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Business Books: We Do Judge Them By Their Covers

Business Books: We Do Judge Them By Their Covers

As you were growing up, you probably had more than one well-meaning adult tell you not to “judge a book by its cover.” It’s a lovely sentiment that is meant to apply to new people and new situations; in other words, things are not always how they appear to be on the surface. Sometimes you need more experience with a person or place in order to truly understand it.

Ironically, no one ever applies that saying to actual books. Why not? Because people do judge books by their covers, and rightfully so. The cover is the first impression a reader will get, and it speaks volumes to the level of quality and professionalism that will be found inside the book. If an author doesn’t spend the time (or money) on a beautiful and striking cover, then why would a reader believe the author spent time on writing good content and making sure it’s edited and presented well?

Even beyond the issue of a cover being a first impression of the quality of the book, it’s important to understand how readers shop for books in the first place. These days, a large number of books are sold online via retailers like Amazon and Apple. Readers looking for business books will typically do keyword searches (e.g. “entrepreneurship”), and hundreds of books will pop up. The reader then has to sort through pages and pages of choices before deciding which book they want to buy.

With so many options, consumers tend to move quickly. Humans are visual creatures, and our eyes are drawn to colorful images before text. You may have the catchiest title or the most well-crafted book description there is, but a consumer probably won’t even see it unless they like the cover first. To make it even more challenging, those cover images are usually thumbnail images, meaning they’re tiny.

Yes. What I’m saying is that you have to not only have a show stopping cover, but it has to look good and stand out among hundreds of options, even when it’s barely inches in size.

Hiring a Professional

When it comes to cover design, I always recommend hiring a professional. Even for experienced graphic designers, book covers are a unique medium. Book covers are marketing pieces first and art second. Since most authors are not graphic designers, and even fewer are specifically book cover designers, I say it’s better to spend some money on a professional than to spend a bunch of time learning the nuances of cover design.

If you’re wondering how to communicate with a cover designer in order to get the best cover possible (or if you’re going to try and do it yourself), Todd Simpson of Simpson Creative, who designs many of Maven’s book covers, took a moment to share his professional thoughts on cover design:

“The best books are the ones that offer a beautiful “whole”. That is, the artwork of the book (cover, other images, inside layout) is so married to the book’s text that they very nearly become one thing, each balancing and enriching the other.”

“As a book cover designer, it’s my job to create a cover that immediately attracts attention. The same design principles that govern good design in other fields apply to book cover design: clarity and beauty in the selection, creation and implementation of the main image or illustration; a cohesive and thoughtful color palette that captures the “mood” of the book; clean and legible type choices (even if the font is hand-written and highly stylized); and a compelling composition that guides the eye to the most crucial features.”

“I approach a cover design for a business book a little differently than other genres. People who read business books tend to be busy people. If they are business owners themselves, probably even more so. They want to know what a book is about as quickly as possible, and they are used to seeing uncluttered covers with a direct focus. My business covers tend to feature large title type, usually sans serif, with bright pops of color and a clever image. The business book genre is a crowded field, so the cover needs to have some graphic feature to keep it distinct and recognizable.”

At Maven, we’re proud of our book covers. Check them out on our website.

Examples of Great Covers

Upon searching the keyword “entrepreneurship” in the Amazon bookstore, hundreds of books appeared. There were many great covers and many not-so-great ones. Here are a few that jumped out at me as being particularly good:

business book cover design

The Tax & Legal Playbook: Game-Changing Solutions to Your Small Business Questions by Mark J. Kohler
What I like about it: The title is in an easy-to-read typeface (font), and it is legible at thumbnail size. The color scheme is simple, and the image is fitting for the title and subject of the book. It looks clean and professional, and I have a solid idea of what this book will be about.

business book cover design

One Small Yes: Small Decisions That Lead to Big Results by Misty Lown

What I like about it: The pops of orange immediately stand out and draw the eye away from any other covers on the page. The handwritten “yes” gives it a sense of lightness or playfulness, which seemed odd for a business book, so it inspired me to read the book description. Also, that handwritten typeface substitutes the need for an image. It’s simple and clean, and it looks great at a small size.

business book cover design

The Startup Checklist: 25 Steps to a Scalable, High-Growth Business by David S. Rose

 What I like about it: This cover is busier than I usually like. There’s a lot of text, and there’s even text in the image, which can be distracting. That said, the light blue/light green color scheme is very friendly to the eye, and it’s naturally inviting. The clean and large title typeface shows up beautifully at thumbnail size, and it looks professional.

business book cover design

The Business of Good: Social Entrepreneurship and the New Bottom Line by Jason Haber

 What I like about it: The large title typeface immediately stands out. It’s very legible at thumbnail size, which draws the eye away from other covers on the page. At a closer look, the grayscale pixelated map image in the background is different and striking. The pop of green in the subtitle brings it all together nicely. Somehow, the combination of color, typeface, and image communicate that this book is about the “good” side of business and money.

business book cover design

Unleash Your Inner Company: Use Passion and Perseverance to Build Your Ideal Business by John Chisholm

 What I like about it: The imagery alone is what caught my eye. It communicates the concept of a “breakthrough,” which fits with the word “unleash” in the title. The typeface is sleek and modern, while also being large enough to read clearly at a small size. Based on this cover, I’d expect an inspiring book that motivates people to take action.

I’ve shared some examples of covers that stood out to me, but we want to know what stands out to you. Stay tuned for the announcement of our upcoming book cover contest. In the meantime, if you have any questions about book creation or cover design, contact us today!



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by Jessica Dawson // Founder and CEO of Maven Publishing, a boutique publishing house of non-fiction, making published authors of entrepreneurs, business people, and professionals, who are then superiorly branded and positioned by their book(s).

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.