Your cover art might as well say “Don’t read me”!

 In So you want to write a book

I can’t say it enough, book covers are the single most important marketing tool for your book and if you are creating one, it means your are self published and therefore in charge of your own marketing. Marketing, for those of you on this lonely road, doesn’t mean book tour, cover reveal and immediate success. It means hustling, research, investment and time. And one sure way to put the kibosh on success is by accepting sub par work for the face of your book.

A poorly designed cover will indicate to the reader that you don’t care enough about your art to put serious thought or money into the design, so why should they put their money and time into your book. Further, a bad cover usually leads people to infer that the writing will be equally abysmal and you don’t want that kind of representation.

Let’s look at it another way. Say you needed to hire legal representation to handle that multimillion dollar advance the publishers are offering you. So you drive downtown to that huge sky rise that has the name of law firm plastered across the top. Then you walk into the marble floored lobby and in walks a really young guy, snapping his gum, grunting instead of answering your questions and wearing only a pair of ripped jeans and tattered flip-flops (the guy below on the left). Would you hire him? Hand over your hard-earned money to rep you? No you would hire the guy in the suit with confidence in his eyes. It doesn’t matter that underneath the grunge he is a Harvard Law graduate who graduated with high honors… you just see loser and go with the guy looks like he will give you the most for your money. And if you don’t make your book like it’s worth the read it will be dead on arrival, guaranteed.

Further, there is no way publishers would listen to a guy who looks like the dude on the left and they won’t look at a book that is his equivalent. You know the one with a sloppy cover, homemade titling and images pasted together that look as if you were trying throw together a ransom note. Who would want to read that?

Finally, if you misrepresent your book with an overt design that is not related to the story, you will anger readers and they will blast that anger all over the internet, marring your future reputation. If it’s new adult romance, your book cover shouldn’t have a 30-year-old naked beefcake on the front with long hair flowing, and his horse tied to the coral. That isn’t your market. You need to speak to your audience and the cover art is your medium. Further, I know you love your personal artwork, but it’s probably not the best idea. Art is subjective and better left for inside the book as feature work, or better yet, save it for your Pinterest page.

It doesn’t matter that you bought a brand new Macintosh with Photo Suite on it, because if you don’t have the qualifications to design, DON’T DO IT. And please don’t try to save a buck by getting someone who swears they use Photoshop all the time, because editing granny out of the family picnic does not a designer make.There is a reason why people major in graphics… because it’s hard! It’s a skill that should be left to the pros.

Success is equal parts talent and marketing. You can’t just write a great book and expect readers know your greatness, you have to lead them to you, draw them in.

There isn’t any reason you wouldn’t want your cover to be top-notch, but sometimes we are too close to our art, so one way to make sure you do it right is to talk to other writers who have found success. Writers love to talk about their work. Ask for referrals. Peruse the internet and google Cover Artists. Run preliminaries by friends and readers, reading groups or strangers. See what people think, but more than that, ask them what the cover says about the book. If you are still unsure, check out the number one bestsellers and trust that the people who rose to the top didn’t do it by cutting corners. Look at the cover art and try to emulate that level of quality because people do judge books by the cover.

Now if I didn’t do a shameless plug for my business that provides top of the line cover art design by leaders in the design industry (literally – my title gal worked for Marvel) then I have no business writing this article. I am however, a legitimate book publicist (really – I have the paper to prove it 😉 ), so if you have any questions or need some guidance, please contact me for anything… there is no pressure to purchase, I simply like to help and I love to chat. But if you would like to hire us or take a look at our work, head on over to

NEXT ARTICLE: I will cover the second most important marketing tool… the dust cover synopsis.

Sara O'Connor
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