book. We show you how to generate this attention.

What are the components of a book cover?

When we talk about book cover design, we think primarily of the front of the (printed) book. But the English term cover means not only cover, but also envelope. So what is meant is the design of the entire cover, which consists of an inner and outer part. Of course, in most cases, a potential buyer's eye goes to the front of the book. Nevertheless, it is important to design the entire book cover professionally.

For this reason, we would like to explain to you in the following the components of a book cover and their respective functions. But don't worry, we won't bore you with too many technical details. In this article you'll get the most important basics to create a book cover.

The front

Bookstores are a paradise for you as an author and, of course, for your book-loving buyers. Of course, you shouldn't copy any cover you find in the store (more on this in our article on the Copyright). But "looking" is of course allowed. So use suggestions for the design of your cover. You will see that there are two possibilities of presentation in bookshops. Either the books lie on a table, or they stand in the shelf. In the first case, you can see the front of the book, and in the second, the spine. So in order to score points with the first impression, the title and the design of the book cover are crucial. Only if these are professionally and attractively designed will a potential reader continue to engage with your book and, in the best case, buy it.

Please also note that the book cover in an online shop must look good and appeal directly to the viewer. This is because many books published in self-publishing are only bought on order via bookstores and are not available. Although our sales goal at tredition is to get as many titles as possible into bookstores, we don't always succeed. Therefore, your book cover should also be suitable for online sales. So make sure you don't make it too small.

What belongs on a book cover front?

Among the most important elements of the book cover is the author's name. Most writers use their full name. Of course, you can also choose a pseudonym if you don't want to be known by your real name. In addition to an image, photo, or illustration, the title is also crucial. It should fit the content of the book and the genre, but not give away too much about the content. Rather, a book title conveys a certain mood and makes the reader curious. In addition, a good Book title catchy and not too abstract. But be careful, be sure to research which book titles are already occupied and thus protected.

In addition to the book title, you can also create a subtitle, depending on how much you want to reveal about the content of the book. This is especially recommended for non-fiction books, because the reader usually expects a certain benefit from reading the book. In the subtitle, you have the opportunity to reveal more about the content and therefore the benefit to the reader. If your book is part of a series, then you should definitely mention this in the subtitle, this applies equally to novels and non-fiction. Mentioning the genre is optional for the cover design.

A foretaste of the contents: The back cover of the book cover

Maybe you know this from yourself as a reader: the second glance goes to the Blurbthe most important element of the back cover of your book. This is where you can tap into the reader's curiosity that you created with the book title. Tell where, when, and who your story is about, and introduce any conflicts or problems that the book will deal with. It goes without saying that you should not give a full synopsis at this point. If you are writing a non-fiction book, then the reader should know how they will benefit from your book after reading the blurb (you may have already touched on this in the subtitle). You can also use quotes from your book or, if already available, press reviews. If you have already (successfully) published a Book published then you should also mention this here. You can also include a reference to your author website here.

In terms of design (we will go into this in more detail later), the color scheme of the front should also be reflected on the back of the book cover. 

Your chance on the shelf: the spine

When you design your book cover, it's not just the front and back that matter, but also the spine. Because if your book is not lucky enough to be presented on a table, then it might be on the shelf. Depending on the bookstore, it may be surrounded by thousands of other books. The spine of the book usually only contains your name and the book title. And this is exactly where you have to score, so that the eyes of a potential reader will stay exactly on your book. A concise but not too abstract title is therefore once again important.

Important to know: Difference between paperback and hardcover

For the success of your book, we recommend that you publish it in both paperback and hardcover, and even in large print for people with visual impairments, to reach the widest possible readership. There are differences in design options for the book cover and book jacket.

For a paperback, the pages are glued together with the paper cover and then trimmed to the correct page size. For the cover of a hardback book, the book pages are glued into a cardboard "cover". This cover creates what is called a fold. You've probably noticed this vertical indentation where the book cover meets the spine on a hardcover.

For the design it is crucial that the so-called bleed margin, i.e. the part of the template that cannot be designed, is larger with a hardcover. This is because a larger part of the hard cover is folded over.

What is important in a book cover?

Did you know that the sense of sight transmits about 80 % of the information we take in from the outside world to our brains and engages about a quarter of our thinking? In the Stone Age, this was especially important for detecting danger. In terms of sales psychology, this phenomenon is still crucial, as attractive visual stimuli entice people to buy. For this reason, it is important to make the book cover attractive and appealing, as the first grab in the bookstore or the click on the online platform is controlled by it.

This is confirmed to us again and again in practice in discussions with booksellers. The book cover decides whether a book is displayed in the store at all and thus also the sales opportunities. Online reviews certainly still contribute to the purchase of a book, but the majority of books in the German-language book market are still sold via the stationary book trade.

So you have two challenges: to convince not only the reader but also the bookseller with a sales-promoting book cover! You should not only attract attention, but also reflect the style and content of the book appropriately with the design of the cover. So don't mislead your readers and choose a humorous cover for a serious book, for example. Also, not every motif fits every book. In any case, the cover should arouse the reader's expectations, which the book can also fulfill.

How do I design a book cover? Requirements and standards

Now let's get to the practical part of this article, where we'll show you how to go about designing a cover. But let's get back to the theory for a moment. Before you start designing your book cover, we would like to inform you about some requirements and standards. It doesn't matter whether you design the book cover yourself, with the help of a template or by a professional graphic designer. You should consider the following criteria:

The book format

The size of your book cover depends on the page format and determines how large the cover can be designed. Depending on the size, certain motifs are shown to advantage or disadvantage. This is of course particularly important for illustrated books, because a square cover offers you different design options than a classic page format of 12 x 19 cm.

Output formats

We recommend that you always choose all possible output formats for your book: Paperback, hardcover, large print and e-book. This way you can reach as many readers as possible. You already know that there are differences in cover design between paperback and hardcover editions. With a eBook you have to take into account that the cover is only displayed as a small image in an online shop. The motif should still be recognizable and the font should be easy to read.

Mandatory components

Mandatory elements on the book cover include your name and a title. On the back is usually the blurb. In addition, the barcode and the ISBN must be placed here and there is space for the publisher's logo on the front or back. This element is a compulsory part of a cover for many publishers. At tredition, we leave it up to you whether you integrate our logo on the cover, as we want to give our authors as much creative freedom as possible in the design. The tredition logo is shown in our cover designer, but you can remove it if you wish.

Your budget for the design

In the end, you have to weigh up for yourself how much money you want to invest in the design of the book cover. Especially if you have no previous graphic design experience, we recommend that you at least use a template or a book cover designer from your publishing service provider. At tredition, we've spent a lot of time building what we think is the best and most intuitive cover designer. Why not take a look at it? It's 100% free to use and publish. You can also hire us to create a custom cover design for your book. You can also hire an external graphic designer. However, this is the most expensive option and here the number of unprofessional offers is growing.

Preparation: Analyze genre and sift through competition

Think about how you want the cover of your book to be designed in good time. Remember: new titles appear on the book market every day and you are in competition with thousands of titles. And the book cover also contributes to this. For this reason, you should ask yourself a few questions in advance.

What is the genre of my book?

Logically, the cover of a non-fiction book on weight loss is significantly different from a shocking thriller. Thus, dark and cold colors usually play a role in detective stories and thrillers. When it comes to the motif, blood, destroyed objects or a murder weapon are often used. However, you will also find exceptions on the book tables. Surely you have already seen the books of Simon Beckett. The covers don't need a motif, are mainly white and remind of an obituary.

But the cover design of romance novels is completely different. Here, warm and cheerful colors are predominant and hardly any motif is without flowers, hearts or the image of a couple. The typeface is often very playful, with cursive fonts being the most common. Fantasy novels very often feature historical buildings, symbols or characters from the book itself. The font often has serifs, which are the horizontal strokes at the top and bottom of the letters (the best-known serif font is probably Times New Roman).

Non-fiction books usually feature photos or illustrations that fit the theme of the work. Emotional or playful elements are rarely used (unless the subject is appropriate). Rather, nonfiction covers are dominated by clean shapes and lines. Text elements predominate to emphasize the informative nature of the book.

With which design do I address my target group?

Even before writing your book, you should think about which target group you want to address. This should then also be reflected in the design of your cover. For example, the covers of children's and young adult books tend to be playful and colourful. The language must be understandable and technical terms or foreign words have no place here. However, if you are addressing a specific niche, for example anglers, then you are welcome to use technical terms that are unknown to the broad mass of readers, but are very well known to your target group.

What is the message or core message of my book?

This question is closely related to the genre. Think about how you can convey your message on the cover. By the way, it helps to "spy" on other authors. Of course you should and may (keyword Copyright) you can't copy a cover, but suggestions are allowed. So the best thing to do is to look at the covers of your genre at an online bookseller. Let the different covers have an effect on you and pay attention to which styles and colors inspire you to buy. Social media portals like Pinterest are also useful, where you can also find many covers by other authors.

The adjusting screws of design: visual language and typography

Visual language - targeted use of motifs

On the cover of your book you can score less with words than with visual stimuli. Because as already shown, you are unconsciously stimulated by the visuals to buy. So try to take advantage of this cover design! The choice of colors, photos, graphics, and illustrations serve to hold the reader's eye and pique their interest. Use imagery to create moods, build suspense, and arouse the reader's curiosity and expectations. Only when this step is accomplished does the reader look at the blurb or online description and you have the opportunity to score points with the description of the content.

As is so often the case in life, when it comes to choosing a motif: less is more! An overloaded cover with countless pictures and illustrations is usually a misstep in terms of taste. Often it is enough to use a central motif. In addition, the image should of course relate to the content of your book, but not give too much away. Please also make sure that the text elements of the cover are not obscured too much by the motif or the background.

For the selection of suitable images in good resolution, image databases such as isockphoto or shutterstock. Here you can purchase and download royalty-free and rights-managed images. Please note our instructions for the legally correct use of Picture Quotes as well as our information about the Copyright.

Typography - the play with type

Meanwhile, you can download countless fonts on the Internet. Earlier in this report, we have already shown that the choice of font also depends on the genre. The font alone creates a mood in the reader. Readability, however, should remain the be-all and end-all, because the content of the book is often not immediately recognizable with fonts that are too playful. In the worst case scenario, this can lead to the reader not bothering to decipher the font and averting their eyes. In this case, you would have lost a reader by choosing the "wrong" font. In addition, the font should not be too small and you should not use too many variants. Our tip: Limit yourself to two to three fonts on the entire cover.


We have shown why the design of the book cover is at least as important as the content of the book. You now know the elements of a cover and that you should also consider cover design for an e-book and online sales. This will help you get the largest number of readers interested in your book and ultimately as buyers for your book.

Sufficient time should be planned for the design of the book cover. Already during the writing process, it is recommended to think about how the cover could look like. You can orientate yourself on the genre, your target group and the message of your book. Here you can use motifs, colours and fonts in a targeted way.


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