Book Cover Design

Richard Sutton, author, designer & marketing wonk

Richard Sutton

I’m a career graphic and advertising designer and copywriter. My work in the field began as an illustrator in 1971 and continues…

My clients have ranged from aerospace manufacturers, marketing service firms and specialty medical products through non-profit, small retail, large retail and even trade service companies. I have designed logos, packaging, annual reports, brochures, menus, maps, color magazine ads, b&w newsprint ads, book jackets, corporate employee manuals and design & identity manuals for publications.

I am a life-long tweaker and fixer. When I began writing fiction intending to publish, I began extensive research into bookstore and online shopper habits to familiarize myself with the whys of purchasing a book, beyond the content. I believe that whether an eBook or a print book, the cover design and execution can create a very effective tool to help persuade consumers to lay down their money and give it a try. My experience and research can help, whether you want to consider some options, create a new design or refine one you already have. It begins with discussion, so I’ve prepared a list of questions which I use to begin the process of crafting a cover into a selling tool for your book.

Questions to ask yourself: Send me your answers using our automated form.

Book Q&A

  • Is your book going to be released as an eBook, in print, or both?
  • What is the desired target date?
  • If print, do you have the exact trim size for the full cover?
  • Who will be producing your book if for print release?
  • Which genre is your book?
  • Will your book be marketed through book sellers in print?
  • If it will be marketed as an eBook, which online venues will sell it?
  • What is the gender and age of your target reader?
  • Do they generally have any specific interests?

Book Cover Q&A

  • Have you already created a cover design?
  • Do you have ideas for a cover design? Explain…
  • Are you working with a designer or illustrator? Explain…
  • Are you interested in comments or suggestions on an existing design? (Free)
  • Are you interested in refining that design or expanding it for use in print?
  • Are you interested in a new design optimized for marketing your book?

RS Communications site and articles

You may email me directly with your questions, and attached jpeg files to: rsutton(at)rscomdotco

I have additional online articles on my design philosophy at and at Scroll down past the sample images for a short article on utilizing cover design to make an effective marketing tool for your title.

Here are some cover design samples:

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Ever wonder what a book cover can make a reader do?

A well-written book may be literary art of the highest caliber, yet once printed or formatted for eBook sales, it becomes a product. Marketing a consumer product can be especially difficult now as the marketplace is not only very large and competitive, but often confusing to the consumer. For a marketing plan to succeed, it will need to utilize a well-established set of tools to help place the product before its consumer target in the very best light to show it off, getting the attention it deserves.

One of the most important tools a marketer can use to position a retail product and turn interest into sales, is packaging. Packaging can be critical, affecting not just how well a product is noticed but how quickly a consumer responds, by purchasing it. Packaging can also be very helpful to retail merchants who have a great many items on display. Especially in Bookstores, or on eBook sales sites, where quick visibility helps readers discern where their interests are.  Book covers are packaging.

For a book’s cover to succeed, it must be prepared from the standpoint of the marketer and the package designer. It must, of course, communicate something of the nature of the story within, but it must do much more than that. It must elicit a specific response from a targeted reader. When a reader picks up a book to look closely at the cover, they have already begun the intended process. They have responded to the cover design by picking the book up for a closer look, or by clicking on the image that gives the marketer another chance to persuade. That second opportunity is the key to a successful sale.

Every element of the book’s cover, whether a wrap-around paperback, a hard-bound jacket, or a single cover image for an eBook must work in conjunction with every other element. There is much more to cover design than a pretty or evocative illustration, photograph or graphic. It’s not just about conveying a bit of story that pricks the consumer’s interest; it is about setting the hook that completes the sale. Every element must be geared to getting the reader to either open up the book and begin reading, or click through to sample pages. Once that’s accomplished, the quality of the storyteller’s art can turn even a cold initial exposure into a sold book.

A great deal of data exists, gathered over the years in advertising and marketing research, that tells us how a consumer’s eye moves, where it lingers, what colors elicit which emotional responses or behavior. That data can be applied to any marketing and packaging design to very good effect. In addition, there are specific elements such as typography, placement of information, reviews and pitches which will contribute towards the same end goal, if properly integrated into the design.

Creating a high-visibility, evocative, inspired cover or cover wrap around can take a great deal of trial and error if approached by a layman. Trial and error is expensive.  A properly researched cover design, planned and executed for the target reader market and for the expected sales venues can save a great deal of cost and wasted time. While it is possible to create a high-impact, highly visible design by accident, it is usually more effective to reach it through trained design rather than by chance.

Ocean Highway Books