You might feel a bit of deja-vu when reading this article – and you’re right! I shared this article two years ago. Since a LOT of new subscribers have joined since then, I figured it couldn’t hurt to share this refresher for the old guard, and hopefully some new insights for people who hadn’t seen these tips before. Happy reading!
Don’t judge a book by its cover. The intent is great, but the fact remains that we DO judge books by their cover. It’s even often a snap judgement that takes a second at most. That means that book covers are a very important part of your marketing strategy! That goes for a lot of other industries as well, by the way. So here’s a few things to avoid, to make sure you don’t scare away people who would love your work:
1. Wrong genre
You’d think it’s obvious, but making sure you’re communicating the right genre to your readers is very important. Your story might be a comedy set in a fantasy realm. However, if your cover is too heavy on the fantasy and doesn’t communicate comedy, you might mislead your readers into thinking it’s a serious high-fantasy book (and get bad reviews) AND miss out on fantasy-comedy fans!
2. Copyright protected images
There are a lot of urban legends and misjudgements circulating copyright law. If an image is on Google or doesn’t have a copyright mark on it, this DOES NOT mean it is free to use! Sometimes there’s a lot of grey area to navigate and every industry has different standards regarding copyright of their products, that don’t necessarily apply to every industry. Just recently I prevented a client of mine running the risk of lawsuits!
When you’re hiring an illustrator or designer, not only are you paying for a beautiful image, you’re also paying for their professionalism. This means timely delivery, clear communication and knowledge of their field. New designers with lower rates will probably not have this knowledge (or simply won’t care) and will not be able to aid you in preventing mishaps like this.
3. Too many elements
Remember when I said we judge a cover in a second? Would you rather that a reader spends that second admiring the amazing character on your cover and read the title; or zig-zagging over the whole cover between the two characters, the title, the subtitle, your author name, the dragon in the background, the castle behind that, the sea splashing onto the castle, the second dragon coming in for the kill on the first dragon, and the damsel in distress that’s going to be saved by your main character? I’m going to guess the first sounds like a more pleasant experience to cram in one second or less.
Too many elements often lead to a lack of hierarchy in an image, which means a reader will not know where to look, become doubtful and not make a decision (which means no). In images that are used to sell something, you often want a simpler composition that leads the eye to your one selling point (an amazing castle, dragon, main character) and implies the story instead of telling all of it on the cover. An experienced illustrator or designer will know how to generate interest from a cover, while creating more questions instead of answering them all, and drawing your potential reader into the book.
All these points are basically giveaways of DIY covers and covers by inexperienced designers. When you’re looking for a book cover illustrator and designer, the experienced ones will stand out by avoiding said mistakes for your book cover.
I hope this gives you a bit more insight into elements to avoid on a book cover. Next time, we’ll focus on the things you SHOULD do on a book cover!