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Cover Designs That Sell Series

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Cover Designs That Sell Series 

April 2014

by Peri Poloni-Gabriel

Is this book part of a series or might it start a series? That’s one of the first questions I ask new clients, because the approach to cover design for a series is a bit different than the approach for a single title. Concept is always important, of course, but the design concept for a series needs to work with a design structure that will be applied to book after book.

Design consistency is essential for maintaining and profiting from the series brand. Whether the series consists of printed books or e-books or both, and whether the books in the series continue a single story or consist of several works by the same author, you need covers with a series look to make each title easily identifiable, thus increasing sales.

How is a series look achieved? By designing for the target audience with attention to the series genre, and by considering questions such as: Should these covers have a fluid feel, or should they be relatively compartmentalized?

The nonfiction For Dummies series uses an obvious structure, contrasting colors in a bright color scheme, a consistent font, consistent logo placement, and a visual in the bottom right corner. You cannot miss the branding.

By contrast, the design for fiction by Jodi Picoult uses a more subtle approach, with one tightly cropped main visual, one font with consistent sizing, and a solid color that highlights the author’s name, since she is the brand.

Although the color and even the placement of title and text vary from book to book, you know right away this is another Jodi Picoult novel.

A third example, the YA Divergent trilogy, uses a consistent underlying structure featuring a circular graphic, a single-word title in the same font, and a horizontal city scene at the base.

While the background colors and even the type color change, the design dynamically maintains the series look.

The covers of the Daddy books series for children maintains its series look by always incorporating a main visual within an oval, and by using two color blocks in the structure as well as the same font for text.

Even with one-line titles for some books in this series and two-line titles for others, and with color schemes that vary, the overall design keeps the branding strong.


Steps Toward the Best Series Designs

— Let your designer know if a book is or may be part of a series so the designer can be thinking about a series look from the beginning.

— Keep series titles similar in terms of length. It’s hard to maintain a series look when titles range from two words to ten. Also, try to keep titles similar in terms of short words and long words. If you know the titles of subsequent books in your series, tell your designer what they are.

— Figure out which element is most important part in the series brand. For example, if the author often speaks on the book’s topic, then the author is probably the brand, and the design should emphasize the author’s name and/or image. Your designer can help you determine which element to highlight.

— Make sure at least two of the design elements listed below are consistent for the covers of all books in a series. Three or more consistent elements will create an even stronger branded look.

— font family and size

— text placement

— color

— visual consistency (think perspective, cropping, style of photo or illustration)

— obvious structural features (logos, bars, and boxes, for example)

— Finally, don’t let your branding stop with the covers of your books. Think about all the other materials you use to introduce and promote your books and about how they relate to brand identity.

From your Website to advertising banners, business cards, and social media, the more you align materials consistently to your brand, the stronger the brand will become.


Peri Poloni-Gabriel, owner of Knockout Design, has been designing books for more than 18 years. To learn more and see portfolio samples: knockoutbooks.com.

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