Knowledge Bite

Should I get my book cover designed by a professional?

If you are releasing a book for public sale and consumption and hoping to earn money, then you are embarking on a business venture. The best way to get sales and interest from readers is to create a quality product. If you’ve found your way here, you’re obviously conscious of the important of good editing to polish your work before publication, and the same principles apply to cover design.

Unless you are a proficient graphic designer, do not design your own cover.

I can’t stress the above enough. Homemade covers by someone who has only a rudimentary grasp of design software or principles are instantly recognisable – and not in a good way. While you might be proud of what you have created, you have to detach yourself and look at it critically. Can you really see your homemade cover sitting side by side with bestsellers on a table at Waterstones? If you were browsing for a book and saw a thumbnail of your cover, would you want to explore further? Is this really the best way to advertise something you’ve put a lot of work into?

In most cases, the answers to the above questions are no.

Professional cover designers aren’t just skilled at using complex graphic design software. They have their finger on the pulse of what’s selling books. They know the elements that make up a good cover and how to appeal to a reader. They know genre expectations and how to attract specific types of reader. And they know how to create good covers without relying on cheap stock images that are on a dozen book covers already.

The old adage ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ is all very well, but people do. Think about when you go into a bookshop. The cover is usually the first thing that attracts you to picking up a book. You see a cover that appeals to you and you pick up the book and then flip to the back to read the blurb. Then, if you’re still interested, you might open it up and leaf through it or read the first page or two. At each stage, you risk losing the reader’s interest if what they see isn’t interesting or appealing enough.

Don’t do your book a disservice by skimping on the face of your book.

A good cover designer will be able to tease out the information they need to design an effective cover, but you might want to have some ideas or suggestions before you embark on the process:

  • What genre is your book?
  • What are the main themes?
  • What other covers in a similar genre do you find appealing?
  • What do you want your cover to convey?

Try not to get too wedded to specific scenes that you think would make a good cover. By all means mention them to your designer, but often simple is better and standalone scenes sometimes don’t make good covers as they lack any context (and remember, your book cover will appear as a small thumbnail image in many places on Amazon, so it needs to be bold and clear enough to be visible even at smaller sizes).

Most cover designers have portfolios on their website that you can browse through. Recommendations from other authors are very valuable here too.

Remember: your cover is your book’s face to the world!