We’ve all heard you should never judge a book by its cover, but the reality is we do—and readers do. Authors spend months and sometimes years writing their books, but just minutes making decisions about how the book looks and feels.

The visual elements of a book creation may seem to be less important than the content, but a strong title or a powerful cover can actually be the difference between strong sales and the remainder table.

It’s critical to spend time on the decisions around how your book looks and feels. These design elements can have as much impact as your great content! Here are six areas to pay attention to before publishing your next book.

Book Title

Publishers have expertise around what language drives purchase—knowledge that authors may not possess. The more collaborative the title work is, the more likely you are to land on a real winner.

  • We suggest authors, in conjunction with their publishers and marketing partners, come up with several titles and subtitles, then ask their perspective readers for input. This can be gathered via an email survey or by requesting input on social media. You’ll often be surprised what moves readers to buy books. It’s worth hearing from them.
  • Keep in mind that your book is aimed at a very specific audience. The title needs to resonate with the intended audience, not just with you.

Cover Design

We’ve seen many terrific books fail to reach their potential because of poor cover design. We really do judge a book by its cover—so make sure yours is a standout!

  • Do some research in your category to understand current best selling colors, styles, and imagery. The wrong font can make a brand new book look dated and old.
  • Research what successful covers in your category look like, and check out books that aren’t selling well to see how their covers differ.
  • Get feedback. Just because you love a color doesn’t mean others will. You want a cover that works!

Book Description

The title and cover will lure the readers in, but the book blurb (on the back cover or inside the dust jacket) should really hook them.

  • Make sure this short description accurately captures the power and value of your work. It should clearly indicate who will benefit from the book, what questions it answers or solves, and what makes you qualified to write on the topic.
  • Descriptions should speak directly to your target audience, and succinctly and powerfully give them reasons to buy and read your book.

Quality Endorsements

Authors often leave the decisions about title and cover design to the last minute, and rush through them while they stress over endorsements. We’re here to tell you endorsements matter—but unless you have an “Oprah” sticker on your book, those endorsements have little impact on sales.

  • Switch your priorities. Spend more time and energy coming up with a title and cover that will rock the world of your audience, and less time on endorsements.
  • Quality matters more than quantity. Three rock solid endorsements mean more than twenty from CEOs whose names readers don’t recognize.

Internal Formatting 

How your book looks on the page is important, and authors can and should give thought to these decisions.

  • Fonts that look dated or distracting can actually hurt your book, no matter how good your message may be. Take, for example, Comic Sans. Now, we don’t expect any publishing companies will recommend this font—but there are others that may be less dramatic which can still make your book clumsy to read or appear dated and old. Fonts matter!
  • Page formatting matters, too. We’ve all picked up a book with tiny print, small margins, and few spaces—and those are books we normally then put right back down. Make sure your formatting is easy on the eyes and comfortably readable.

Copy Editing

This is the area where many self-published books fall flat! If you have mistakes in your book—spelling issues, grammar issues, or factual errors—readers will notice. Most readers are generally kind people, so they will forgive maybe one error . . . but much more than that, and you begin to lose their trust. Don’t skimp on quality copy editing!

Content is only the beginning of a successful book launch. Design can have a powerful impact!

Getting feedback and expert help can make the process easier for the author, and ultimately, more successful for the book.