Book Covers: Ways to Use a Book Cover Design as a Marketing Tool

The book cover is the first thing a potential reader will see about your book. It creates that first impression in the reader’s mind, and within seconds, the reader will decide whether the book is worth buying or not. It sounds harsh, but humans tend to make decisions based on what they see and sometimes without noticing, making it at a subconscious level. 

Occasionally, someone will be attracted to your book because of the synopsis or because another reader recommended it. That would be ideal! In a perfect world, people read books based on what the book is about.

However, you and your marketing team (if you are a self-publisher, you will be alone in this) can’t expect the sales to go up by pretending we live in a perfect world! As a writer, you want people to read your book; as a publisher, you want it to sell. You won’t make any of those if your book cover doesn’t attract your desired audience. Your desired audience is the people who like to read and are willing to buy your book.

What’s a book cover design?

A book cover is the first thing your reader sees before opening your book. It can be a one-color background, a drawing, or an image. Besides that, the book cover has also the title and the author identified. Sometimes, a book cover can also have a testimonial of someone famous or a label indicating an award or recognition.

Although a couple of decades ago, book covers were more conservative and only showed the title and author, today, this has changed. Even older books have been brought out with different covers, always looking to adapt to new design trends and seeking to appeal to new generations.

How important are book cover designs?

A good book cover design is crucial for different reasons. First, the reader (and buyer) will see the book cover before anything else. Sure, the reader will read the title and see your name, but those things usually don’t mean anything unless you’re an already recognized author.

Second, that same first impression someone gets when they see your book will make them decide to buy it or not. Being an author is about wanting people to read your work. However, and it’s challenging to try not to sound pessimistic here, nobody will read it if nobody buys it. A book cover can be a marketing tool if you use it correctly.

What are the elements of a book cover?

Even a simple book cover has elements to consider if you want to get the most out of them. On the front cover, there is the imagery and the typography. The back cover gives more information about the book, but since we’re talking about book covers as a marketing tool, we will focus on the elements of the front cover.

Front Cover

You have to think about the front cover as a chance to show the reader what your book will be about. You don’t have to reveal too much, but it needs to be enough. Book cover designs with only the title and author are out of date, and today it is almost mandatory to have an image.


The image you choose depends on what you want to achieve. The front cover can have geometric shapes, a photograph, or a drawing. All of them are valid, and you can play with different imagery to see what better suits your book. For example, romance books go well with illustrations! However, memories and biographies go well with a more minimalistic approach.


There are almost no rules regarding the typography you can use. However, if you are an aspiring author, a good rule of thumb is to make the title font number bigger. Likewise, the typography must be legible and in a sophisticated font (you can’t imagine a book with the title in Arial, can you?) 

A basic formula is the title at the top in larger letters and the author at the bottom in smaller letters. Still, it depends a lot on the image you have chosen. Ideally, neither element should overshadow the other. Instead, they should complement each other.

Tips to Make a Book Cover Your Audience Will Love

One of the ways you can use your book cover as a marketing tool is by making sure your audience loves it. Sounds easy, but it depends on factors not necessarily related to the content of your book. Let’s take a look at some tips!

1. Show your reader the genre of your book

Most readers prefer one genre over another, and you can use this as an advantage. If your book is a sci-fi adventure, you have to make sure the book cover looks the part. Whether on the font, the imagery, or both. Otherwise, you risk losing your potential reader and confusing others.

As we said before, in a perfect world, the reader sees the synopsis of a book before buying, but it’s not always the case, so make sure your book cover matches the genre of your work.

The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1) by Brandon Sanderson

2. Set the tone of your book

This tip is easier to follow since it’s related to the last one. If your book is a romcom, and you want to be straightforward, you can have both main characters on the cover. For example, drawn characters have become quite popular in the last few years. Another option is to feature a cute font with pastel colors.

Likewise, if your book is a mystery thriller, you wouldn’t want your cover to have fairies if the book is not a fantasy. It seems like an extreme example, but sometimes, these errors may be present in a more subtle form.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

3. Be aware of the book cover design elements

Most of the time, when we think of these elements, we think about one image, and that’s all. Sure, a book cover has an image, but it also has other essential elements, especially if you want to use your book for marketing.

Besides imagery, there’s also typography. Both elements are equally important since they coexist in your cover. Use easy-to-read fonts, color psychology, and an appealing image. Your reader will thank you!

The Priory of the Orange Tree (The Roots of Chaos, #1) by Samantha Shannon

4. Show your readers a glimpse of what’s to come

One of my favorite types of book cover designs is when the cover shows a scene of something that will happen later on. It’s giving the reader something akin to a spoiler but without being a spoiler. It acts more like an easter egg, and your reader will appreciate the design even more when they realize it was there all along. Yet, you must be careful that what you show is not too much, such as the death of a character.

I remember reading a YA book where the cover was the main character under the sea with their eyes closed. It looked artistic, and at first, I never suspected the ulterior motives of that cover. Halfway through the book, I realized it was a scene. In reality, the main character was unconscious and probably going to die. By then, the cover design had taken on another meaning, and today it is one of my favorite covers.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

5. Don’t be afraid to be creative

Some of the most representative book cover designs were those born out of the need to be creative. It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing the same repetitive stuff since it means “it will work.” That’s not always the case. 

Sometimes, looking the same as everything else in the marketplace can help you sell because some readers will see something recognizable. However, in the long run, this will fail you. Design trends go out of fashion, and today’s readers look for original covers that catch their attention. More of the same can be tiring.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

6. Consider adding your main character

If everything fails, consider adding your main character to your book cover. It will help your reader to imagine your character, and it also helps to place your character in a specific time and context.

For example, if your book is in the historical genre, placing your main character in period clothing, hairstyles, and clothing is a way to explain the tone of your book. Also, you don’t necessarily have to add a person’s picture. Illustrations are also valid.

Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices #3) by Cassandra Clare

Ways to Use a Book Cover Design As a Marketing Tool

Now, getting into the most fascinating part of the article, let’s get into it. How to make your book cover help you make sales?

1. Do a book cover reveal

We all love reveals! It is interesting to know the design of a cover before the book is released. You can host an event where you also answer questions about your book or make a book giveaway. It’s a tactic that can be helpful if you already have an established readership.

2. Show your book cover on social media

Even if you are a self-publisher, you need anticipation for your book. After doing a cover reveal, you can start showing the cover on your social media. 

Today, social media is crucial for marketing. It improves customer experience, helps with costs, and increases online presence. All of those are essential if you want a good marketing campaign. 

3. Use the book cover as an image for merchandise

Your book cover can also act as part of your merchandise as an author. It can include mugs, bookmarks, or stickers.

You’d think you’d need a large fanbase to pull this off, but not really. Likewise, if you have difficulties selling your merchandise, you can always do giveaways of your products along with your book.

4. Do a giveaway (and show your book cover to promote it)

People love free stuff! If you allow your readers to win one of your books, you have half of the work done. It can be as simple as partnering with an influencer and doing it together. You can reach an agreement with an influencer where that person reads your book, and in exchange, they offer you content creation where they give a review about your book or show the book cover in a video to get you more exposure.

5. Make your book cover a branding element

Some people will argue that this is the most important thing when you use a book cover as part of your marketing campaign. However, it is only helpful if the author wants to make a series. If you want to, then this is a good way. How to use this? If you plan to publish several books, make them similar in color, typography, and image. Anyone who sees them will realize they are part of the same series, but without being the same book.

6. Show the book cover on pre-order links

Pre-ordering is like making a reservation for something soon to be launched. It offers someone the opportunity to be one of the first to read the book. Because of the sense of anticipation, pre-ordering is a way to build hype for your book. It also helps build trust among your readers and improve cash flow.

Is there any way to make pre-orders more exciting? Make a package where you offer your autograph, a product of your merchandise, or both. You can even leave a little note thanking them for their loyalty! Your readers will love that.


In this age of technology and digital sales, anything that represents an image has become especially crucial. Increasingly, marketing agencies are focusing not only on traditional marketing but also on more modern and effective ways to make a product sell.

A book cover is more than an image. A well-done book cover design gives the reader an idea of what the book is about while also targeting a specific audience. Most of the time, it is what will make your reader decide to buy or not.

It is essential to invest in a good book cover design because although, at first glance, it may not seem so, it also represents a critical element in the marketing strategy.

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Happy writing, fellow writers!

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