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Yes, People Do Judge a Book by the Cover

First impressions last. From the front cover to the first line of your book, readers make a quick decision whether to buy your book or not. That being said, your book cover design is one of the most import aspects of marketing your historical novel. Yes, I said marketing. If you do not have a well-designed cover, you will lose sales within seconds. So often an author focuses so much attention on what is on the inside, they fail to consider the "wrapping". This is your gift to the world, and your gift deserves the perfect wrapping and bow. I mean, who hasn't seen a gift wrapped in haste where all you can see is the tape and the ragged edges? The inside might be a diamond, but you know if the giver has taken the utmost care with your present or if they could care less. Even a budget present can come with an exquisite wrapping from a dollar store. Everything is in the presentation in marketing - and face it, people actually 'judge a book by its cover'.

Yes, writer's write stories, but the process of cover design should be given into the hands of a professional who can take your story and bring it to life with a successful cover - with an eye on current trends and someone who has studied marketing. Most writers are not graphic designers, so it does a writer well to work with someone who knows the business, plus someone who can help your readers truly feel your story from the moment they see your cover.

Bullet points about what you want for your cover, perhaps your initial vision, is a great place to start when working with a designer. You may have an idea of what you want, but sometimes it might not convey the right message to your readers. Think creatively, and trust your designer wants the best for your cover - after all, this is their name on the line, as well. The basic thing to remember is this: creativity, unique font styles (but not over the top), and attractive scenery or images are the ones that garner the most sales. Later, I will talk more about the current trends in the market of historical fiction.

Be bold! Trust your designer! And remember this is your first step towards marketing your book, and PLEASE don't want until the last minute to design your book cover. Especially in historical fiction - you want a design that provides intrigue and charm, plus historical accuracy, to cause a reader to make an immediate purchase. Your book should say - buy me now! I know we have all done that - I'm guilty - of seeing a gorgeous cover and clicking 'buy' without even reading the blurb! You know you have!! And you want the same for your cover, don't you?

Walk around at your local book store or browse the historical fiction bestsellers on Amazon and take a look at the covers. How does yours compare? Readers are always drawn to a cover which creates a magnetism and energy drawing them into the story.

Catch the Reader's Attention

Thousands of books are hitting the market each year, and your cover can make the difference between success or failure, believe it or not! Your cover is the persuasion leading a reader to your story. A beautiful cover speaks for you, telling a reader that your story is worth their time and attention. Plus, if your cover shows you cared enough about your story to get a professionally designed cover, then a reader's interest will pique.

The Binding Is Equally Important

When your book is on a bookshelf, spine out, it should be a continuation of a creative and quality cover! Sometimes all you have is one inch to capture a reader's attention, so make it count.

Book Reviews

When I say that book reviews on covers are important, I'm not necessarily talking about the slice of reviews on your Amazon page. When you think about it, those reviews are actually a tiny portion of the readers who actually read your book. We all know how hard it is to get people to leave reviews... so what kind of review am I talking about? The kind which comes from a professional editorial review designed to give clout and substance in support of your book. Haven't you ever picked up a book based on the small quote from USA Today or the New York Times in support of a particular book? Choose a quote which makes your book stand out from the rest and always think - would I pick up my own book if I walked into a bookshop?

Classy not Flashy

In marketing, simplicity wins the day, any day. Overdone never works, not in font-selection, or in imagery, and for sure not in historical fiction. Classy not flashy (or cheesy) is the best route to go, plus too much wording on a cover or a blurb from A to Z always makes a reader yawn and pass on by. Want to see what I mean? Below is two examples - which would you buy?

And yes, the above was an actual cover - weird, huh?

For more terrible book cover choices (all done on classics, BTW, so no stepping on toes here... check out this link:

Book Info

Treat your book cover with the same care you treated your story, a living breathing thing, and allow your cover to speak your story with one glimpse. The best historical fiction covers out there provide the 'hook' of the story without revealing everything.

Your cover is one of the best marketing assets where you can invest your money because it is the first thing readers see when deciding their next purchase, and you need this image EVERYWHERE - the book, sales material, website, and across social media.

Important Things to Remember

1. Font Choice

The font chosen for your book title and author's name is part of your branding, and first and foremost, it should always be readable. The choice should represent the tone of the story, and NEVER sacrifice your choice to common standards. (We don't do Comic Sans... LOL) This is where your bullet points about what you want to portray (the tone of your book) is essential to communicate with your designer. After all, we wouldn't see a futuristic block lettering on a romantic Regency... at least, we hope not! Well-styled text makes a difference between the ordinary and the spectacular - also the best-selling one! Side note: no cover should ever, ever use more than two fonts... ever, ever!

3. Stick to the Historical Fiction Trends

You may want your cover to stand out, thinking if you do something 'out-of-the-box' you will cause readers to line up for your novel but, in truth, you might be wrong in this assumption. When you browse the bestsellers in the historical fiction genre (and sub-genres) you are going to notice trends in color schemes, imagery, fonts, and layouts. If you go against the trends, what the readers are looking for, your book might not catch their attention and you will lose sales. And yes, the trend continues with the "girl facing away", the "headless heroine/hero", the "split cover", and the "floral border". I see the trend edging away with the recent covers posted on the back of the Historical Novel Society magazine, but so far the drift is slow. For the most part, readers tend to trust the norms, so make your "norm" truly stand out!

These are some of the trends in historical fiction from Bookouture (just examples to give you an idea of what you can have for your book)

4. Color Trends

Yes, this is a trend! And the colors you choose for your cover helps create a certain mood and conveys a particular message about your story. Complimentary colors (diagonally opposite on the color wheel) work great together (think Ferrari - red, gold, and green). Analogous colors combine dark and light tints that are next to each other on the wheel. Some of the best book covers have blue and orange, or black, white, and red, as these colors work very well together.

Why is color important? There is a psychological aspect to this in graphic design. Warm colors stimulate, creating energy; while cold colors represent composure and calmness. What does your story invoke? Always remember that even the color should be easy on the reader's eyes, and the neutral tones of black, white, and grey balance the main chosen color for your theme.

Also, imagery or symbolism in your story is a great way to creatively assimilate it in your cover, and using color to make it stand out is another way to bring intrigue to your story. (Think "Outlander" covers!)

Simple and classic. This is the best way to make a cover really pop, and is timeless. When you stick with monochromatic or neutral colors, your fonts and words stand out in your reader's minds, and the image becomes part of the foundation instead of the focus.

5. Blurb

As always, your back cover blurb is your two to three minute pitch to your reader. Think of it this way - if you were caught in an elevator with an agent or editor from one of the big 5 publishers and they asked you to tell them what your book is about - go, you have only to the fifth floor to tell them before you never see them again! This is your back cover blurb - and is another aspect to marketing your book!

Yes, this is a lot to take in, we understand. If you are a writer, or even if you are already published and looking to refresh your covers, you can depend on the graphic design team here at White Rabbit Arts, the designers for The Historical Fiction Company. We can provide a quick mockup for your book so you can get an idea of what we can do, and we will work with you on revisions until you are 100% satisfied with your cover. After all, this is your baby!! And with book cover re-design, this might be all your book needs to go from ordinary to spectacular, with a huge increase in sales to follow!! Again, remember - people really do judge a book by it's cover.

I do have one caveat to all this information - art is subjective, the same as your story is subjective, which means what appeals to some might not appeal to others... so my suggestion from the standpoint of a designer is this:

Your message should be clear and convincing to your readers, and you should stick to the genre expectations for your cover design. Font selection is critical to catch the reader's attention; color is key and invokes mood; and brands your books especially if you have several in a series.

Bookshops display books with their covers facing customers, so it is the first thing they see. On Amazon, the first thing you see is the book cover. Sometimes this is the only reason a customer picks up a book or clicks the mouse, and an author will be judged and recognized by the creativity, composition, and look of a book.

Make yours stand out in a crowd! Contact us at or visit our book cover design page at .

Our packages are affordable because we believe if you, as the author, invested your valuable time to create the story, then you deserve a beautiful cover... no matter if you are budget-conscious, struggling indie author, or a six-figure traditionally published bestseller.

Your dream becomes our dream - so message us today!!

Dee Marley


Head Graphic Designer for White Rabbit Arts

35+ years in Graphic Design


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