book cover ideas

8-Question Cheatsheet for Coming Up with Standout Book Cover Ideas

Need some cover design ideas for a book you are self-publishing?

Want to come up with something that’s not just pretty but also a standout idea?

This is a quite quick, 8-question cheatsheet for book cover idea generation. Copy/paste it to a Word file or Google Docs and fill this out for yourself as you’re brainstorming your next cover! These are great questions to ask yourself when you’re researching and getting ready to work on your cover or hire a designer.

Here they are:

1. What’s the genre and more importantly, subgenre of the book

All genres have their own expectations which you must know when you’re DIY’ing (or even working with a book cover designer). Even the subgenres have their own, sometimes more detailed expectations. Miscommunication of genre might  piss  some readers off if they were expecting a book with no sex scenes and they get one with them. That might give you bad reviews just because of the discrepancy!

2. What is your risk tolerance?

Are you risk-taker and want to come up with something great but that doesn’t necessarily is ‘safe’ option? Maybe you want to push it and go for setting a trend or stand out. Or would you rather stick with the safe option, the current cliches, and standard ideas and not risk it? Both options are good and ok. Just know your own preference and situation. Maybe you’ll pick different option next time etc.

3. What are the current expectations and cliches in the genre?

Browse all the relevant Amazon bestseller lists and main authors’ books to see what is the current trend, the cliches and what sells. Browse some of the cover designer portfolios and see what their latest works are for the relevant genre books. Make note of them on a list. Collect some covers in a collection for your own inspiration.

How can you break or tweak the cliche to make your book cover ideas more original? Breaking it is for the rule-breakers, tweaking it is for more safe covers.

4. What is different about your story and what elements can be distinguishing your cover?

What elements are unusual, original or unexpected in your genre? What elements are very common in your genre to depict (like a silhouette guy with a gun in thrillers)? Which of your story elements can be on the cover because it is different or which elements work for the more ‘safe’ cover (whichever you are going for)?

5. What mood and tone does the cover need to convey?

If you wrote a slow-paced, deep, dark and gritty story, don’t have a super colorful vibrant cover with a gleeful character depicted on the cover.

6. What elements, colors or visuals cause the strongest emotion for the cover?

For fiction covers, emotion is really important and cover should communicate the right one instantly. It helps communicate the genre while making an impact.

For non-fiction covers, emotion is also helpful, but more logical visual that shows exactly what problem the book is helping to solve. If you can have both, that would be best!

7. What unexpected associations can happen due to some elements or events happening?

Maybe some clever association jumps in your head when you’re thinking about some certain story part? Maybe some visual can cause ‘double meaning’ and intrigue the reader?

8. Who are a small group of people (5-10) for feedback round?

Posting on social media to get feedback is cool and easy, but can be detrimental because people vote subjectively without knowing why some certain design element was selected, why other one doesn’t work. Or they just like that color more… You are also not likely to please everybody so it’s not worth trying to. In some cases even, a really controversial cover can be great exactly because people just love it or hate it and that creates discussion. Which means more attention for your book. But if you ask for votes, that cover won’t win the poll. So it’s better to have 5 authors in your genre who know covers well, some readers and maybe even a designer can be emailed to ask for feedback.

I hope you enjoy this and found it useful! If it helps you come with some awesome book cover ideas, let me know in the comments! You can find some book cover design inspiration in this post or browse a huge Pinterest board of awesome book covers here – https://www.pinterest.ie/rockbookcovers/book-cover-inspiration/ !

Do share this cheat sheet with your author friends who might need it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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