People judge books by their covers. It’s the first, and sometimes only, thing people will see to help them decide if they should stop for a closer look or move on without a second glance. Without a cover that gets noticed for the right reasons, it will be hard to attract interest and convert to sales. Successful books don’t just happen by accident. Children’s picture books are not simply stories that rely on the quality of story inside, but are carefully strategized visual retail products with a very particular consumer market. The packaging, or in this case the book cover, is the primary sales tool to reach those consumers. You could have the most amazing story, but if it isn’t packaged the right way, it will not reach it’s potential as a retail product.
For new and aspiring illustrators and book designers, I have put together my top five tips for good picture book cover design. There is so much more to layout, composition, and design than what I can include in this post, but these are the most essential and basic rules that I employ in the book covers I create. These five simple tips, if you follow them every single time, will help you consistently create good book covers that not only will your clients be proud of, but more importantly, will increase their sales and help them be more successful in their journey. Just remember, behind every successful children’s book/author, there’s a successful illustrator and book designer (among many other roles, too, of course!).
Before you start drawing, you need to have a game plan, the same way an architect needs a blueprint before they start building. Your game plan, as a children’s book illustrator, is the layout. This helps you decide where to place the different elements and what size they should be. Good composition within your layout will draw the reader in. Bad composition will turn them away. My first three tips below have to do with layout, which is the very first step, and the last two tips have to do with composition. Layout and composition are the foundation upon which all other design and illustrations decisions are made.
NATALIE’S TOP FIVE TIPS FOR CHILDREN’S BOOK COVER DESIGN
Rule of Thirds
*For well-seasoned designers, there are many proven layout tools they can choose to employ when composing their design. In addition to the Rule of Thirds and Diagnal Scan (see my next tip), a couple others are: The Golden Mean and Triangle Layout. These additional layout tools are used for specific reasons and have a specific psychological effect of the viewer. For most children’s picture book covers, they are not needed. Master the Rule of Thirds and Diagnal Scan and you’ll have everything you need to create amazing layouts for your designs.