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Does Your Book Cover Stink?


Do You Know the Ins and Outs of A Good Cover? If you have cover questions, start here!

Book covers might be the most misunderstood aspect of book marketing—because yes, your cover is part of your book marketing and if your cover is missing the mark, your sales will suffer. 

But what constitutes a good cover? Is this a matter of taste? Style? Can a bad cover be good? What does the genre matter when we’re talking covers? Isn’t any pretty art that represents the book perfect for the cover? What if I find an image that’s a literal representation of my book—will it make a good cover?

If you’re curious about all things cover-related, then this is the article for you. What cover mistakes are you unintentionally making? What can you do to improve your cover? What if your book is released with a bad cover? Will that ruin the book forever?

No matter what your cover questions are, we’re likely covering them in this article. Don’t miss out; your sales, book success, and livelihood might count on this one! 

Do book covers sell books?

Like I mentioned in a sister article about book blurbs, there’s an order of attraction for buyers who buy books. And the very first thing that draws readers in (or leaves them moving on to the next book) is the title and the cover. 

That means the first thing readers see is your cover artwork along with your title. 

Why is this important?

Well, think about how you shop for books. 

You have an idea of what kind of book you like or want to read, right? 

So you go to your chosen genre and begin to browse. 

Even if you want to say you don’t, you make snap decisions based on cover art. Boring cover art, non-dynamic covers, too dark or confusing covers won’t earn a second glance. Anything that looks super-homemade, cheap, or ugly likely won’t grab your attention either. 

Everyone judges books by the cover. That’s how our brains work. And that’s not a problem; the problem is when authors want to be really unique (and cause genre confusion in readers) or when authors refuse to utilize trends or tropes (readers identify trends and tropes and use that information to pick their next book) or authors who make or buy a cover that just looks cheap, cheesy, or otherwise not good. 

All of these will drive readers away. (Unless you already have an audience that rabidly buys all your books, but even then, you’re driving away a new pool of potential readers by having a not great cover, so should you risk that?) 

This feels like a personal attack… 

I swear that I’m trying to help, even if this feels pointed or mean. A bad cover won’t help sell your book. In fact, it’ll make it more likely to fail. 

This is an important issue to keep in mind; you’re close to your book. You created it. You poured yourself into the content. But that doesn’t make you a cover designer. It doesn’t make you an expert marketer. And that’s what covers are, they’re your first-line marketing offense. A weak cover won’t make sales. A bad cover will stifle a good book. A cheap cover will make readers think the book isn’t very good. 

None of these points are fair, but they’re true. 

So what can you do? 

Learn trends, learn your genre, hire a professional, do what it takes to give your book the best chance at success. 

So what should a good cover include?

The cover should give a clear indication of the genre, should be exciting and eye-catching, and should set the readers expectations right away. 

I know the old adage don’t judge a book by its cover is a nice thought, but it’s not how this works. The best story hidden behind a bad cover will likely never find its way into the hands of readers and that’s sad. The thought that a reader might never read their favorite story because of the cover breaks my heart and I imagine it breaks yours too. 

It’s important to remember that just because you’re an amazing writer and know your story better than anyone else that doesn’t make you a cover designer. If you hire a good designer, trust that they know what it takes to sell your book, to reach your audience, and what resonates in the current market. The market is ever-changing, so a designer who keeps up on current trends is also important.

How do I know if my designer made a good cover?

Well, the best way to check is to take your cover and the top ten or so bestselling books in your main genre, and see if yours looks like it belongs. 

I’m not suggesting stealing cover design ideas or ripping off anyone’s work, mind you. I’m simply saying that your cover should look like it belongs among bestsellers in your genre. And while there is a wide range of styles and color palettes, font choices, and so on, there’s typically a very universal look that bestselling covers have, and that overall look is what you’re trying to achieve. 

A good cover designer can also take top-selling covers that you love and use them for inspiration. By incorporating elements of the top sellers, you can give your designer a better chance of delivering a cover you love that also fits the current market beautifully. 

A beautiful, to-market cover also gives your book a much better chance at success. And by making sure you do as many of the steps correctly as you can, you increase your odds of becoming a bestseller and moving the numbers of copies you’re hoping to move. 

I made my own cover, though. Does this mean I’ll fail?

This is a loaded question, and you need to open your heart and not take the answer personally. 

But first, let me ask a couple of questions: 

Are you a professional book cover designer in your genre?

Are you a trained graphic designer?

Are you familiar with elements that go into book covers? 

Do you use a pro program like Photoshop? (Not Canva—I’m not knocking their service, but covers made there are generally less than professional.)

If the answer to any of these is no, then you probably shouldn’t design your own cover. This isn’t a personal attack; much like our articles on hiring an editor and book descriptions, there are specific jobs that you aren’t instantly good at just because you’re a great writer. And these things are important! They can absolutely mean the difference between success and failure, and with so much riding on them, isn’t it smarter to make sure you’ve hired the people who know what they’re doing?

I mean, would you do your own plumbing? Would you do surgery on yourself? Are you comfortable replacing your own roof? Hiring a professional isn’t a sign you’ve failed, it’s a sign you know your own limitations and want things done right. That takes more guts and grit than pretending you know something you might not. 

It’s okay to hire professionals. In fact, it’s the smart decision. Especially if you’re serious and want writing to be a career. 

Let me tell you a little secret: many bestselling authors hire out cover designers, blurb writers, and editors. If they’re succeeding, don’t you think all that plays into their success?

How do I find a good cover designer?

Well, there are Facebook groups by talented artists. That’s one good place to find them. There are pages online dedicated to professionals, and many services that offer covers. You could try Instagram, check YouTube cover tutorials and find artists that way. Or simply search Google and find someone who creates covers that speak to you. 

It’s important to interview your designer, or make sure their profile or page is legitimate. Cross reference covers they’ve made for authors. See if those covers are actually on the books on retailers like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and so on. 

Like any other industry, there are plenty of scammers looking to make a quick buck. But among the bad actors, there are incredibly talented designers. It’s worth doing the research, making sure you’re working with a true professional, and eking out the perfect fit for your project. 

Just make sure they’re proficient in your genre, make sure they’re professional, and again, check their portfolio, see who they’ve worked with previously, and cross reference. It’s always wise to protect yourself. 

I knew covers were important, but this is a lot to deal with. 

Look, you’ve written a book. That’s already amazing. I promise you, the feeling you’ll get when you finally find (or have designed) the perfect cover, it’ll be worth all the hard work, the stress, the tears, and even the money. 

And when those sales start rolling in and reviews tell you that the cover made them need the book, you’ll thank your lucky stars you went through the trouble to find the perfect cover—or have it made. 

No matter what, you can’t go wrong with a beautiful cover that fits your genre and is made to be to market. You’ll breathe a sigh of relief, fall in love with your book and story all over again. And the feeling of seeing your book in print, of showing people your book and the beautiful cover decorating it… nothing compares. But I promise, you won’t be disappointed.  

You owe it to yourself to make sure you have the best cover for your work of art. You put so much work into the book, why skimp on the cover? Why stifle your book’s chances to find the way into your readers’ hands and hearts? If you’ve been looking for the push or sign to hire a designer, this is it. You’ve got this, and good luck! 

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Goals Calendar


The goals calendar will help keep you on track and ensure deadlines are met. It will keep you accountable to your goals and help ensure timely story completion.

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