The Importance of Multiple Book Cover Design Concepts

Design August 11, 2014

Growing up, I enjoyed a wide variety of sports and outdoor activities, but few stood out as much as archery.

Early mornings at the campground I visited as a kid came with joyful anticipation of the opportunity to grab a bow, quiver, and have my turn at the range.

When my turn came, I drew an arrow, carefully nocked it in place, and struggled with my scrawny, eleven-year-old arms to pull back the bowstring. After taking careful aim down the arrow’s shaft, “snap!” The blur of colorful arrow fins glided through the air before striking the outer edge of the target.

So started the process of feeling out the bow, each arrow, and any potential effects of the wind. This was done through many shots and making an adjustment each time until finally, the arrow struck the target dead-center.

This process of trial and error, or exploration and experimentation, isn’t altogether, unlike the idea of multiple book cover design concepts. Here’s how:

A Quiver Full of Arrows

If you’ve worked with a book cover designer, or are in the process of doing so, it’s likely you’ve heard the term, comp, concept, initial, or something of that nature.

All of these terms are simply different ways of saying, “a bow shot” sticking to the analogy above. With each concept, the designer is able to narrow and hone in on a perfect shot: the cover design that balances good design principles, strong communication, and effective marketing.

Just like in archery, the more attempts a designer has to hit the target, the more likely a perfect result.

For example, let’s say you give the designer two shots. Both hit just outside the bullseye. That’s to say, they’re strong, nice-looking cover designs, but don’t quite capture the “wow factor.”

In yet another example: say you give the designer seven shots this time. Four encircle the bullseye, while one touches its outer edge, and the last two, compete for the bullseye’s dead-center. Upon close examination, you see three excellent choices bidding for the best shot, but one that sits dead center. The perfect shot—a design which captures readability, marketability, and “wow-ability” in unison.

This is an abstract example, however, it serves to illustrate the potential your design receives when a designer is given more opportunities to hone in on the perfect design.

Many independent authors go with two to three concepts while traditional publishing houses can go through ten to fifteen (or more) unique concepts before settling on one. The best thing is to find where your book and budget fits within the spectrum.

A Skilled Archer

As with loosing an arrow, there’s literally an unlimited number of directions a shot can go. The more skilled the archer, the fewer attempts it takes to hit dead center.

That said, it does little good to give someone a bow and some arrows if he or she isn’t a trained archer. After fifteen shots all but two could have missed the target completely.

As it is with archery, so it is with book cover design. When selecting the designer for your book’s cover, ensure book cover design is his or her specialty. A good designer will be able to hit the target with only a couple of shots, however, combine this with a wider amount of opportunity and you have the potential for a stunning result.


The importance of a strong book cover design in today’s ever-evolving book market cannot be overemphasized. Hopefully the concepts explored here will give you the insight required to compete and succeed in your book marketing efforts.

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