All writers dream of holding their new book in their hands for the first time—you know, the one with the perfect book cover. The face of your story that will launch a million sales, land you great reviews, win you a Hollywood film contract.

A good book cover sells books

Book covers matter. One publisher I worked for used to say that a cover was a billboard for the book—the only promotion your story has once it’s on its own on the shelf, waiting to be picked up and bought and read. Studies bear this out. Readers are more likely to buy a book with a compelling cover—and less likely to buy a book with a cover that sucks. Because people do judge books by their covers, like it or not.

As an acquisitions editor, I’d endured many a cover meeting where sales and marketing and editorial and the art director battled over the right approach for a given title. As an agent, I fight hard for my clients’ visions—and their covers are always better when the publisher listens (and sometimes they actually do). And as an author, I’ve known the ecstasy of a great cover—and the agony of a bad one.

The big reveal

Imagine my trepidation as I waited for my publisher to show me the cover of my first mystery, A Borrowing of Bones, debuting in September from Minotaur, and available for pre-order now. (Hint, hint.)

Long story short, I couldn’t be happier. I mean, look at it, it’s beautiful.

But that’s just the author talking. Let’s take a look at why this is a great cover—element by element.

The elements of a great book cover

When I was an acquisitions editor, I would always fight the good fight for my projects. I’d worked in the magazine business before getting into the book business, and there we spent a lot of money on consultants who told us how to design magazine covers that could compete in the bright chaos of the magazine stand. I knew that strong images were best. I knew what colors to avoid—green and brown—and what colors sold best—red, yellow, blue. I knew that you should be able to read the title and cover blurbs from six feet away. And I knew that the key to readability and impact was contrast, contrast, contrast.

I brought these magazine lessons into the book business, and I won’t say I was overzealous or anything, but I was once taken aside by the publisher after a cover meeting and told that I’d offended the art director and was therefore never to utter the word contrast in his presence again.

But I digress…back to my swell cover and its swell elements:

Title Treatment

The title font is attractive, large, and red—again all good—and well-lit against the golden background. Contrast, baby, contrast.

Main Image

A Borrowing of Bones has a strong and lovely main image. The background is Vermont, the setting for the series. The woman and her K-9 companion actually look like the heroine and the dog in the book. All good.


Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lisa Gardner, who honored me with this great blurb, placed front and center. Note: It was my job to get this quote, and the publisher’s job to use it to best effect.


Okay, okay, I admit it. I love the fact that my byline is so big and blue. Who wouldn’t? What’s not to like?

Overall Design

A book cover is proof positive that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The colors, the fonts, the text, the title, the bylines—all combine to create a compelling billboard for the novel. When a cover works, it works—and this cover works.

Color me happy.

Here at Career Authors, we could talk about great book covers all day. For more, join us on Facebook.