Archive for May 11th, 2012

8 mistakes to avoid when designing your book cover

According to selfpublishingresources.com, 225 out of 300 booksellers surveyed identified the look and design of the book cover as the most important component of the entire book. All agreed that the jacket is the prime real estate for promoting a book. To that end, here are 8 design mistakes to avoid if you want to sell more books:

1. Waiting until your book is done. Given that the cover is the most recognizable physical feature of your book, much of your marketing will require a cover image to accompany it. If you wait until the book is done to begin designing your cover, you will lose valuable lead time for building your brand and attracting your audience. Places you will use your cover include: website, blog, social media, onesheet, catalogues, media kit, bookmarks, postcards, etc.


2. Doing it yourself. Many indie authors, in an attempt to conserve money, forgo the investment in a graphic designer with book cover expertise. This is a HUGE mistake. If you hope to have your book make it onto bookstore shelves, you must impress the book buyers who will likely make their determinations based on just a few seconds’ glance at the cover. Additionally, a shopper will spend an average of just 8 seconds looking at the front cover and 14 seconds on the back. This is a total of less than a half-minute to decide if your book is even worth flipping through! If you do not have a professional image that is congruent with your contents, you will likely miss the sale.

One of the surest signs of an amateur book cover: no borders, lines, or breaks anywhere. Just a photo/graphic plopped in the middle of the page, and some text hovering over it. There’s nothing wrong with it, per se, but it’s just not eye-catching in any way. By the way, if you’re going to use this method, at least make sure the graphic is in some way related to your theme. Is the implication here that alcoholics are hidden in the clouds?


3. Putting too much on it. This is a classic mistake of self-publishing and/or new designers – particularly with the back of the book. Take a look at a few well-designed covers for books that are selling well and mimic them. You may or may not decide to put the author’s photo and bio on the back. Personally, I think that’s wasted marketing space, as there’s plenty of room in the back matter (pages that follow the text of the book) to include author info.

GORGEOUS front cover.  But, wait … the problem is the back cover. With more than 400 words, this back cover does not help the prospective reader, but loses them. Consider that the average reading speed is 225 words per minute, and the average person will spend 14 seconds on a back cover. You do the math.


4. Making it too different from everything else out there. There’s an understandable desire to create a fresh, new cover that stands out from everything else out there. While you definitely want your book to have its own flavor and personality, be careful of making it too different. One suggestion is going to the bookstore or hitting Amazon to see how other similar books are designed. If there’s a trend toward red covers for your business book and you decide to go with teal and purple, yours may definitely stand out – too much. The last thing you want is someone to look at yours and wonder why it’s sooo different – and skip it to move on to something else. If you’re going for different, make sure there’s a reason and purpose for it.


5. Writing boring copy for the back. Remember, this is your opportunity to sell the book. It doesn’t necessarily apply to e-books, but for any book that may be sold in a store (not necessarily a bookstore), the likely order of viewing is front cover, back cover, and then opening your book to read a few pages. Use bullet points to tell the prospective reader what the book is about and who would benefit from buying it!

Great job with the endorsement and back copy.


6. Overlooking the endorsement(s). I generally recommend that my authors begin working on their endorsements as soon as the manuscript is finished. When it comes to your endorsements, shoot for the moon! Ask the most prominent person you can think of with any tie to your subject for their testimonial or endorsement. The worst they will do is tell you “no,” in which case you’ll be no worse off than before you asked them. Be sure to start EARLY with these queries, as it may take some time for a busy person to get back to you. Don’t be disappointed if someone says yes and then does not follow through – just politely continue to inquire and nudge.


7. Omitting the printer’s mark. The printer’s mark is the emblem, symbol, or insignia that designates a book as being the product of a particular publishing company. As a self-publisher, you need to create a publishing company name, and your publishing company will want to develop a symbol that represents it. This symbol generally is printed on the copyright page and on the spine of the book. After getting a general feel for the front cover, this is the first thing I look for in a complete book; its absence is a the clear sign of an amateur self-publisher.


8. Making the cover too detailed, and the font too small or difficult to read. This is especially important if you will sell your book as an eBook. A great rule of thumb is to shrink your cover image to a thumbnail. If you can still read the title and make out the image for a thumbnail size picture (the first/only way you see many eBook covers), you’re probably on your way to creating a decent cover. Cute fonts may be just that – cute – but if you can’t read the title as a thumbnail or standing across a room, dump the font and go for something simpler.

While this cover design is very clever and I really like it quite a bit, the title and meaning are completely lost when made into a thumbnail.

The bottom line is: Design the most professional cover you can afford. After editing, it is the most important part of the book!

Happy cover designing!



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