What makes a good book cover?

August 30, 2016

So you’ve finished writing your book and now, it’s time to publish and market it. My heart goes out to any author with a well-written, captivating story, whose book has a terrible cover.

Would I buy a book with cheap looking DIY cover? No. Would you? Not likely.

We do still judge a book by its cover – and that’s a fact, not a statement open for debate about stereotyping.

I’ll give anyone credit for trying their hand at designing their own cover. When you’re a creative person who’s spent months, maybe years, working on their manuscript, designing your own cover can be a fun relief after a long time of stressful edits. After all, the author knows what they want and can probably see a fabulous cover in their mind.

But, writers put their heart and soul into their stories, so it’s a shame when a cover doesn’t do their book justice. Whether you’re going to try your hand at doing a cover yourself, or hiring a professional cover designer, there are fundamentals you need to keep in mind. Here’s my tips:

Size matters

The first time someone may see your book cover will be as a thumbnail – either on a website like Amazon or a promotional bookmark. So it needs to stand out.

  • Is your title and name clear and easy to read?
  • Is there a striking image or colour choice?


Does the design capture the essence of your story?

Some people think that if their book is about a baker who saves a child from a burning building that their cover should have a man dressed as a baker holding a child in front of a burning building. But book covers don’t need to be literal.

Conveying the feeling (light or dark) or the genre (romance or thriller) is the underlying goal of a good cover. Know your genre! Do some research of popular books in that genre and study their covers.

Dance with Devil med res

Sandy Curtis has had three covers for her romantic suspense novel, Dance with the Devil.

The two Australian publishers and the German publisher all had a different take on the story with the German publisher (centre) taking a symbolic approach to the cover design.

Which do you prefer? Which book would you pick up?


Branding is essential to build author awareness and recognition. If someone has read one of your books and loved it, they will be drawn to similar looking covers.

Kylie Scott series Med resCreating covers that tie each of your books together—whether your write in series or stand alone—can help build your audience.

Kylie Scott’s Stage Dive series (pictured right) are very similar, creating an obvious connection between the books.

Dean Koontz med res

The stories by Dean Koontz (pictured left) are not connected (stand alone) but the branding is still evident with the use of a consistent typeface (sans-serif font) for his name, and a serif font for the title.

Consider hiring a professional

Not all cover designers are expensive. You can find good designers who will build you a cover from $100 upwards. When you think of the time and effort put into your book, that seems like a good investment.

If you’re not sure about whether to hire a professional who’s skilled with the use of Adobe programs, or you want to go it alone, consider the detail that goes into a cover.

WR comparisonWhen I designed the cover for Winged Reaper, by Shelley Russell Nolan, I send the publisher a concept design, much like the basic cover below. After that was accepted I set to work to bring it to life.

When both publisher and author are in love with the cover I know my job is done.

And only then, do I label the file as ‘Final’.

Have you got a favourite book cover?

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