So, I had a thought. It came to me while I was browsing random author feeds on Twitter. The number of self-published authors in the game nowadays is astounding, and there are some great talents in that mix.
There are also a lot of bad covers in the mix, and we all know that bad covers can kill sales, and no author wants to be broken by an unreadable font or a badly photoshopped image.
A wise man once said: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That wise man was only somewhat correct. If your cover looks like you slapped it together and said ‘here’ – that tells an author you did not care enough to put the time and effort into your cover design to make it stand out, and so why should they trust your book to be any different? A standard rule of thumb is that a book cover should receive as much detailed attention as the book itself. Granted, a great cover will not take as long to craft as a great book, but like a great book, there are rules to ensure its success.
Rule 1: Make sure your font can be easily read. No one is going to take the time to struggle over your title and author name in order to read it. If they cannot read the title, they will move on to something else.
Rule 2: If your lines of type are meant to be aligned or centered, make sure they are aligned and centered. No matter what design software you are using, if it allows you to add layers, it will allow you to center them. If you’re unsure, add guidelines from your grid.
Rule 3: Don’t crop out a lower quality image of a person, animal, etc. and slap it against a high quality background for your cover. Anyone with vision will be able to see the two don’t belong together. Keep your cover art simple and effective if you do not have prior design and Photoshop skills.
Rule 4: Don’t hit up Google image search, find a nice picture, save it to your desktop and then use it on your cover. There are many websites out there that will allow you to use stock photos and artwork for free – you don’t have to steal them from Google. Most of the paid stock photo sites are pretty affordable, and if you are in need of cover models, you can find them and their rates online as well. Many cover models have their portfolios on their websites now, which allows you to find just the image that you’re looking for.
Rule 5: Go easy on the text. A lot of text is meant for your back cover or your blurb. Too much text can clutter a cover and make it a bit overwhelming to a potential reader that just wants to know the book’s name. Standard things listed on book covers are: The title, author’s name, publisher’s name or logo, and possibly a quick quote from a positive review. Some authors include very short tags on their covers also. For instance “Life’s about to get spicy,” or “Will mankind survive?” Just make sure your tags are not confused with your title. In fact, some self-publishing companies like Lulu will not approve covers for distribution if they have additional words not included in the title.
Rule 6: If using a person, place or animal on your cover, make sure someone or something resembling them is in your book. Otherwise, your cover will be misleading.
Rule 7: Play with your fonts. There are thousands of font options out there. Choose something that will make your cover stand out – just make sure it is easy to read.
I am also guilty of having had bad covers in the past. To me, at the time, they looked fine, but they weren’t and they affected my book sales. The more you work on your covers, the better you’ll get at it. If you don’t have the means and know how to design your own cover, there are many affordable companies out there that could handle that for you.
If you choose to design your own cover, make sure many eyes see it BEFORE you share it with the rest of the world. Get honest, unbiased opinions. Remember, they’re not judging you when they give you their critiques on your cover. They are trying to help you make it the best cover your book can have.
Granted, this is not the Book Cover Bible. Authors and publishers alike enjoy thinking outside of the box. Just be careful to keep your readers in mind with the final product. After all, it is their loyalty that you’re after.