A well-designed book cover sets the tone for everything. It attracts attention on shelves in bookstores and in online "thumbnail" images for people browsing new titles. A strong cover is also helpful to book publicity campaigns and creates an identity for your work. All of this is a long way to say that self-published authors need to take cover design seriously. It's an element of producing a high-caliber book that competes well against traditionally published titles. Readers today, and increasingly the media, are open to independently published books with excellent quality, so be sure to measure up.
Professional book cover designers have a way of working that's an orderly process. It moves from initial interviews and conversations to presenting several rough concepts. After selecting one, it is refined and expanded until it reaches a final approved design. Some books have concrete imagery on the cover, including photographs, while others have more abstract concepts. It depends on your book's topic and the target audience. When you work with a designer experienced in your genre, they will bring ideas and current market knowledge. You want a unique cover that's distinct but easy to understand.
A significant part of your book cover's success is the title. Deciding on a title is one of the most painstaking processes for many authors. It's another reason to work with a professional book editor. They can help suggest or refine title options. For nonfiction books, subtitles are often as helpful as the main title. They explain the book in plain terms to help prospective buyers and the media quickly understand the content. The title, subtitles, and cover design must work well together and create a cohesive package promoting your book. When you get them all right, it helps sales.
Other marketing opportunities exist on your book's spine and, very notably, the back cover. The spine needs to include the title, your name, and publisher. The back cover needs a short version of your author's bio and a blurb about your book. Your editor can help write the back cover blurb, ideally with knowledge of what works well in your genre. The back cover is essential as potential buyers browse bookstores and online. Most people flip the book over and read it before deciding to buy. It's a valuable point of sale marketing and, when done well, can help spark purchases.