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All in "book cover"

3 Costly Mistakes Indie Authors Make with Their DIY Book Covers

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!

Succeed in Publishing: Captivate, Capture and Compel with an Awesome Book Cover

There is an old Chinese Proverb that goes:

“On a journey of a hundred miles, ninety is but halfway.”

It’s like writing your book. Just when you thought you’re done, you’re stumped to find out that you forgot to get your book a cover. 

A book cover is essential to your book.

All authors – amateurs and veterans alike – get their book a cover, how simple it may be. (These days, simple and clutterless works best.)

A sentence that doesn’t end with a period is not a sentence, is it?  

To complete your book writing process, get your book a cover.

To let it stand out and sell, dress it up with a cover that has that “X” factor.  

Your Book Cover: Beyond the Aesthetics

So… what exactly is a book cover?

What can it do for your book?

What is it supposed to do?

From an aesthetic point of view, it is eye candy to your readers. It strikes and captivates them to pick up your book, browse through, add to cart, and buy. 

It gives your book a unique personality or distinct character. All its own.

In a practical sense, your book cover adds a protective layer to your book. It safeguards your book from the elements and extends its lifespan.

From a marketing standpoint, it is a powerful tool to promote and sell your book.

The 3C’s of a Book Cover

A book cover has three main functions: 

Function #1 – Captivate

Whose attention? Your target readers’.Your book cover should turn heads and grab attention. 

It flaunts and flirts with its target readers, to describe it in a fun way.

 It charms, warms and disarms.

It is not only different but unique, special and electrifying. 

It speaks for you 24/7/365.

It works hard, untiringly and relentlessly. 

In a vast ocean of books, it tries its darnedest to stand out from the pack.

As the book author, it is your task then to cloak your book with a captivating cover.

Function #2 – Capture

After grabbing your target readers’ attention, your book cover must hook them in, lock them up, and take full control. In a psychological way, of course.


Arouse curiosity. Stimulate their senses. Create excitement. Heighten their cravings. 

At this stage, your target readers are flooded with questions such as:

  • What is this book all about?
  • What’s so unique and special about it?
  • What message or story does it tell?
  • What does it propose or promise to do?
  • What can be learned from it? 
  • What does it offer that others haven’t already?
  • How can it ease pain or alleviate a situation?
  • How can it make things better?

This questioning takes place in a flash. Effortlessly. Unconsciously. Subconsciously. 

If your book cover does an awesome job, capturing your reader happens seamlessly. 

Function #3 – Compel

Now that you’ve whet their appetite, your target audience will want to satisfy their curiosity, ease their excitement, and get their questions answered.

They’re nearing the finish line.

Soon, they grab their debit or credit card, click the “buy button” and complete the sale.

A sale just happened. That’s it. Mission accomplished!

What do you think of this post?

Does it resonate with you either as target reader or book author? 

What do you look for in a cover?

What captivates your eyes, captures your attention, and compels you to buy when shopping at bookstores online or offline?

Please comment below and let us know experience.  



Publishing: Transform Your Book Cover from Blah to Awesome

When you look at book covers, what usually strikes you? Almost always, it’s the dominant elements – the title, author’s name and image.

These are the obvious or most apparent elements – elements that you easily recognize.

However, book covers are more complicated than that and graphic artists would tell you that there is more in there than meets the eye.

Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.  ~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry, The Little Prince (1943)

They work at the background, are subtle, almost invisible, and can, at times, be subliminal. They play with your mind as viewer and influence how you feel, think, decide or act in ways like:

  • turn your head around or grab your attention;
  • make you curious or excited about what’s inside;
  • create a strong desire in you to explore a book some more;
  • compel you to browse the book’s table of content;
  • pique your interest to read sections of the book;
  • push you to search for customer reviews about the book;
  • nag you to buy the book;
  • compel you to buy the book.

Insane, isn’t it? But that’s true. And it always happens at both the conscious and subconscious planes.

What is in your book cover that creates these kinds of behavior?

Let’s take a peek into what makes book covers stand out.

4 Attributes of Exceptional Book Covers

What do great book covers have that set it apart from the rest? You’ll get a ton of responses on this and here’s my take.

A standout book cover has four attributes:

Attribute #1 – Appeal

It grabs attention almost instantaneously. I can use an endless stream of powerful words to describe it: dazzling, captivating, charming, attractive, handsome, beautiful, stunning, striking, entrancing, professional, wow, dynamite, lovable, cute, delicious, delightful, pleasing, magnetizing, elegant, hypnotic, inviting, great, awesome, wonderful, engaging. And on and on

How the book cover elements were used or put together effectively contributes to engendering a positive feeling of excitement, curiosity and/or desire in your target reader. They may not even know it. They simply feel it.

Attribute #2 – Simplicity

It is simple, uncomplicated and spot on. It is devoid of clutter that may repel, mislead or confuse readers and take them away from the real message, theme or content of your book.

You would see book covers that only have type or words in them, nothing else. 

Attribute #3 – Uniqueness

It is different, uncommon and special. No other book cover has that “X” factor or quality.

In an ocean of romance novels or non-fiction books on productivity, yours is undoubtedly a standout.

Attribute #4 – Clarity

It is crystal clear what your book is all about simply by looking at its cover. It mirrors and/or hints at your book’s content, theme, genre or topic. At thumbnail size, your book cover is easily recognizable; its text – title and author, most especially – is highly readable.

Book Cover Elements: The Obvious

The apparent or obvious elements of book covers are mostly these three:

Element #1 – Title and subtitle

The title is the name of your book. It is usually the dominant element of your book cover (although in many instances, the author’s name is). Many titles, most especially non-fiction, are straightforward. You get what the book is all about as soon as you read its title. It may be one, two, three or more words whose meaning may have to be deciphered.

Book titles are important and necessary. Your book has to have one. The subtitle, however, is not compulsory but optional. You may or may not have one.

What’s the value of having a subtitle? Your subtitle puts more meat on your title. It defines the slant of your book, explains its content further and provides more details. This is especially most helpful if you have a book title containing a word or two.

For instance, how would target readers know what your book “Hurry” is all about? If it’s fiction, your choice of image would most probably reveal more about it. For non-fiction, it may be more daunting and can be confusing. Attaching a subtitle that says “How to Do Things More Quickly in Your Own Terms and Succeed at What You Do” would most probably help clarify your book’s content.

Element #2 – Author’s name

This is the name of the book writer or, in some instances, the publisher. As an author, you may use your real name or choose a literary pen name, fictitious name or pseudonym. 

Element #3 – Image

This may be a picture, image or symbol that would depict your book’s content or provide a clue or hint. It may be a single image or symbol, a collection or collage of images, or a composite image.

A composite image is what you get after combining various visual elements from separate sources to get a desired effect or picture. Graphic artists achieve this through compositing (with the use of photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop) to create the illusion that all those elements belong to or are parts of the same scene.

So we’re done with the obvious elements.

Book Cover Elements: The Subtle

Now, make a guess on the subtle elements of book covers. They are those that you may not even know or suspect exist but are positioned or placed there for some reasons. The impact that they create is more psychological or at the level of the unconscious or subconscious.

I can think of four:

  • Color - You may not always be aware of this but colors have a subtle effect on your psychological, physiological and behavioral functions. For instance, red evokes excitement, energy, and warmth. Yellow stimulates happiness, laughter, and cheer. You may read some more about color psychology here.
  • Typography - You may use two types of fonts in your book cover. No more than three. Otherwise, you'll get a messy and incohesive effect.  
  • Space - Empty spaces give a break to your reader's vision. They separate each one from the other. Those near or within large chunks of negative spaces gain more importance or attention. 
  • Composition - This is how you arrange, place or size the visual elements or parts of your design so that the most important get dominance and all the rest contribute to it. This includes images, fonts, space, color, and everything else. 

What do you think?

Makes sense?