BLOG: Eye-Popping Tips

From Karen Saunders

Your Branding, Marketing & Self-Publishing Coach

For Speakers: How to Design a Book Cover that Sells

Successful sought-after speakers usually have a book to back their brand, expertise and credibility in their chosen fields. A book provides an additional revenue stream, increased publicity, and can be used as a hook for invitations to media events and speaking gigs. In this day and age of Amazon and POD printing, most speakers will self-publish. But if you self-publish, it is crucial to produce a quality product from the inside out, because your image, brand and book sales depend on it. So, how do you design a book cover that sells?

Savvy speakers will seek out experts to guide them through the book publishing process, creating books that are every bit as professional as those produced by large publishing houses. This article focuses on what it takes to create a cover design that rises above the field, attracts the right customer and sells itself.

From Billboards to Book Covers

From the 10,000 foot level, think of your book cover like a billboard. When you are driving down the highway and glance at a billboard, you have a couple of seconds to grasp the message. You’ll process a series of elements all at once: a few words, the basic imagery, colors, and the overall style. Then you’ll create a snapshot decision about the message and have one of these three emotional responses:

  1. It piques your curiosity
  2. It repels and turns you off completely
  3. It is boring and forgettable.

This is the same process when a customer sees a book cover for the first time.

Triggering the Right Response

This instant message is created by the overall composition of the cover. Was the imagery (photo, illustration, graphics) provocative, beautiful, plain, intriguing, unexpected, ugly, dynamic, stunning or familiar to you? Certain images and the style of those images will appeal to you. If the artist wanted to appeal to a specific target demographic he/she will choose a certain style of design and images, fonts and colors that will trigger a response from that specific group. A positive response from seeing the front cover will lead the customer to turn the book over and read the back cover. The back cover copy needs to reinforce the original message, list the benefits and provide a call to action to purchase the book.

Capturing the Essence

On a different level, a great book cover captures the essence of a book in a fundamental way, using metaphors, juxtaposition, or symbolic imagery. The overall style suggests the tone or mood of a book’s plot, narrative, characters or theme.

Book Covers That Support Speaker Platforms

Successful non-fiction book covers for speakers who use their book as part of their platform have unique characteristics. The cover design should coordinate with the established brand. If you’re positioning yourself as a thought-leader in a specific niche it would be prudent to include a photo of yourself on the front cover. You should identify a few dynamic photos of yourself that you’ll use for all your marketing pieces and on your website. These will become part of your visual brand. Photos that work well on book covers are more than just a standard head and shoulders shot. Forward-leaning poses with direct eye contact will interact with the book buyer.

High Performance Titles and Subtitles

A short, snappy, memorable title accompanied by a longer, more descriptive subtitle will pull in more book buyers. Your subtitle should contain specific keywords important to your business or service. Your editor or a marketing copywriter can help you craft a high-performance title and subtitle. Some enterprising speakers put together focus groups of their peers or members of their target market to brainstorm titles and subtitles.

The Power of Testimonials

Don’t forget about adding short endorsements from industry leaders on the front and/or back cover or front matter. Allow some time to get the testimonials as VIPs are usually very busy.

Ask a Professional to Design a Book Cover That Sells

It’s in your best interests to seek professional help with your cover design. The wrong image, a poorly executed design, a dull, deliberate or unintentional misrepresentation of the content can sink sales or cause pushback. People associate the quality of the cover with the quality of the content and may not even flip the book open.

Shown below are the front and back covers of The Pricing and Profit Playbook, a book our team designed for Joanne Smith, President of Price to Profits and former DuPont Corporate Marketing and Pricing Director.

Design a book cover that sells


Design a book cover that sells