8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying books

manipulation 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying booksIndie pub­lish­ers are slowly com­ing to real­ize the impor­tance of an amaz­ing book cover. Since many self-publishing authors are start­ing out on a very small bud­get how­ever, home­made, DIY book cov­ers are still a pop­u­lar choice. But be fore­warned: although book cover designs come in a wide vari­ety, pub­lish­ers con­sis­tently use reli­able, time-tested tech­niques and guide­lines to catch your atten­tion and make the sale. You want your cover to be dif­fer­ent and unique, but you also want to tick all the right boxes (because they work). The worst thing an author can do is con­sider their cover design like a blank can­vas and add what­ever they want, wher­ever they want. So here are the tricks you need to know. (Note: I chose these images and book cov­ers quickly to illus­trate my point. I’m sure you can find bet­ter examples).

1. Make it “Pop”

A lot of authors ask for cov­ers that “pop.” And many design­ers have no idea what this means. But I’ve nar­rowed it down to con­trast.  You want a strong light to dark tran­si­tion, with strong shadows.

beautiful girls in photo manipulations22 300x218 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying books

You want the cen­tral object or char­ac­ter to really “pop” out, by being spot­lighted and lighter in color (you can also do the reverse and have a very light cover, with a bold, dark cen­tral image). But you also want con­trast­ing col­ors: col­ors that are oppo­sites on a color wheel. Movie posts use orange and teal all the time, because they are a very pleas­ing color combination.

bookcoverdesign 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying booksBrave FilmPosters 202x300 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying books

You can also use blue and red (although it’s hard to do well — black/gray and red usu­ally works bet­ter), pur­ple and yel­low (col­ors which — I believe, only those born in Aquar­ius truly love). (Note: non-fiction cov­ers don’t need to “pop” in the same way — they can stand out by using bright col­ors or a sim­ple cen­tral image).

2. Lots of space

A lot of book cov­ers are too busy. Many of mine cer­tainly are (partly due to my design style, partly because the authors want to include every­thing on the cover). Even if there are lots of ele­ments, the back­ground should be blended together smoothly — this can be done with a color wash (for exam­ple, in Fallen below, the dress could have “popped” more if it were deep red… but that would have made the text harder to read. Lau­ren Kate’s cov­ers are breath­tak­ing, but very sim­ple.) There’s also a lot of space in Guy’s cover below. Most non-fiction books will have a cen­tral back­ground color/gradient, and a very sim­ple sin­gle image that illus­trates a con­cept. If you’re design­ing your own cover, there prob­a­bly needs to be a lot more space between the let­ters. The nor­mal spac­ing between let­ters is too cramped for a book cover. This is espe­cially true for author names. See how far the let­ters in “Lau­ren Kate” stretch out? (Prob­a­bly about 350% of nor­mal). It makes it more cin­e­mato­graphic some­how. More epic.

Enchantment Book Cover Best Seller1 197x300 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying booksfallen lauren kate 224x300 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying books

Guy’s last name and author title are both pretty long, so he couldn’t fit as much space between the let­ters, but he makes up for the cramped let­ters by adding a lot of extra spaces in the mid­dle, and to the sides of the sub­ti­tle and blurb lines (look at the sub­ti­tle on the very bot­tom. No rea­son to break that into two lines. But the extra space makes the cover lay­out less box-square, and more fluid — like two inverted triangles.

3. Make it clever (non-fiction) or emo­tional (fiction)


the great reset book cover 200x300 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying booksMade to Stick Book Cover 251x300 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying books


Here’s a quick rule of thumb: non-fiction appeals to the brain. You want an instantly clever image to catch their men­tal atten­tion.  Non-fiction cov­ers should have a cen­tral “gim­mick” and a solid color back­ground or gra­di­ent (orange and yel­low are very pop­u­lar for busi­ness books. (BTW, notice how wide the spac­ing is between the let­ters on these two cov­ers). You catch the brain’s atten­tion by show­ing a jux­ta­po­si­tion — things that shouldn’t really go together and are unex­pected. Then the sub­ti­tle tells them what the book is about. On the other hand, fic­tion appeals to the heart. So fic­tion cov­ers should be burst­ing with color, vibrancy, action. They should be beau­ti­ful. The art alone should make you feel, some­thing like long­ing or loss or pas­sion, imme­di­ately. Here are two cov­ers for books I really enjoyed: both are sim­ple and use a lot of space. Both use the orange — teal con­trast. Both don’t really show any­thing about the book itself… but the bold, indus­trial fonts show they’re YA dystopt­ian fic­tion (para­nor­mal books will have more curly, sharp or ‘wicked’ look­ing fonts; romances will have a lot of curls and decoration).


Ignite+Me+by+Tahereh+Mafi 197x300 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying booksallegiant book cover high res 198x300 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying books

I like that Alle­giant put in a lit­tle bit of set­ting on the bot­tom, which is easy to do and usu­ally works well (so the author name had to be moved up). Ignite Me is done very well too though, and the dark con­trast on the bot­tom get­ting lighter as it goes up makes the dark eye really stand out. Some­thing else to notice: both had to use drop­shad­ows to make the text stand out — some­thing it’s usu­ally bet­ter to avoid (in other gen­res) but since dystopian fic­tion cov­ers can be a lit­tle aggres­sive, it works here. Alle­giant really pops out with a heavy drop­shadow (and metal gra­di­ent), and it also makes the teaser (at the top) easy to read — unlike the teaser for Ignite Me, which I can barely see. Be care­ful of overus­ing drop­shad­ows through, I try to avoid them by using nat­ural con­trast (put light text on dark areas of the cover). So when design­ing for fic­tion, you’re appeal­ing to the sub­con­scious and the emo­tions. You’re not pro­vid­ing detail for the brain. Focus on col­ors, abstract sym­bols, rep­re­sen­ta­tions. Focus on strong con­trast and mood. How does the cover make you feel.

4. Use a sub­ti­tle, teaser or tagline (and a review!)

Once you’ve got that down, pro­vide just a tiny bit more infor­ma­tion with a teaser. For fic­tion, a teaser should hint at the major plot point or con­flict (star crossed love, a fam­ily feud, a per­sonal growth quest, etc). It should excite inter­est with­out giv­ing away too much. Far too many indie authors aren’t using teasers – just the extra bit of small text makes the cov­ers look more pro­fes­sional. Make them sim­ple, in a sim­ple font, and small, but find a way to fit them in (and get them edited – pay some­one on fiverr.com to help you brain­storm. The teaser has got to be really good. You should also get feed­back on the title….) For non-fiction, your sub­ti­tle is cru­cial because it allows you to fit more key­words. You don’t want to stuff your title with too many key­words, so you can fit in a few more with a very nice sub­ti­tle (it should be clear and easy to read, not just a string of key­words). Fic­tion books can ben­e­fit from sub­ti­tles too: recently I helped an author change a 1 word title, which nobody was find­ing, or if they did find, didn’t know what it was about, to include the sub­ti­tle “A Dystopian Adven­ture.” Not all books will need this, but his book was hid­den on about the sixth page of non­re­lated books with a sim­i­lar title – when I was search­ing for the title of his book. Adding a sim­ple genre-subtitle into the title field on Ama­zon can help you be found. Exam­ple (I’m just mak­ing this up). Title: Smasher Title+Subtitle: Smasher: a para­nor­mal fan­tasy Title+Teaser: Smasher: some­times you have to break every­thing before you can put the pieces back together… You prob­a­bly don’t need a sub­ti­tle and a teaser, and a teaser is prob­a­bly bet­ter for fic­tion (except if adding key­words or the genre helps your book find the right read­ers). You can also add a blurb or review – these help sell books even if the reviewer/source isn’t rec­og­nized or famous. Edit it down to make it short and punchy – 10 words or less. Smart indie authors in related gen­res will trade cover blurbs (so start net­work­ing!) Reviews estab­lish cred­i­bil­ity. Big pub­lish­ers aren’t using them as much any more, because demon­strat­ing cred­i­bil­ity can show a lack or cred­i­bil­ity or inse­cu­rity. Some­thing to keep in mind…

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Here are three cov­ers with dif­fer­ent teasers on them (all in dif­fer­ent places; you may have to squeeze the teaser wher­ever it will fit). All three have strong dark to light con­trast, and all three use color con­trast (yel­low and blue; Odd Thomas more pur­ple) Bared to You fits the title in nicely over the image, it would be hard to put it any­where else. Not my favorite cover, and I pre­fer warm col­ors to be on top of cool col­ors (blue doesn’t seem very roman­tic to me…) but the title font and key­words “pos­ses­sion” and “obses­sion” let me know what to expect (even with­out the naked woman, so that’s a bit overkill). Soul­bound uses a very nice back­ground (red goes well with cool blues or grays, there’s a lot of nat­ural con­trast) but the text isn’t great. The red+blue+yellow is too much, and title font is a lit­tle bor­ing – flat – and I’ll bet that cur­sive “S” doesn’t belong with the rest of that font fam­ily. It’s com­mon to change the first let­ter of a word (like in Bared to You) but the two font styles shouldn’t con­flict. Also the author font is too fancy (stick with one fancy font.) Odd Thomas is one of my favorite cov­ers. It’ll be eas­ier to see why by com­par­ing it to some­thing else…

Note: A lot of indie authors say that you shouldn’t use small text on ebook cov­ers. This isn’t true. Design­ing for print and ebooks is the same. Thumb­nails don’t mat­ter. Small text like reviews and blurbs makes your cover look tra­di­tion­ally pub­lished, and actu­ally gives view­ers a rea­son to click on the cover and see the full view (so they can read the small text, which may clinch the sale.) Peo­ple don’t read the cover; they read the descrip­tion right next to the cover, and if they want to find out more, they click and see the big view.

5. Pick the right font (and effects)

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Here are two very sim­i­lar cov­ers. Deeply Odd uses a pale blue/yellow con­trast, which is stronger than Kelley’s Green/Yellow. The fonts are nearly iden­ti­cal, but I far pre­fer the Koontz cover, because:

  1. The two dif­fer­ent fonts make a nice con­trast. They aren’t fancy fonts, but a very sim­ple serif and sans-serif.
  2. They use nat­ural color con­trast for text and light/dark con­trast. The top and bot­tom of Deeply Odd are dark enough to add the text with­out a drop shadow or spe­cial effects to make it stand out. Omens’ top is in that annoy­ing twi­light, in between light and dark, where nei­ther dark or light text will stand out well, so she had to add a strong drop shadow. Yes it helps the text stand out, but it over­pow­ers the title and kills the flu­id­ity of the cover.
  3. The let­ters in “Kelly Arm­strong” are too con­densed, whereas “Dean Koontz” is widely spread. True, he was lucky to have a shorter name, but it’s also the lack of drop shadow and the sim­ple sans-serif font that make it so clean and ele­gant. Even using gray rather than white increase its subtlety.
  4. Ditto with the “best­seller” tagline. Kelley’s is a lit­tle too heavy and long (prob­a­bly Eng­lish Gothic). Koontz’s is ele­gant and min­i­mal (Open Sans or Lato?)
  5. With the dark cover, the yel­low Deeply Odd really stands out, because it’s the light­est thing, in a way that Omens doesn’t, because the top is too light.
  6. Deeply Odd uses two spe­cial effects, a very sub­tle glow which is great to sug­gest a bit of para­nor­mal, and an under­line (the two words in Deeply Odd would prob­a­bly have been too cramped, if not for the under­line, which con­nects every­thing.) I would have at least liked to see a sub­tle gra­di­ent on Omens.
  7. I don’t know what either book is really about, but Deeply Odd fixes this with a great teaser “Beauty is skin deep…” So I know it’s a strug­gle between good and evil.
  8. Deeply Odd is a lit­tle more inter­est­ing because it has a per­son in it. More on that in the next section.

When choos­ing fonts — don’t use any­thing that comes installed on your com­puter. Search through hun­dreds of fonts, on sites like DaFont.com or MyFonts.com.  You can get a free one, but a paid one will be less used. You can make your font unique by hir­ing a designer to tweak it — for exam­ple the Twi­light fonts which have extended let­ters (l, n, p, k) which are sug­ges­tive of fangs, knives, dan­ger. You can also get a cus­tom font made, if you need a truly 1-of-a-kind, brand­able font for a huge pub­lish­ing phe­nom­e­non (like Harry Potter).

twilight 225x300 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying booksharry potter order of the phoenix kazu kibuishi cover 195x300 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying books

If you use a fancy font, stick with just one, and make the rest of the fonts clean and sim­ple. (See how widely spaced “Stephe­nie Meyer” is? She could have made her author name much big­ger, but it works bet­ter this way).

6. Make it per­sonal (but not cheesy)

As I pointed out above about the Deeply Odd cover, peo­ple sell. Hav­ing a per­son on/in the cover cre­ates intrigue and inter­est. But only if done right.

Fearless book cover 0908 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying books

For exam­ple, imag­ine this pic­ture (Fear­less) with­out the guy in the cen­ter. It would totally change the cover, and make it a lit­tle bor­ing. The boy adds adven­ture, focus, not to men­tion much needed color con­trast (red on blue). Adding a per­son from the back (like the Odd cov­ers) is fine — usu­ally bet­ter — as it allows read­ers to form their own men­tal images of the char­ac­ters. But avoid total sil­hou­ettes. A lot of indie authors are using them because they are easy, and it’s really hard to find the right pose oth­er­wise, but they are usu­ally cheesy. An excep­tion is Ken Follett’s cov­ers (the new ones), but even here they have some details and a bit of light overlay.

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By the way, check out how the new cover for Dan­ger­ous For­tune com­pares to ear­lier ver­sions. (Softer, more sub­tle, and much more intrigue with the char­ac­ters, which also helps tell read­ers the time period.

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Super close up of faces can be really pow­er­ful too, but if you find them on a stock pho­tog­ra­phy site, there’s a good chance it will be used on another cover. (The bet­ter the pic­ture, the more cov­ers it will show up on). You can avoid this by get­ting a friend to pose or hir­ing a model off craigslist for a quick photoshoot.

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In these two cov­ers, I love the girl in Alpha although I don’t think the font is ideal. Also the author name is squished together need­lessly. Requiem is a lit­tle bor­ing but clean; although it doesn’t tell me enough about the book. Both could have used a teaser. You can also cut off the top half of the head (or just use the top half/eyes) so that the model isn’t as instantly recognizable.

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Cas­san­dra Clare’s cov­ers are much loved — note the color con­trast. The City of Bones cover is col­or­ful but didn’t have any con­trast, so they add that lit­tle red cir­cle! City of Glass already has the orange/teal con­trast so they didn’t need it. Both cov­ers use excit­ing light-stream over­lays to give them that mag­i­cal burst­ing effect. Putting a char­ac­ter on top and a city on the bot­tom is a good (and com­mon) bal­ance for lay­out. City of Glass had to use a stronger drop­shadow, because the author name and sub­ti­tle weren’t stand­ing out enough. They both use reviews instead of blurbs. The source is larger and clearer for the one by Stephanie Meyer because she’s more famous (the first one, by Holly Black, is smaller and a lit­tle hard to read).

Note: It’s been pointed out that these cov­ers are super busy — these are YA titles, which tend to sell the most copies, and are colorful/busy/exciting to attract young read­ers. An adult thriller or law novel would be stark, sim­ple — but still clean and stylish.

7. If it’s too hard, go simple

It’s a mis­take to try and fit every­thing in. I’m work­ing on some cov­ers right now with two char­ac­ters, and all the details (hair color, eyes, clothes, expres­sion, weapons, dec­o­ra­tions, etc) have to be just right. After weeks of work and hir­ing an illus­tra­tor from Rus­sia to hand-draw some ele­ments I can’t make in pho­to­shop, it’s get­ting pretty close to a decent cover. But it’s way too much work and some­thing sim­ple prob­a­bly would have been just as good, or bet­ter. If it’s fan­tasy or para­nor­mal, or epic, or just so huge it can’t be well defined, go sim­ple. Busy cov­ers take more work and rarely out­sell sim­ple cov­ers. If you’re deal­ing with a lot of lit­tle details to make sure they match the book pre­cisely, it’s too com­plex already. You’d have to hire an illus­tra­tor or make a whole bunch of changes in pho­to­shop, and the result won’t look nat­ural. Even if it all turns out pretty good, you prob­a­bly could have pub­lished months ear­lier with a sim­pler cover.

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8. A lit­tle more on text placement

Try to fit the text/words together in a bal­anced way. Usu­ally small words like “the, in, of, and, by…” can be ital­i­cized, lower case, and made small to fit between larger text bet­ter (exam­ple: The Help).

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Try to add the text in a way that you don’t need any drop shadow or glow — the that the text stands out nat­u­rally against the back­ground. (Exam­ple: Lolita). Nabokov also has his author name on top, which makes the cover seem upside down or top heavy (per­haps sym­bolic of the frag­ile and per­verse rela­tion­ship in the book?)

lolita book cover 192x300 8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying books

Unique text place­ment can be a form of brand­ing. (Exam­ple: Shades of Grey). I don’t love the Shades of Grey cov­ers, but they chose to use very sim­ple, min­i­mal fonts and a unique lay­out (title aligned top right, the rest aligned bot­tom left) to cre­ate a dis­tinc­tive style.  The diag­o­nal lay­out makes room for the strong images and cre­ates a mov­ing inter­play (sym­bolic of the submission/mastery in the books?)

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I hope these tips help you design a cover that sells more books! You might want to check out this post, 5 com­mon book cover design myths most indie authors believe.

Want to make your own awe­some book cover in MS Word? Click here.

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me
  • Lexi Rev­el­lian

    Thank you, that’s a really eye-opening and help­ful post.

  • Eva van Loon

    Love this guy!

  • http://liebjabberings.wordpress.com/ Ali­cia Butcher Ehrhardt

    Any sug­ges­tions on how to make a basic sym­bol be the cen­ter­piece of a fic­tion cover? I learned a lot about typog­ra­phy from your exam­ples — that part may be tricky. I have a pro­fes­sional lined up (reward in a Kick­starter), but I’m not that happy with the things she’s already pro­duced — for the ebook part — because at thumb­nail sizes title and name are lost, and the image is hard to make out. One image, which at hard­cover size is gor­geous, was com­pletely unin­tel­li­gi­ble as a thumb­nail — and the whole point was lost (it was strongly related to the content).

    I had a brain­storm (I know), ended up design­ing a sym­bol I really like, and that will be instantly famil­iar and yet new, so I’m look­ing for ideas as to how to get the rest of the cover to go along with it.

  • John Chap­man

    9. Sell your­self — Your brand is your name — not the book title. Ken Fol­lett in the cov­ers shown does this well. Do you look for the next book by a favourite author or for it’s title?

    • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

      I agree brand­ing your name is impor­tant, the trick is to get read­ers in the begin­ning. If Ken had started with really ugly cov­ers, it would have been very hard for him to build up his read­er­ship. It hap­pens of course: “Wool” launched with ter­ri­bly ugly cov­ers, peo­ple found H. Howey any­way. If your story is good enough it will prob­a­bly suc­ceed. (A lot of indie authors start of want­ing their name very small, due to begin­ner inse­cu­rity. It doesn’t have to be big — it depends on the genre — but it shouldn’t be hiding).

  • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

    Hi — yes the title is a bit strange — but I don’t think it would have got­ten shared so much if I used some­thing more ordi­nary like “8 cover design tips for indie authors”…

  • Moeskido

    As a graphic designer, I’m look­ing for­ward to your follow-up piece that reverse-engineers 8 secrets on how to write a suc­cess­ful book. ;)

    • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

      Will do — after my DIY book cov­ers launch I’ll take a year off and crank out best­selling nov­els. :)

  • Wendy Dewar Hughes

    Great tips and obser­va­tions. Thanks.

  • http://www.rosannedingli.com Rosanne Dingli

    Derek — this is more inter­est­ing for me than you think! I make my own cov­ers, I stud­ied in Malta, I’ve done oil paint­ing, I’ve been to Italy … and it would be nice to have more money than I need!!

    • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

      Wow, that’s great — nice to meet you. Come to Tai­wan and I’ll show you around. :) I’ve got­ten really good at mak­ing a liv­ing online, this year I’m going to focus more on mak­ing money directly from art and books (so I have more per­sonal expe­ri­ence and tips to offer). Let me know if you need help with cov­ers or anything.

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  • Rebecca Gle­sener Davis

    Although you’ve made sev­eral excel­lent points, I think you may offend a lot of design­ers by say­ing that many of us don’t know what “make it pop means.” Of course we do. If not, we shouldn’t call our­selves a designer.

    • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

      Thanks for your com­ment — I didn’t mean that design­ers are igno­rant, just that “pop” is a vague term and authors may be mean­ing lots of dif­fer­ent things. Usu­ally they want it to look bet­ter to them; but authors aren’t a great judge of design qual­ity any­way. I’ve heard a ton of design­ers com­plain about clients using vague terms like “pop.”

  • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

    Advis­ing authors to take their own pho­tos is in no way an “insult” to pho­tog­ra­phers. I’m not say­ing their pho­tos would would be as good as yours, and I’m sure yours are lovely.

  • Ben Fen­wick

    Derek–there is one ele­ment that is present in almost every fic­tion cover that you didn’t men­tion. The cover design incor­po­rates an eye with a pupil. It’s obvi­ous in “Ignite Me”, but it’s also present in “Alle­giant.” It may not seem obvi­ous at first, but it’s in all the Fol­lett and Koontz cov­ers, and to some degree in all the fic­tion cov­ers. A cover artist, David Cherry, once explained it to me and showed me cover, after cover, after cover, and they all had some kind of eye in them. He called it a “Tar­get”. A cus­tomer scan­ning the shelves sees an eye look­ing at him, and he then picks up the book…that’s the major­ity of all sales, that phys­i­cal con­tact. It’s dif­fer­ent now with e-books, but that ele­ment is still strongly used.

    • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

      That’s fas­ci­nat­ing, thanks for shar­ing. If you want to col­lect 10 really good exam­ples, I can add a pupil over­lay and post a new blog about it (and link to you of course for the tip).

      • Ben Fen­wick

        I’ll try to get some together! Glad you thought it was interesting.

        • http://www.theshard-chronicles.com/ Liam Tay­lor

          Ben, that really is absolutely fas­ci­nat­ing! Makes sense, as well. I won­der about the effec­tive­ness of this ploy as applied to ebooks when that phys­i­cal con­tact is not there.

    • Malena Lott

      Hi, Ben! You were the first reply on the arti­cle. Hope you are doing well. Thanks for the comment/tip, too! Are you work­ing on a book?

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  • http://www.theshard-chronicles.com/ Liam Tay­lor

    Derek, this post couldn’t have come at a bet­ter time. I’m cur­rently dri­ving myself quite mad on whether or not I should change my book cover. After pay­ing a graphic designer (who is also an illus­tra­tor… and who also wasn’t cheap) to design the cover for my debut novel, I thought I was really happy with it. But after find­ing the cover on an aptly named, yet still a ‘you bas­tard’ web­site called lousy­book­cov­ers, I’ve got seri­ous doubts on how good it is. This is the first in a series of at least five, prob­a­bly six books, and I wanted to start cor­rectly with an awe­some cover. Should I go with ‘real life’ cov­ers, or stick with hand-drawn? I want to keep them con­sis­tent, and I’d really appre­ci­ate your opin­ion on this. And Derek, hon­estly, believe me when I say, I am a writer, not a cover designer. That’s fairly bloody obvi­ous. So any feed­back you have will most cer­tainly not be met with protes­ta­tions and a ‘what the hell does he know?’ atti­tude. If you want to peruse the cover (and pos­si­bly have a bit of gig­gle, as well!), I’ll pro­vide you with my web­site address.

    • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

      Hi — is your book “Over­due” with the red cover? It’s not great — besides the design, the prob­lem is it doesn’t say what the book is about (and the descrip­tion, like­wise, doesn’t say much about the book. So I still don’t know what the book is about, what genre, what kind of read­ers would like it. Get that fig­ured out and strengthen your Ama­zon descrip­tion, then I can try a quick makeover, then you can focus on get­ting reviews.

    • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

      Ah — that’s a dif­fer­ent Liam Tay­lor, yours is the Shard Chron­i­cles. Illus­tra­tion is really hard to pull off on book cov­ers, I would go with some­thing much sim­pler. I can do a quick makeover when I have time.

      • http://www.theshard-chronicles.com/ Liam Tay­lor

        Yeah, that ‘Over­due’ is another Liam Tay­lor. Kind of annoy­ing, actu­ally, so to dis­tance myself I’ll be adding an ‘M’ to my name. Liam M. Tay­lor. By the way, thanks for the prompt reply, Derek. Much appre­ci­ated! I stud­ied your arti­cle and the book cover exam­ples very care­fully regard­ing color con­trast, font type and font spac­ing. The font used was designed spe­cially for ‘The Shard Chron­i­cles’, so what do you think of it? Is it too much? Not arranged cor­rectly? In my mind, I’m now try­ing to apply your advice about keep­ing the entire cover sim­ple. Less is more and appeal­ing to the emo­tions, feel­ings. I used a scene from the book, an impor­tant scene, think­ing it might con­vey that, but now I don’t know. Should it be a scene? Those great Dean Koontz cov­ers you used as exam­ples… are they scenes from his novel?

  • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

    Are you a designer also? Glad you liked the post; I hate butting heads with authors over things like this.

  • jumper297

    Good stuff! Thanks for sharing…

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  • http://tdhart.blogspot.com/ T.D. Hart

    When the mar­ket­ing gurus talk about cre­at­ing ‘information-rich con­tent’, they should include a link to this blog! I’m post­ing this to my writer’s group email right now.

    • Derek Mur­phy

      Ha — thanks! I’ll work on mak­ing more big long posts like this. I hate those fluff arti­cles that are just mean­ing­less bul­let points with noth­ing useful.

  • Christo­pher Kecun

    Very valu­able insights! Thanks Derek.

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  • Malena Lott

    By far the best arti­cle I’ve read on cover design. I’ll share it with my authors. I know if one of our cov­ers isn’t work­ing in the design process, it’s usu­ally not doing one of these things — thanks for the piece!

    • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

      Thanks Malena — I think cover design is a sim­ple but sig­nif­i­cant way to boost sales / improve marketing.

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  • Bel

    This is a fas­ci­nat­ing arti­cle that I’m sure I’ll be return­ing to again in the future — thanks! It makes you won­der, doesn’t it, regard­ing “wicked” fonts, as to how a par­tic­u­lar font could pos­si­bly evoke feel­ings of scari­ness. But then, years ago, I had some lessons in graphol­ogy, and I saw an exam­ple of a psychopath’s handwriting …

    • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

      Thanks — I’ve stud­ied graphol­ogy too — my hand­writ­ing is bor­der­line psy­cho­pathic… that’s why I pre­fer to type. Wicked fonts are usu­ally very sharp like thorns, often gothic, can also be super bold and bro­ken or cracked (but those are more ‘horror’…)

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  • Meg Jus­tus

    I’m late to the dis­cus­sion, appar­ently, but this is def­i­nitely one of the best cover design arti­cles I’ve seen. What I would like to see is a good arti­cle on what kind of art works best for what kind of genre, with specifics, if such a thing exists. Any thoughts?

    • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

      That’s a good idea Meg, maybe I’ll have time for it (I am work­ing on a huge list of the best fonts to use for each genre… that’ll help some!)

      • Meg Jus­tus

        Yes, the fonts would be very use­ful, too.

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  • http://www.creativindie.com/ Derek Mur­phy

    Book cov­ers appeal to their tar­get read­ers. There is no “bet­ter” or “best”. Design styles change. Maybe those books still appeal to you because they were tar­geted towards your demo­graphic. “Soul” does not sell books. Try­ing to use a design style that YOU like is van­ity pub­lish­ing; van­ity pub­lish­ing is ego-stroking and self-gratification. If it makes you happy, fine. If you want to sell books, learn what works and be will­ing to use what­ever strat­egy pro­duces results.

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