Beautiful Books Sell: 8 Ways to Enhance the Aesthetics of Your Book

27th March, 2024

6 min read

Beautiful Books Sell: 8 Ways to Enhance the Aesthetics of Your Book

Beautiful Books Sell: 8 Ways to Enhance the Aesthetics of Your Book

Written by:

Jeremy Thompson

The saying "don't judge a book by its cover" might be a popular adage, but the truth is that beautiful books have a unique appeal that goes beyond their content – and beautiful books sell. The visual appeal of a book plays a crucial role in attracting potential readers and making a lasting impression, one that hopefully persuades them to part with their hard-earned cash. In this article, we explore ways to enhance the aesthetics of your book, from endpapers to bonus content, cover enhancements to illustrations, ensuring your work stands out on the shelf and captivates potential readers.

Take a look in any bookshop at the displays and you’ll see straight away that it’s those books that stand out visually that have been put on display by the bookseller. This is particularly true when a book is not by a well-known name… publishers know that a big name will sell a book in itself, but an unknown author needs that extra push, and that’s where creating a book that visually stands out more – that is more beautiful – comes in. And that’s something that self-publishers can also use to help their book hustle its way to the front of the (very long) queue of titles vying for attention.

So let’s look at 8 things that you can do to make your book stand out aesthetically and commercially…

A Prelude to the Journey: Endpapers

Endpapers might seem like a small detail, but they can significantly impact the overall feel of a book. For those unsure, endpapers are (on a paperback) effectively printed inside covers, and on a hardback, they are the insides of the hardcover board. Most paperbacks used to have just plain, unprinted inside covers, but increasingly, publishers are using this space for all sorts of things, such as an author picture and biography, some additional artwork, maps, or anything that adds visual appeal and added value.

Consider using decorative endpapers that set the tone for the story or reflect the book's theme. Intricate patterns or subtle illustrations can create a sense of anticipation, making the reading experience even more immersive right from the moment you pick up the book – and make for really beautiful books. 

A Touch of Luxury: Headbands

Headbands are those small bands of fabric at the top and bottom of a hardback book’s spine, and are often overlooked, especially by self-publishers. However, incorporating a custom headband adds a touch of elegance to your book's appearance. Choose colours that complement your cover’s design or match the book's overall aesthetic, turning a functional element into a stylish detail. You’re probably talking top-of-the-range here, as a hardback is more costly to print than a paperback, but if you’re opting for hardback then the small additional cost of headbands could just elevate your volume. 

A Splash of Colour: Sprayed Edges

Sprayed page edges are a visual treat that can turn a regular book into a work of art. Adding a pop of colour to the edges of the pages not only enhances the overall look but also provides a unique and memorable feature. Consider coordinating the sprayed edges with the book’s cover or using contrasting colours for a bold statement. You can even use images on book edges, though that can get quite costly! Yet even just using a single colour on the edges of your book’s pages can set a volume apart at a fairly small additional cost. Worth a go if you’re printing upwards of 300 copies, it really can give your book the edge (deliberate pun there!). Sprayed edges are the vanguard in publishing at the moment and help to create beautiful books that sell. 

Bringing Pages to Life with Illustrations

Including illustrations or graphical motifs at the beginning of each chapter can elevate the reading experience. These illustrations can be intricate designs, thematic images, or even small details that foreshadow the content of the chapter. The visual stimulation can make the reading journey more engaging and memorable from the outset. Sourcing illustrations can be fairly easy also nowadays, with dedicated services such as Troubador’s illustration service, or royalty-free image libraries like iStockphoto and Adobe Stock.

Cover Effects: Foil, Embossing and More

The cover is the first thing readers notice, so investing in eye-catching cover effects makes a significant difference to the chances of making a sale. Metallic foil overlays or stamping, embossing or debossing, cover cut-outs, or a combination of these techniques, can add a brilliant tactile and visual dimension to your book. These effects not only catch the reader's eye but also convey a sense of quality and craftsmanship. On hardbacks in particular, the trend in publishing is to create objects of beauty, something that is attractive in its own right (never mind the writing!). There are even specialist book clubs that publish bespoke editions with the draw that they are attractive objects to own, so hitch your wagon to that trend and make your book stand out.

A Protective and Stylish Layer: A Slip Jacket

A Printed Paper Case (PPC) or slip jacket around your book serves a dual purpose – protecting the book and adding an extra layer of style. Use the opportunity to include additional artwork, author quotes, or a synopsis on the jacket, making it a part of the overall aesthetic experience. 

Tailoring for Diversity: Editions for Different Markets

Consider creating different editions of your book tailored for different markets. This could involve alternative cover designs, exclusive content or unique packaging. By catering to diverse tastes and preferences, you broaden your book's appeal and increase its potential for success in various regions. But it can be costly, as effectively you are duplicating the printing costs on your book, along with multiplying your send on ISBNs, metadata and so on. But this is a strategy that has worked for many, such as the Harry Potter editions for adults, YA and children… same book, different packaging. 

Adding Value: Bonus Content

Enhance the value of your book by including bonus content that goes beyond the main narrative. This could be author interviews, deleted scenes or additional stories related to the book's universe. Adding valuable extras encourages readers to invest in the physical book, knowing they are getting an exclusive and comprehensive experience.

Beautiful books sell – but they also leave an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of readers, ensuring your work stands out in a crowded market. The aesthetics of a book are a powerful tool in capturing readers' attention and in creating a lasting impression. And it’s a trend that’s gathering pace in the wider publishing world, partly as a way of increasing those stubbornly low cover prices that readers will accept. As a self-publisher, you can also take advantage of this trend by making your book stand out. By paying attention to details such as endpapers, headbands, sprayed edges, chapter illustrations, cover effects, PPC or slip jackets, special editions and bonus content, you not only enhance the beauty of your book but also elevate its perceived value. 

However, there’s a large ‘but’ here… many of the enhancements mentioned above are not going to be available if you’re releasing your book to the world as a print-on-demand (POD) volume. We don’t know of a single POD printer that can offer any cover enhancements, sprayed edges, headbands or slipcases; you’re going to have to print several copies up front to take advantage of those, and in that case, you’re going to need to have a distribution arrangement to get your books into bookshops. So if you’re publishing using POD, you’ll be limited to enhancing the aesthetics of your book using illustrations, bonus material and possibly printed endpapers (depending on the POD supplier).  

At Troubador, though, we do everything! You name it, we’ve probably already done it, as one of our key foundations has always been to produce fantastic books that stand alongside anything published by a mainstream publisher. And we can also arrange to distribute to high street retailers for you on top. A reality check, though… it will cost you more than if you publish with print on demand – but then, you’ll get a far better-looking book that stands a far better chance of selling. As ever with self-publishing, the choice is yours…