The Psychology Behind Book Cover Designs

An inviting cover is the first thing that grabs our attention when on a book-hunting spree! A natural reaction considering that we are all visual creatures. Experts today, therefore believe, that the ‘book cover design’ and not just its content, contributes to enhancing its appeal among buyers. They assert that just like there is a psychology behind advertising, there also exists a psychology behind book cover designs. Knowing what it is helps you stay ahead in the race, considering that giving your book a good cover design, can help attract more buyers! While an oft-repeated saying advises us, not to judge a book by its cover, this is exactly what a majority of on-line and off-line book buyers do… unless of course, the book is a runaway best seller!


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Book Buyers Attention Span Is Shrinking

According to available statistics, the average online human attention span in 2013 was just ‘eight seconds,’ even less than that of a goldfish! What’s worse is that, it is continuing to shrink even further! In such a scenario, grabbing the eyes of book lovers on the World Wide Web is proving to be a rather challenging task. Carly DaSilva in the blog: ‘Why You Bought That Book: the Psychology behind Book Hunting,’ discusses this with Peter Hildick-Smith, Founder and CEO – Codex Group, a New York based ‘book-audience research’ company, “It takes two seconds to look at something, and even more so now than maybe thirty years ago. So, it becomes more important. The more information you have, the more important [this] brief communication becomes,” he states. What he implies is, that only the right book cover design, can convince buyers to discover and subsequently investigate your book, despite their initial brief interaction with it.

Using ‘Recognizable Names’ Grabs Buyer Attention

One quick and easy way to grab eyeballs, according to DaSilva, is, including ‘instantly recognizable names’ or ‘book review quotes’ from leading and credible publishing houses, like – ‘The Wall Street Journal’ or ‘The New York Times,’ as part of your book cover design.  Rachelle Andujar, Marketing Director – ‘Simon and Schuster’ book publishers in New York, has also worked on campaigns for the likes of Mark Whitaker, Richard Paul Evans and Arnold Schwarzenegger. She admits being ‘instantly drawn to a book with a recognizable name or quote on its cover.’ “You may not know the book,” she concedes, but if you recognize the quoted person, you’re more likely to give the book a chance,” she tells DaSilva.

Book Cover Artwork Is Crucial

Author Mark Rubinstein, writes on about the importance of book cover design and artwork, in capturing buyer imagination. “The cover artwork summons associations in the reader’s mind. It can influence whether or not the potential reader chooses to open the book or look at the inside flap. If shopping online, the cover image may help the reader decide whether or not to check out the “Look Inside” feature for a flavor of the author’s writing. If done well, the artwork captures some vital element of the novel and conveys it in a compelling way…” he states.

Titles Are Telling Aspects of Book Cover Design

Book Titles can be compared to visiting cards, which convey at a glance, what the book is… or may be about! “A title creates anticipation and expectation or, perhaps, disinterest. Often the title is what will determine whether or not someone reads a story,” states Brandi Reissenweber, a writer and trainer. However coming up with an engaging title can take much time, energy and effort.  During an interview with ‘The Paris Review,’ Ernest Hemingway–winner of the Nobel Prize in 1954, was asked: “Does the title come to you while you’re in the process of doing the story?”No, I make a list of titles after I’ve finished the story or the book–sometimes as many as 100. Then I start eliminating them, sometimes all of them,” was his reply. In addition to the title, the typeface in which it is written on the book cover also impacts a book’s visual appeal.  According to DaSilva, Charles Brock, Creative Director –‘Face out Studios,’ is someone who gives books their own ‘creative identities.’ He quotes him in his blog, as stating in the context of book cover design. “I think good type choices are very important, and how you use that with an image is very important.”


This article was written by Amanda Pearce, a designer who pays a lot of attention to book cover designs and their suitability to the stories inside.

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  1. Great post. Nowadays it is crucial that people design an eye-catching book cover. Thanks for sharing!

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