1. Less is More
In book design, clarity is essential. Typically, you have only milliseconds to appeal to your potential reader. Therefore, keep it simple. The best book covers have one incredible piece of art, and basic typography. Don't burden your cover with unnecessary effects or extras.
2. Find a Brilliant Photo or Illustration
Find a unique image that represents your book, identity, and brand. Remember: in a matter of moments, to a potential reader, the image, as well as the title, will tell the reader everything they want to know. Sometimes, to compel your reader, all you have is an image; so make sure it counts! Finding a brilliant photo or illustration often means finding a brilliant photographer or illustrator. Stock photos do not count! Remember, you want a unique image.
3. Typography & Font selection
A title speaks 1,000 words, even if your title is only one word. However, it is not only the words that will speak to its readers on a subconscious level, but the typeface. Correct use and alignment of typography is often greatly overlooked by the Indie Author. You want to be sure to stick with fonts that are clear, easy to read, and also strong. Your font should never be an overused, or overdone font, such as Times New Roman, Papyrus, or Comic Sans, and you almost never want to have more than three fonts on the cover of your book. Furthermore, never mix moods to the point of confusion.
Bring to life a cover that matches the mood of your manuscript. If your book is satire, you want the life of your cover to reflect the satyrical nature of your book. If you've written a thriller novel, craft a cover that takes the potential reader into the suspense of your tail. Treat your book cover like a living thing, allow it to speak for itself. A great book deserves a great book cover - allow for the mood and atmosphere to resonate with the reader upon the first glance.
5. Tell Your Story
The cover of your book should deliver a microcosm of your story. The very first edition of The Hobbit, by J.R.R Tolkien, portrayed a simple illustration of one of the books chief characters Smaug, and a simple portrayal of the Lonely Mountain at the top. This first illustration, by the author, is an example of the kind of minimalism we're discussing here, which gives readers a magical piece of the story, begging them to look deeper. Later, the over art was re-illustrated more elaborately, but still executed the same principles.
Whether you've crafted a work of fiction, a Children's book, or an educational treatise into health and happiness, tell the readers a story by delivering a cover that gives an insight into the nature of your core message.
Remember that a great cover design is something to be carefully considered. If you're an independent author, or you're using a self-publishing service, sometimes the temptation to design the cover yourself is strong. If you want your book to be in the hands of readers, it's worth your time to invest in great design. Carefully chose designers, or a company, that can fit your budget and design needs.
Also remember that designing for web is not the same as designing for print. Make sure that your design utilizes high resolution images and files, and is also standardized for web, so that you can get the best of both worlds.