AuthorHouse’s Tips on Cover Design Demonstrates their Terrible Covers

I’m finishing up a Udemy course on book cover design and uploading some videos to YouTube. My videos aren’t very professional or well done, and I don’t have a lot of followers, but at least my cover designs don’t suck.

This video from AuthorHouse, on the other hand, uses dozens of very ugly, unprofessional book cover designs as examples of “Good” book cover design!

Actually, I agree with most of their tips:

1. General is usually better than specific, and it shouldn’t be too detailed.

Authors think in scenes; scenes rarely work for cover design. You need to represent the genre and be attractive, not communicate details.

2. Don’t show too much of your character.

Usually because, authors will want the model on the cover to match the character description exactly… which is kind of important, but not nearly as important as selling the book. I like to cut off the head or at least above the mouth.

3. Be simple, strong and symbolic.

This doesn’t work well for every cover; I prefer landscape covers with depth to flat surface covers, but it’s true a simple flat wall or simple object with great text can work better than a landscape (though I think a landscape + character will always win).

4. Research at your local bookstore and browse stock photos.

Yes, you should do this, but don’t just grab 20 books you like. Make some choices. Pick a direction. Don’t try to montage together your ideal cover; pick a great photo and use it.

5. Don’t forget the technical stuff.

This is about image resolution (should be 1800px wide, 2700px long for a 6×9 cover @300dpi) and other technical stuff, but if you have a designer, you shouldn’t worry about this.

What it all means?

True, this video is from 2010, and AuthorHouse covers may not be so terrible anymore. Maybe they’re much better. But when you sign a contract with a big publisher like this that charges for services, they’re giving you a package deal (that’s often much more than the services would cost individually) and then farming out to cheaper providers. It might seem more convenient, and they will answer questions and help you with everything.

But the cover design is the one piece that matters much more than anything else. Don’t sacrifice your cover design for the sake of convenience. It’s the thing that truly matters, and the thing most of your money should be spent on (along with good editing, if you can afford it).

Having an author website, or business cards or bookmarks, or a certain number of print books included in the package totally doesn’t matter if you have an ugly cover; everything additional won’t save you.

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

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