The dos and don’ts of Book Covers

You’ve labored over your book like a mother giving birth and now that it is finally finished, you are ready to share it with the world.

First, you need a book cover.

Although we like to think people “don’t judge a book by its cover,” millions of people do every single day.

That’s why it is so, so important for your book cover to stand out from the crowd – in a good way.

First, let me state that I am not an expert on book covers.

Not at all.

But I’ve learned a few things in the last two years of self-publishing about book covers and thought I’d share them with you today.

What I’ve learned has come from my own trial and error (heavy on the error) so I’ll share my mistakes and thoughts, in hopes it helps others in their endeavors.

Your book cover should, in a glance, give some hint about your story. People should be able to look at your cover and see a tiny preview into the book.

If you’re writing a flowery romance that’s all sunshine and roses, you wouldn’t slap a photo of death and destruction on the cover. Likewise, if your book is a dark, suspense thriller, you wouldn’t make the cover all sparkly and cheery. Your cover should set the tone for the book.

Similarly, it’s helpful if your cover image reflects the content of your book. If your book is set in the mid-1800s in a western town, you wouldn’t put a photo of a skyscraper on the cover. The image should allude to the story.

Picture your book cover the size of a postage stamp.


Because that is close to the size your book appears in on-line retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Can readers clearly see the image? The title? Your name?

Here are two quick examples I threw together:

Forbidden cover 2

This cover, you can read the title, but you can’t tell who wrote the book and you can sort of see a gun. What made me design this is that I saw something quite similar the other day when I was browsing through some new book listings. There is nothing about this book cover that draws you in and makes you want to read it. It’s blah, boring and won’t stand out in the crowd, unless you want to stand out as the one with the poorly done book cover.

Forbidden cover 1

Using the same image, same title and name, this cover has a better chance of attracting readers. You can clearly see the image and the frame around the outside gives it an edgy feel. Someone looking for a suspense novel would take notice of this cover. It’s easy to see the title as well as the author’s name. This cover sets the tone for the book and gives readers a hint at the story.

Sometimes, a book cover doesn’t work and you have to change things up.

When I first published Learnin’ The Ropes, the sales were lackluster at best.

cover shot

This was the original cover I used for the book. I thought it spoke to what the book was about, but evidently it didn’t speak to potential readers.

Learnin the Ropes cover 09-12

So I designed a new book cover and within days of uploading it, sales took off.

Yep,  I definitely learned from that mistake.

If you don’t have the resources or ability to design your own covers, hire someone who can. Too many times, authors work so hard on their book, then don’t want to pay to have someone do their cover for them. They slap something up and call it good.

It isn’t good.

It’s quite often bad.

And it is going to hurt your book sales.

There are many, many people who design book covers for affordable prices.

Two very talented people I can recommend are:

Jamie Dougherty Designs

Rachel Rossano

Both women are super creative and extremely talented.

If you think you can take a cheap shortcut by purchasing a pre-made book cover from one of the many sites that offer them,  don’t.

In a quick search that took less than 10 minutes, I found the same book cover on more than a dozen different books.


How does that stand out in the crowd? Set your book part from the million that are available?

It doesn’t.

Don’t make that mistake.

You absolutely want your book cover to be an original. To be unique. To be a reflection of your book and you.

Invest time and effort into your book cover.

Your book deserves it and so do you.

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