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3 Costly Mistakes Indie Authors Make with Their DIY Book Covers
Nov 12, 2018

No one is devoid of mistakes. Mistakes are there for certain reasons. As Henry C. Link, a famous psychologist from the 1800’s who was alienated from his Christian belief at one point in his faith, said humorously,

“While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.”

This quote is true and applies even to designing a book cover.

As a self-published author, you create your own book cover due to necessity, zeal, naivety, or plain stubbornness.

You do it by trial and error. 

There’s nothing wrong with that and it should not hurt you. Theoretically. 

But it could. In many ways, it does.

Priority as Indie Author: Writing or Cover Creation?

But, hey! Which has more weight to you – writing or cover creation? 

Unless you’re a graphic artist who’s trying your hand at writing, it may be best to leave cover creation to the professionals. 

Easier said than done.  

Reality is, not all indie authors can afford the services of professional graphic designers. It is worth saying though that indie authors these days have better options to get a professionally-designed book cover for way less. If budget is a big concern, try Fiverr. For a better-looking book cover, $5 shouldn’t hurt.

Nevertheless, go ahead and create your own.

Make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes under the premise that they could be costly. At least, for the meantime. 

Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence. ~ Ovid

But first things first. What mistakes can you avoid to shorten and smoothen your learning curve?

Indie Author Mistakes in Creating Book Covers

Here are three costly mistakes that you, as an indie author, can avoid:

Mistake #1 – Not Knowing the Basics 

How can you dive into book cover creation without knowing the basic concepts and principles of cover design?

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. ~ Stephen R. Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

You don’t have to finish a two-year course in graphic designing for this.

You only have to learn a few basics:

First, you need to speak to your audience;

Second, use the following as your guide towards achieving the first:

A) Imagery

This pertains to how you use (or not use) the following elements to create harmony, dynamic flow or movement, balance, unity, and focus:

  • Photographs, illustrations, or images
  • Colors
  • Space
  • Shapes
  • Layout.

B) Typography

Typography refers to the visual component or aspect of the written word. This is about the style and appearance of text in the cover, expressed in terms of font types as well as their size and placement. 

In your front cover, apply typography to the following:

  • Title – This should be the first thing that people read. Size and place it so that it catches the reader’s attention first. Placement may be at the top or towards the bottom. 
  • Subtitle – This is a secondary, supportive and subordinate text component of your cover, which is meant to substantiate, expalain, or elucidate on the title. As an optional part, you may or may not have it. 
  • Author name – This is your name or pen name as author.

This may seem overwhelming at first but their application would feel effortless once you use them.

Mistake #2 – Not Getting Feedback

Feedback is a great monitoring tool to gauge the performance of a person, event or thing (or in this case, your book cover). Getting valid feedback is important so that you can enhance your book cover to achieve its purpose

Feedback could be written or verbal and may be taken from:

  • reviews
  • critique
  • reactions
  • advice
  • reports
  • suggestions or recommendations.

This is somewhat tricky because, unless you ask pointed questions about your book cover, the feedback you get may be on your book as a whole.  The simplest way to deal with this is to simply ask.

  • What do you think of the book cover?
  • What struck you the most?
  • What message does it tell you?
  • How can it look better and be more effective? 
  • Would you consider buying the book?

Ask your colleagues in the publishing industry, people in your Facebook group, customers, friends, or family members.

Another form of feedback is statistics and you can experiment on this through split testing. You make two or more copies of your cover and, all things kept constant, observe which one garners the most sales then go for it.

If all those are not enough, work with your gut. Ask yourself:

  • How does my book cover look?
  • What message does it give?
  • Do I feel right?
  • If I were walking past an aisle of books, would it jump at me?
  • Does it get my attention?
  • Does it point me to where I’m supposed to look?
  • Does it give me a great sense of what’s inside the book?
  • Would I buy the book?

Answers from yourself could be subjective especially since you created your book cover, but then it’s a way as well to get feedback.  

Mistake #3 – Not going the extra mile

If you plan on creating your book covers for a long time or to work with cover designers for your books, you need to improve your craft on cover creation. 

Here are concrete steps you can take:

1. Check out local or online bookshops and study the book cover of top sellers.

2. Search book clubs or fora for book reviews of top sellers and check out their book covers.  

3. Visit the library for books on cover design. 

4. Take short courses on cover designing. Skillshare is a great way to start given its wide collection of snappy, bite-sized, and easy-to-learn courses, such as the following:

5. Experiment. Explore. Test. Tweak. See how the elements in your book cover play out. 

Indie Authors: What Now?

Knowing what you know now, think:

  • What will you do to avoid these mistakes?
  • If you’ve committed these mistakes with your existing books, how can you make it up?
  • How can you be better at applying the concepts and principles of cover design?
  • How can you effectively get constructive feedback on your book cover?
  • How will you improve on your cover designing skills?
  • Will you persist on designing your book cover or focus instead on writing and entrust your book cover to the experts?

These are important questions to ponder on. 

Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later, a collection of mistakes is what is called experience. ~ Denis Waitley

Now, what next?

Please let me know your insights or lessons about designing your book covers. They’d surely be a great addition to this post!

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