Tag Archives: book design

Anatomy of a Book Cover

A short time ago, I started thinking about changing some of my book covers to better represent the genre and tone of my stories. For this post, I’ll talk about the changes I made for my latest mystery/suspense novellas—A Snake in Paradise released April 9, 2015, and SEAL of a Monk released July 26, 2015. Both were written for the Lei Crime Series in Kindle Worlds, based on the books of author, Toby Neal.


lei early attempts

Original covers – Early attempts


I don’t like busy covers with too many images. I prefer something subtle and spare. The problem with this is that subtlety can be lost on a reader if they know nothing about the story. If the cover does not grab them immediately, they are unlikely to read the blurb or sample the first few pages.

At the other end of the spectrum, some covers incorporate too many story elements and end up as a cluttered mess of images in a collage.

So … what is the right balance? I’m no expert, but here’s what I do.

I consider the cover as the first point of contact for my book—a visual sales tool, if you will. As such, I try to do everything I can to make it appealing to a buyer.


lei original final

Original covers – FINAL


It’s true that most people judge a book by its cover. He or she may assess it any number of ways:

  1. Does it look professional?
  2. Do the graphics evoke a particular genre? (Horror, women’s fiction, romance …)
  3. What kind of mood does it convey? (Mystery, humor, fear …)

All these thoughts go through a reader’s head when browsing for a book, but the process is quick. We have limited time to hook a potential buyer before they move on to the next book cover.


sip woman image

Image used for A Snake in Paradise – NEW COVER


When Toby suggested I change the two covers I had written for the Lei Crime Series, I had already been considering it, but her input clarified what I had to do. She offered ideas for how I could keep the dark restraint of my original covers while adding some sexiness to better convey the mood of the books.

soam man image

Image used for SEAL of a Monk – NEW COVER


Toby was absolutely right. My old covers were too dark and subdued. They conveyed the mystery/suspense genre, but the graphics did little to reveal the mood. In the original cover for A Snake in Paradise, my designer gave me a symbol of the story as I had requested, only … the story was not about a snake. It was about a woman named Lainey Lee with a snake tattoo. She was the main character and deserved to be on the updated cover.

In SEAL of a Monk, the story continued with Lainey. In it, she met Max, a Navy SEAL who helped her with a search and rescue operation. He was central to the story, so he was represented on the new cover. Common elements such as color, texture, and font linked the two books together.

When the essence of the stories became clear for me, it was obvious that I needed to add the human element to the covers. The symbols I had originally used were too vague. It was important to allow readers to visually know what was between the pages.


new lei first attempts

NEW covers – Early attempts


Ultimately, I changed the covers so they would better resonate with my readership as well as attract new readers. And let’s be honest, the reason authors want a great book cover is not just so that we love it. Potential buyers have to love it too. If it can please both the author and the reader, then we have found the sweet spot.

Here are a few things I learned with this change process, and I hope you find them helpful.

~ Whether you use a professional cover designer or not, it is important to have a clear vision of what your story is about. Is it a love story, a mystery, or a different genre? Once you determine this, choose a color scheme and image(s) to clearly communicate it. If uncertain, refer to bestselling books in your particular genre for ideas.

~ Ensure a proper balance of text and graphics. Remember that e-books should be clearly visible as a thumbnail, and a cover with a white background will lose its borders on most sales’ sites. That means your book image ends up “floating” in white space. If you must have a white background, consider going a few shades darker to give your book a distinct outline.

~ Book covers should be both functional and attractive. It’s art, but there are rules. Do some research on what sells and what is considered good. I’m a bit of a design junkie, so it’s interesting for me to read up on trends, but you can google “best book covers” and find numerous sites that will provide useful information.


NEW LEI covers

NEW covers – FINAL


As always, huge thanks to JB Graphics who designs all my covers.

I hope you like the new ones and enjoyed learning a bit about the process I used to arrive at them.

Over the next while, I will change more of my covers. I want to attract new readers, particularly for some of the books that have not been selling as well as I like. I will keep experimenting. Aside from doing the work, I don’t see a downside, and the upside is … greater sales and connection to more readers. I think that’s worth it, don’t you? 😉


Filed under Craft of Writing, Lei Crime Kindle Worlds