Your Book Cover is Like a Highway Billboard by Scott Lorenz

Empty Billboard

Check out this guest post on the importance of your book cover by book publicist, Scott Lorenz.


Your book cover is like a highway billboard. How’s that? It’s simple. Just as people are driving past a billboard at 70 MPH, shoppers in a book store are walking by your book sitting on shelf at the same relevant speed. Like a billboard, if you first don’t catch their attention you’ll never deliver the message.

Billboards use images to get the attention and then the words to make the sale. What are common images? Attractive women, followed by muscular and attractive men. They don’t call romance books ‘bodice rippers’ for nothing and the photos or illustrations on books in that genre leave no doubt in your mind about what’s inside. But that can’t be said about most other books. That’s why the image is important real estate which must be used to convey to the potential buyer just what’s in the book.

What is the correct image? One that does not need any explanation. If your image needs an introduction… then it’s not the right choice. How can you find out? Just show it to people. Ask them what they think the book is about by looking at the cover image. Ideally the image does the talking by itself.

While we often hear “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” everybody – book buyers, reviewers, media and consumers alike – most certainly do just that.

Choose your title carefully. The best highway billboards are 5-7 words in total because motorists are flying by and cannot comprehend words at a glance, so why fight it? Putting too many words in the title is the equivalent of trying to take a drink out of a fire hose! If you want to have a fighting chance give them a short sweet title and subtitle. Be brief.

Blurbs. Blurbs are those short two to three sentences of compliment that books have on their back covers. The best blurbs are from well-known experts in the field, famous people, authors who have read the book and have provided positive comments. There’s only room for a few so you have to edit out repetitive blurbs and keep the best ones for the cover. If you are in love with all your blurbs, than print them in full on the last inside pages of the book.

One reason the task becomes so daunting and painful is that authors too often wait until the end of the process, instead of nearer the beginning, to think through book cover design.

As a book publicist and book marketer I cannot caution authors enough – do not underestimate the importance of a book cover’s design.  Not only do potential book buyers judge a book by its cover but so do members of the media. Many reporters receive dozens of books every day! Do you really think they read the book flap and your pitch? Ha!

Here are some important items to consider when making decisions on book cover design:

Use a subhead to create more description. If you have a 10-word title, you have not properly named the book in the first place.

Check with Google on the words that are most searched on your topic. To do this, type in the word that best describes your book in the search box and then see what the next most important or popular words are in that list. That ranking is very relevant marketing- wise so try to use those words in your title or subtitle. Consider using the genre in the subtitle too because that’s what people are searching on.

Visit book stores and look at the covers of all types of books. What catches your eye? Look at the book face and look at the spines. Which ones are readable and why?

Will it play on Amazon? Go to,, Good Reads, Smashwords and search for competitive books in your space. Notice the book covers that catch your eye and the ones that do not. If your cover does not show up well in an Amazon thumbnail then you are going to lose sales.

Contrast. Don’t let your graphic designer get started without keeping contrast in mind. The reason black ink works so well on white paper is because it produces the best contrast possible. Yellow ink on green paper in a small font simply does not work.

How does your book look in black and white? Not every publication will be printing it in color.

Font size. Many designers are young with great eyesight. But your buyer may not be able to read the tiny font some designers insist upon using. Be practical.

The spine. Can you read it from five feet away? If not, neither can browsers in a book store.

Blurbs. Keep them relevant and short. Consider including a mention on the cover of a foreword written by a famous person or author. “Foreword by J.K. Rowling” or “Foreword by Oprah Winfrey” or “Foreword by Best Selling Author Tom Clancy.”

Do not overlook creating content on the back inside flaps because consumers pick up a book after looking at the spine, front cover and back and then open the book to find the price or more information.

Print your cover out on a laser printer. Don’t just review your cover on a computer screen which will make it look considerably better. Print it out actual size and make a determination using that printed version.

Pictures are worth 1,000 words. Use photos and illustrations to describe what would take too long to explain.

When choosing a book design ask yourself how the cover will look on your website home page. Branding is important so you’ll want to use the same design elements on your website that you do on your book cover

Show your cover designs to as many people in your target group of potential readers. Get their reactions and opinions. It costs you nothing and you’ll likely find out something you did not realize before.

Mary Heim, Direct Sales Manager at Sheridan Books says that before you start to design your cover contact your printer for a cover layout and cover stock and coating samples.  When you have your cover complete have the printer do a test on the files to make sure they work for the printer.  Ask for samples of the printer’s work.

Here are 33 book cover designers and services to consider for your next cover: Having been faced with the task of helping out authors in the cover design process many times, a recent experience led me to one service that really did a terrific job. uses graphic designers from around the world who compete for your business by actually designing the book cover on speculation, ie no charge. I commissioned a cover for an author using 99designs after the author was not happy with the creations from his own designer. I mentioned several design elements such as the title, sub title, what the book was about etc. Figuring more is better, we got 65 different cover designs in 5 days! The most difficult part was narrowing down the selection to 8 then having friends, family, co-workers vote on their favorites from all corners of the world all online. They also added their comments, insight and logic behind liking or disliking a cover design right under the image of that cover. They voted over several days and the comments were able to be read by our team, also scattered all over North America. The cost was under $700 or so and it was only that high because we put a rush on it and paid extra. This was an excellent process that delivered a NY Times bestseller quality cover that I highly recommend. gives you many options for just $5. These are fast and obviously cheap but I’ve seen some pretty nice work. produces smart visuals that stand out from the ordinary offer various packages for your book cover needs including web pages, Facebook pages etc. They are based in Australia and I’ve used them and recommended them several times. has a competitive flat rate so you can work with your ideal budget

The designers at are a great resource offers book cover design and ebook design for authors

The designs from have appeared on over 1,000 books. Packages for ebooks and interior design start at $495.

Karrie Ross from specializes in book cover design for the self-publishing industry has over 30 years combined experience in the design and advertising industry specializes in providing superior book cover design services utilizing professional equipment and software is a boutique design firm for self-publishers and small presses has been voted the best website for authors, so be sure to check it out  Along with publishing services Lulu provides design quality at a competitive price. A list of book cover designers that are recommended by independent publishers. is a creative book cover designer Great sales pitch about why you should download their software to design your own book cover. Worth a look. allows you to work with thier professional design team to custom-create an affordable, striking cover that broadcasts your book’s key messages with distinct colors, fonts, and one central image. Their price $349 is not bad and several of my clients have use them including one 92 year old author. offers a straight-forward approach to finding a budget and designing your book cover. Price ranges from $149 to $279. is a great website to utilize to find freelance book cover designers from around the world. Very cool. offers editing, proofreading, cover design, Interior page layout, eBook formatting, Printing and more.

With Infinity Publishing you have complete control over the cover design and layout of your book is an intimate award-winning design studio creating exceptional image building graphic designs for print and the web since 1979. offers complete design and production services for children’s books, tabletop books, cookbooks, textbooks, fiction and non-fiction hard covers and paperbacks. One designer boasting over 18 years of experience with 1000+ books to his credit. This is very interesting in that the book covers are already designed, you just add the title! There are some very high quality covers priced at $25 and up. Definitely check this out.

Cathi Stevenson of has 30 years of publishing experience and more than 1500 book covers to her credit. is a full service design studio offering graphic design, illustration, publication layout and more.

Dunn+Associates Design for Authors create the success tools that authors need like best-selling book covers and more is one of the foremost romance book cover artists. She has painted covers for over 350 romance books representing more than 150 authors

Carl Graves of is a professional book cover designer who has a fire sale on book covers with more than 2,000 book covers on hand. Very high quality covers that just need your title only $200 per cover. These are really amazing must see covers. provides affordable and dynamic design for books, both book cover designs and book interior layouts They’ll design your cover with no money down and state, “See what we can do with your title before you pay!”  Sounds good to me! has designed over 1200 book covers and strives to provide the most experienced and helpful book production services.

You can and should spend a few hours going through all of these web sites. You’ll be glad you did. I know I was enlightened myself in creating this list of book cover designers.

Bottom line: Get involved early in the entire book publishing design process and get at least several creative concepts for the front cover, back cover, and spine. Don’t let it be the ‘last thing’ you do.

And finally, the most important rule in book publishing and marketing – Know Your Reader! All books have a target reader and in all genres there are varying degrees of readers. Targeting the reader who is most likely to purchase your book is critical.  Authors who know the demographics of their readers are equipped to assemble the fonts and graphics best able to grab the reader’s eye and instantly convey the message that “this book is for you.”


Scott Lorenz, Westwind CommunicationsAbout Book Publicist Scott Lorenz

Book publicist Scott Lorenz is President of Westwind Communications, a public relations and marketing firm that has a special knack for working with authors to help them get all the publicity they deserve and more. Lorenz works with bestselling authors and self-published authors promoting all types of books, whether it’s their first book or their 15th book. He’s handled publicity for books by CEOs, CIA Officers, Navy SEALS, Homemakers, Fitness Gurus, Doctors, Lawyers and Adventurers.

His clients have been featured by Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, CNN, ABC News, New York Times, Nightline, TIME, PBS, LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Woman’s World, & Howard Stern to name a few. Learn more about Westwind Communications’ book marketing approach at  or contact Lorenz at or by phone at 734-667-2090. Follow Lorenz on Twitter @aBookPublicist


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