What Makes a Good Cover?

I know the saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” but I get the feeling people do. I’ve actually heard it argued (although he was talking about comic books specifically) that if they didn’t give a crap about the cover they most likely didn’t give a crap about what was inside.

This idea popped in my head becuase I needed to make a cover for my story and I crapped out this one:


Some folks I showed it to told me this one was cute, but I hate it so much. It’s just so boring. It doesn’t covey anything interesting about the story, the person who drew the two characters clearly didn’t know how to draw, it’s just two people standing in front of a photo of a neighborhood, one of whom looks a tiny bit like Linda Belcher which was unintentional.

Tl:dr I hate this cover becuase it’s boring and looks like it had very little effort put into it.

It got me curious though…what does make a good cover? How do you make yours? What makes you enticed to read someone’s story?

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Covers normally don’t draw me, titles and summaries do. I read a lot on Wattpad and Tapas.

The covers I like are:
Uncluttered
Well-drawn (classic style) vs photorealistic
Interesting use of background colour, symbols, font or frames
Tells me what the book is

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I’m more into the minimalist, neutral couloured covers which is why all of mine are like that too :joy: but obviously it depends on the person but that one would probably not appeal to many people. No offence :slightly_smiling_face:

Good ratios, good perspective, super easy to read, and effective use of space. I’m gonna talk about them one by one because I have nothing else better to do.

Effective use of space: Taking up too much space with certain elements or having too large of a gap on a cover can make it look very off. If your title is the smallest thing on your cover, it defeats the purpose of a cover. People are supposed to read it which ties in with readability but I’ll expand on that more later. There’s also the issue of certain elements taking up too much space that it looks cramped. I notice a lot of titles sometimes don’t let themselves have enough empty around the title and it’s way too close to the edge of the picture or straight up touches the edge.

Good ratios: Everything should be centred unless there’s a good reason otherwise. Again it ties in with empty space. It’s great to fill everything in, but it needs to be balanced with empty space. You don’t want a cover with it being too busy. Then there’s also balancing the other elements like people next to a wolf or a person next to some object. Unless the person is a literal giant, they should be scaled properly. Way more relevant to drawn covers I think since body proportions are a bitch to draw.

Readability: If I cannot read your title, then it instantly is a terrible cover in my personal opinion. The whole point of a cover is to read your title. A book is to read, not to play “eye spy.” If the words are too thin and get lost in the image used or the image itself is too busy and even if you use a white or black text that its still hard to read, you need to create an ugly block of blank space to put those words in or yet that image.

Perspective: If you have an aerial view, it should stay an aerial view. If the person is looking up from the ground and the image is tilted upwards and there’s a plane but the plane looks like it’s directly in front of the person, you need to rework the cover.

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Honestly, I have no idea what makes for a tasteful, relevant book cover. But I know what I like, and right now I love those abstract artistic covers all the major publishers are using that tell you absolutely nothing about the book, but look kinda cool. ¯\_(ﭢ)_/¯

If your target is for junior to YA age readers, then it might suit. If you’re doing a chic lit or serious kind of YA story then photorealism or pastel colored text-type covers tend to be the given.

It depends on your target audience and what most of them are used to seeing. If in doubt, check out covers at Amazon, Kobo and so forth in your given genre and age groups.

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A discussion about covers! :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: I’m at home. Covermaker, but not a pro. Still, I’ve done it for 6 years. I also enjoy dissecting covers and thinking about what makes a good cover.

My thoughts on your first and second questions

Okay, so, Idk about other covermakers, but I find there to be a big difference between published books that sell out into the world type of covers, and Wattpad books that stay on Wattpad type of covers.

What makes a good cover? This needs to be separated into: “what makes a good published book cover” and “what makes a good Wattpad cover?”

Wattpad covers are often about the thumbnail, I’ve found. So, when I make covers for people, I reduce the zoom percentage to about 33% (weird number, but that’s what it is on the program I use) and check if the thumbnail is recognizable. I don’t work on that size or suffer eyestrain XD but I do check it a lot as I tweak the cover. The title has to be clear. That’s a must. If you have characters, the characters need to be clear, and a plus if the genre is clear. I do the same thing for my own covers.

Wattpad is a fast-paced world with fast-paced people (whatever that means XD) so the cover should relay, title and genre at the bare minimum, I think. If you’re looking for fantasy and flipping through or scrolling, you would probably seek certain things on the cover and if you see that, instant click to check the blurb. Probably you wouldn’t do much squinting and trying to figure out what the picture is if you want stuff fast.

But here’s the thing, you can make covers for Wattpad that look like published out-there-in-the-world book covers, too. But if you do that, it might not work as a thumbnail on Wattpad (I see out-there-published-sci-fi covers that don’t look sci-fi, but they do look pretty). It might look good printed and in your hand, or on a kindle, but not on Wattpad. You really have to think, does this cover have an easy to read the title, and is it easy to tell the genre? If yes, then go for it :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

So, what entices me?

On Wattpad:

I don’t look at books with stereotype Wattpad covers. What I mean is, photographed people on the cover, often somewhat undressed. Often guys and often abs. I also recognize pinterest text slap (taking a pretty pinterest pic and slapping text on it) It just…because I make covers, I like seeing effort had been put into something. Doesn’t mean I might not still check it out. Less likely to though.

So on Wattpad, I look for anything other than that, but those that look like they are covers or at least an attempt because I remember what my old covers were like. On Wattpad, if the title looks interesting I try not to judge a book by it’s cover. I try. I do.

Outside Wattpad:

Well, basically the same thing :stuck_out_tongue: But I don’t even look at books with photographed characters on them. Even a woman dressed in a pretty gown. Even a prince wearing a shirt. If they are real people, I probably won’t look. I’ve just seen too many of those and I’m tired of them :sweat_smile:

I can’t deny that pretty Insta-worthy covers don’t pique my interest :wink: But I have learned my lesson not to get sucked into the hype like with the Shadow and Bone trilogy. Personal opinion.