Chances are, you know a romance book on Amazon when you see it.
They all seem to follow a similar format. There’s a racy image of some kind, probably a picture of some guy’s abs, with a sultry font and a tempting tagline.
Why is that? When you look for a romance title, why does it have to look the same as all the others? Can’t book designers come up with a more original way of presenting a book?
Unfortunately, you’re not going to see that happen anytime soon. You see, good book cover designers understand that a book cover is not a blank canvas. It is not intended to be a work of art. Even though we all know memorable, art-focused book covers, a book cover is designed to get people to buy the book.
That’s it. It’s about money. If a book cover doesn’t tempt a reader to open it and/or buy the book, it fails. It doesn’t matter how fancy or beautiful the book was. If it doesn’t increase sales, it fails.
And as we’ve entered this new era of self-publishing, where books are being written by the millions it seems, those involved in marketing are studying each book that sells to determine whether or not the book covers are playing a major role in those sales.
What they’re discovering, of course, is that book covers are extremely important. They are the first impression that you can give any prospective reader. And as such, they need to accomplish certain things.
Cover designers are looking for several tricks that they are incorporating in their design. Because of this, it’s not just romance covers that look the same. Dig into any major genre of book and you will see the same principles being applied across the board, at least with successful books.
They are eye-catching
At the very least, a book designer is trying to make the cover attract the eye. Book covers have to pop.
Some designers don’t even know what that means. If your book cover looks like every other one out there, how can you make it pop? The secret is contrast. There is likely a central object or character that the design uses to highlight. You can spotlight that image by putting a dark background behind it. Or you can contrast the image with the background using colors on a color wheel. Opposite colors on the wheel will generally create a pop effect.
Not so busy
This is one of the bigger flaws among a lot of book cover designs today. Many are just cramming so much information and imagery into the design that they don’t make sense to the eye.
A quality book cover in any industry is going to have a lot of space between images and lettering so that it looks more pleasing to the eye. A simple design that highlights the title is going to catch a lot more eyeballs and hopefully sales than a cluttered design that nobody wants to look at.
This one is especially true of romance novels. Much of the romance genre runs on emotions. You’re looking for a sexy feel, or a dangerous feeling. Some like a playful or naughty perspective.
There are simple ways that book designers implement design elements to generate these emotions. That’s why book covers are generally beautiful while still being simple. They use colors and symbols to create a certain mindset in the reader when they look at the cover.
This is why so many romance covers show a shirtless man with a woman’s hands all over them. They are trying to tease a naughty or sexy feel for the story, so that they can attract the right kind of reader to it.
Subtitles and taglines
Teasing the content of a book goes beyond just including a title. Cover designers today are often using subtitles or taglines that allow the cover to communicate a major plot point or conflict that tells the reader what it is all about without giving it away.
Not all books use teasers, but especially in the romance genre, teasers are very important. Because there are so many romance novels compared to other genres, the teaser allows the author to tell the prospective reader what is different about their book compared to the others. To have a good teaser, they can attract a lot more readers compared to their competition.
The right font
This is a very deliberate topic, and one that goes a little bit above my pay grade.
But suffice to say, font choice on a book cover is extremely important. The spacing of the font, the style of the font, even the font family that they use, is all used together to create a certain kind of emotion or feeling.
Most successful book designers know that there are only a handful of fonts that are acceptable to be used, depending on the genre that you are working with. Rules are made to be broken, but a rookie mistake among many book designers is using a font that is too fancy.
If you veer off-course too much, you might pick a font that is difficult to read. A font needs to be easily readable across a variety of sizes of images. If a reader can’t read the title, they’re not going to read the rest of the book.
The personal touch
It’s pretty rare that a successful romance novel doesn’t have a person on the cover. This is because you’re trying to attract the imagination of the reader, who is likely female.
The way to do this is with a man on the cover that might represent the men in the story. Or you might put a couple on the cover with their hands all over each other. This is to establish the personal nature of the story and give the reader something to sink their teeth into.
Again, the goal is to put the reader in the story in their minds. One of the best ways to do that is by giving it that personal touch. If the cover is just an assortment of objects, you’re going to have a much harder time getting a reader to buy in.
Books today are big business, especially in the self-publishing world. That’s why so many authors have rushed into the space and are trying to dominate the market as best they can. But it is incredibly competitive, especially in the Kindle Store.
Covers have become more important than ever. At a bookstore, you might be able to attract a reader based on your placement in the store. Then, you can get a reader to pick up your book and leaf through the first few pages.
But online, this is much more difficult. Most books are on the same virtual shelf, so they have to focus on the right principles of cover design that will help them hopefully mimic the success of other authors who used similar principles.
Plus, it’s far harder for an online reader to pick up a book and start reading it to see if they like it. The cover is the only chance for many self-published authors to make an impression at all.
Independent authors have been studying successful books for years now, and they know what readers like and don’t like. They know what gets them to respond, and they try to mimic that in their own design.
That’s why so many covers look the same. They’re all trying to do the same thing, and they’re all basing their approach on the same principles. Does it work? Often, it does. But it does lead to a world where most book covers look exactly the same.