As queen bees of the JustRead hive (aka owners of JustRead Publicity Tours) and avid readers, we’ve learned a thing or two about sweet reads and sticky situations. We want to help you avoid common book cover blunders and ensure your readers aren’t confused or even deterred by a sticky situation.
Generally, authors will either have DIY, outsourced, or a publisher-directed cover design process. While this article is written primarily with independently publishing (or hybrid) authors in mind, the concepts are important for all authors to consider. Whether you are creating your own cover or conveying your vision to others, the goal is for the heart of your story (or nonfiction content) to shine through the cover.
Research book covers that are selling or trending in your book’s genre and subgenre, making note of images, design styles, fonts, and colors. Once you’ve identified design elements that work well for your genre, focus on reflecting the heart of your story within your author branding and genre trends.
Even the pros utilize stock illustrations and images but check to see if your selections are already being used on another book cover. Layering multiple images is one way to create a more unique cover but make sure proportions and blending are natural.
We love fonts but readability is key. Two different typefaces on a cover (sometimes three) are acceptable as long as the placement is mindful. Whimsical and script fonts are especially tricky but they pack a visual punch when used in moderation and/or paired with a simple clean font.
Stick to your budget and timeline. Don’t wait too long to finalize your cover or make last-minute changes, delays could end up costing you more. Compromise is common during the cover design process but be willing to stick to it and keep the lines of communication open rather than settling for a cover that doesn’t fit.
Encouragement for DIYers
You can successfully create your own book cover with thorough research, more research, and the popper tools! Creating an appealing cover on Canva, Picmonkey, or other free or low-cost design platforms is possible. Many of these tools even provide book cover templates and it’s a great way to get the ball rolling for cover mock-ups and even final cover designs. Be sure to ask a few trusted and experienced confidantes for their opinion on your work but don’t stress over trying to please everyone.
Cover Design Pros
If your budget allows, we definitely recommend working with a cover designer. Choose a professional who has created covers you love. We love so many covers including those designed by Roseanna White, Teresa Tysinger, Hillary Lodge, Sarah Monzon, Emilie Hendryx, and more! Please feel free to give a shoutout to your favorite cover designers in the comments. Keep an eye out for a more in-depth post on working with a cover designer in the future.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
It’s a nice sentiment but the truth is that the cover is the first glimpse a reader has of the content within. Book covers set the stage just as words pull back the curtains on the wonderful experience we share through stories, devotionals, and nonfiction accounts. Readers are going to judge book covers so let’s embrace that and maximize their impact positively.
Can you name some genre-specific design features? Does a certain cover style grab your attention? Carrie, Beth, and Rachel would love to chat about your favorite cover trends in the comments!
JustRead Publicity Tours, LLC is a full-service publicity tour company for published works in the Christian genre or books considered within the wholesome or clean reads genres.
I find it fascinating to watch trends in book covers. Right now it seems like every cover shows a person, or people, from the back as they walk away from the "camera". A few years ago it was flowers or water spilling down a cover from the top. YA novels have their own look, too. So interesting what catches the eye, then goes by the wayside.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the post!
Good morning, Glynis! You're so right. Every genre has its own vibe and they're all evolving over time. Thanks for dropping by!Delete
yay Beth! Yes please, authors, follow these tips :)ReplyDelete
It's a win-win situation, sweet like honey!Delete
I particularly like the last line under “Encouragement for DIYers” and am glad the two of you were able to help a specific friend recently. 😉Delete
we live for those moments, Joy LOLDelete
I can tell you for certain that "said author" was grateful for such friends.Delete
I'd love to be that kind of helpful more often. Branding is my jam (and spreadsheets), lol!Delete
I just shuddered at Beth's use of the word "spreadsheets"Delete
If you have any extras around, I'm your gal!Delete
This is a timely post, Beth! Thank you!ReplyDelete
I'm starting to work on the cover design for my cozy mystery. I'm not sure if I'll produce the final cover myself or hire someone, but the process is helping solidify what I want the cover to look like. And playing around with PicMonkey is always a lot of fun!
And those stock photos... My first cover with Revell used a stock photo that was perfect for my book, but then I started seeing it EVERYWHERE. It seemed that every Amish author, whether indie published or traditional, has used the same picture for one of their books over the past six or seven years! That's the risk of using stock photos, I guess.
In my last three books, the design department hired a model for the cover photo shoot - no danger of repetitive covers there. :-)
But back to the cozy genre - it seems that cozy mysteries are split between using photos for the covers and using illustrations. I'm leaning toward illustrations - there's something about them that emphasizes the fun fantasy aspect of a cozy - but at the same time, some of the covers have an almost cartoonish design.
I'm still thinking and planning...
most cozy series that I follow are illustrated ... I'm trying to think of some (that I read) that aren't and I'm drawing a blank. And I read A LOT of cozies lolDelete
Oh yay, Jan! I'm so glad we were able to walk with you a bit in your time of need ;) (I adore Picmonkey, it's my favorite... Canva does have awesome graphics but I don't have the paid account over there) For your cozy, I'd vote illustrated since they're so hot in several genres right now. Happy planning!Delete
Great post, gals! You CERTAINLY have an eye for covers!ReplyDelete
as do you, dear Pepper :)Delete
That may be questionable after recent events, but I'll keep working on those skills ;-)Delete
We do look at a LOT of covers in our line of work and we all have room to improve, that's the fun part!Delete
This is such a timely post. I just got the cover back for my latest book. I used Elaina Lee, with For the Muse Designs. She did my first cover when I published with Smitten/Lighthouse Publishing in 2019, and I've used her for the last two books. Very affordable.ReplyDelete
I've noticed the illustrated cover trend lately. I've seen this mostly with contemporary romance and romcoms, but I've seen a few historical here and there. I can't remember how many years back it was, but the trend was to cut the top part of peoples heads off. I still see that some and I like that the reader can visualize how they think the character should look.
Oh nice! I'm so glad you shared and I love your covers and stories, Sherrinda!Delete
I completely agree, the chopped heads/faces or models turned away makes readers think for themselves. I like the trend in moderation... chopping everyone's head off seems a bit extreme, lol!
Haha! I agree! Reminds me of the Queen of Heart in Alice in Wonderland..."Off with their heads!"Delete
One trend that is not my favorite is the "Marie Antoinette" cover. Where part or all of the heroine's head is cut off! These tend to occur most often in historical fiction, where the dress is the star of the show, but I really don't like headless heroines!ReplyDelete
I love the covers of Elizabeth Camden's D.C. series... of the siblings, the brothers have a partial head chop but the sister's noggin remains intact. Great combination of intrigue and sass and a good fit for the story, imo. That said, I wouldn't say no to a full view of those handsome faces either 😉Delete
I loved that the three covers together made one complete picture. I thought that was genius, but I would have loved to see those brothers' faces, too!Delete
Yay, I appreciate this post! I think making sure "proportions and blending are natural" and getting feedback from "a few trusted and experienced confidantes" are key.ReplyDelete
With designing tools being so accessible now, I've been seeing *a lot* of book covers that look unnatural, where there are multiple layered images but the proportions, lightning and shadows, textures, outlines and edges, etc. are off. And I can often tell at a first or second glance when the head or face on a model isn't the original head or face. (The human form is so complex, so cut-and-pasting and blending substituted human features is especially hard to pull off.)
Heeheehee, coming from an author who's had her own book cover fails, I think it's important for authors to get advance cover feedback from trained eyes that can be objective and unafraid to offer honest critiques. (It can often be hard for authors to be objective about our book covers when we're so in love with our stories and excited about getting published, particularly if we're fairly new to the business.)
I think it's also important to remember that just like learning the writing craft takes a lot of time and continued practice, so does learning quality graphic design. That goes for DIY authors as well as independent designers who decide to offer their services to authors and publishers. :-)
Great points, Nadine! The wonderful thing about cover flops is that you learn from them and you can always change it up. Thanks so much for dropping by :)Delete