Book cover design is NOT subjective

I see a lot of authors asking for feedback between a few cover design choices. This always has mixed results, since people on Facebook don’t know anything about book cover design, they probably aren’t your target market, they probably aren’t ideal readers of your genre, and they aren’t designers.

So what inevitably happens is, authors think, “The results are pretty balanced, so I guess it doesn’t matter, book covers are subjective, so I’ll just use the one I like.” So they pick the one they like best, the one they “hoped” would win.

But book covers aren’t subjective.

One will perform better than the other one. The only real test is to actually use both: publish with one, and when sales slump, try the other, boost it again for visibility and see if it sticks for awhile.

You can also use targeted Facebook ads to an optin offer, use one cover for one ad, the other cover for the other.

It’s hard to test accurately, yes.

But that doesn’t mean all covers are equal. One cover may significantly improve sales, which means the success or failure of your book could depend on this decision.

So don’t listen to a bunch of random people on the internet.

Don’t necessarily listen to your coach or mentor (especially if they’re an indie author, not a cover designer – a lot of indie authors are opinionated about cover design but use ugly covers themselves). And cover designers aren’t always right either. (I know some successful cover designers who aren’t actually that great at designing covers). But if they’ve been doing it for a long time and make awesome covers and have a good reputation, they probably have more experience to predict which cover will perform better, or which looks more professional at least.

Be honest with yourself, and don’t just pick a cover YOU like best.

Pick the cover that will sell your book.

I’m not being petty.

I’m just not disappointed that you didn’t go with my recommendation.

I’m disappointed that you’ll sell less books.

I’m disappointed the world will be subjugated to another unprofessional cover.

If you’re not sure whether your cover is unprofessional, get some feedback from a professional. If you publish your book and it isn’t selling, definitely rethink the cover (unless you have less than 20 reviews. If so, that’s probably your problem. Fix that first. If it still doesn’t sell, fix the description, because it’s cheap and easy. If that doesn’t work, it’s the cover.)


how to make a book cover design



Start with this one: it’s the presentation I gave for the Alliance of Independent Authors 2016 Fringe Fest. It’s a good crash course to the fundamental issues and mistakes indie authors make, and how to fix them.  

About Derek Murphy

Hey there! I'm a philosophy dropout and book cover designer with a PhD in Literature. After spending a decade as a starving artist, I vowed to create the life of freedom my restless spirit demands. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write young adult fantasy novels and do a few editorial critiques to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles. FREE GUIDE: Book Marketing is Dead.