1. Photos set the mood, but don't be too literal.
Don't get hung up on trying to fit every major element of your story on the cover. You don't want to kill the reader's imagination by giving too specific a visual, or worse yet, give away the plot. Let the narrative unfold for them and use the cover to set the tone and mood. If you want a sexy man or a couple on the cover, do a lot of research before choosing an image. There are only so many stock photos out there, so avoiding an image that someone else has used isn't always possible or guaranteed, but fishing around on Goodreads or Amazon can help you weed through the options. Also keep in mind the trend in bestselling romance books is not what it used to be. You don't have to have a half naked man to sell a sexy book. It may help in your promotional marking graphics, but for most of us our book cover, like our books, are more than just sex.
- What I like to do... I start a private Pinterest board and pin every book cover I like from a similar genre or tone as my new book. Once I have ten or so, I evaluate similarities. There's almost always a range of colors that I'm drawn to and this exercise helps sort that out. You'll see common color combinations because they work. Color theory has been of interest in advertising for decades due to it's psychological connection to emotion, but that's too heavy for this post. Just squint your eyes to let the images blur so you can pick out predominant colors and the percentage of how they're used.
It's easy to forget just how important typography can be. I remember taking my first typography class in college and being in awe with the nuances of lettering that I hadn't noticed before. Of course, that was before the internet or the romance novel industry was what it is today. (I'm dating myself a little.) Since typography is a vast study in itself, here's a few key tips.
- Choose a contrasting color so your text pops from the background.
- Avoid deconstructed fonts. Avoid text that is exploding or melting or doing anything other than saying the title. It's distracting. I'm not saying there aren't exceptions. But as a general rule, keep text simple.
- Avoid shadows or 3D effects. It won't make your text stand out more.
- Small town mysteries often have sweet little storefront or porches on the cover nestled into the beautiful garden with warm colors. These covers say sweet, calm, and yet in the center of the cover is a door or set of doors. Those doors suggest the mystery inside this sweet place. Yes, this trope is as old as Nancy Drew, but it has worked. And more over, readers who love those books look for covers that give off these signals. Just like hot male abs are what often draws lovers of erotica to their next read.