Today I’ve got something for my fellow authors. We’re going to talk about book covers!
Ah, good ‘ol book covers. While it is often said you should never judge a book by its cover, that saying is wrong, at least where books are concerned. People do judge books by their covers. Images are incredibly powerful and in one glance, a person can gain insight into what your novel is about before they’ve read a single word.
With that in mind, giving readers a good first impression is really, really important. With the shift towards self-publishing, more and more people are trying to do it all themselves and book covers sometimes suffer for it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m totally on board this self-publishing train. I think there is beauty in discovering how to do things yourself. There is beauty in making mistakes, in learning how to recognize them and improving yourself as you take that journey. Everyone starts somewhere and everyone stumbles along the way. We’re human beings. It’s kind of in our nature.
There are many reasons why you might want to design your own book cover. Below are some of the most common I’ve heard.
- Book covers are expensive and you can’t afford to pay someone to design it!
- You have a very clear image in your head of what you want it to look like and don’t want it ruined.
- You’re a stubborn mule and have to do it yourself or you won’t feel accomplished. (This is me.)
- You just want to hit that publish button. A cover can’t really matter all that much, right?
- You found some super-duper cool free book cover design website. It’s totally legit.
Let’s break some of these down.
The first point about book covers being expensive has some merit. They can be. There are a lot of people out there just looking to prey on the growing number of authors looking for services such as cover design. It’s a scary world out there, but with a little research, you can find people that actually want to help you come up with a great design without wanting your first born child signed over in the deal. (I am one of them!) With that said, graphic designers need to make a living too and deserve to be paid accordingly. Don’t balk at paying a few hundred dollars for a cover. Having something designed by a professional can be sooo worth the money, but make sure you do your research. Find a designer whose work you’ve seen and like. If you’re not feeling too picky, look at some pre-made designs that can be customized for your novel. You’ll find varying price ranges out there, so find what works for you but also find something that will separate you from the droves of books out there. Don’t be just another bad book cover.
I’ve stressed this once and I will stress it again. BOOK COVERS MATTER. They do. Speaking as a guilty party here, don’t get so caught up in the whirlwind of hitting that publish button that you overlook key flaws. Flaunt your book cover around to people. Get honest opinions. If everyone cringes or gives you fake smiles, you might want to go back to the drawing board.
As for free book cover creators, let me just say you get what you pay for. If you’re paying nothing, expect the quality to match. While easy and convenient to use, you are generally locked into using the same images as everyone else and have very, very limited design options. Don’t even consider this option. Ever. I don’t care how broke you are.
If you read all that and you’re still set on designing your own book cover, please go back and read it again. Did you read it? Okay, good. If you’re still, STILL set on designing your own, you may proceed reading.
Over the next few weeks, I will be tackling some of the most common, cringe worthy cover design mistakes I see and give you tips on how to avoid them!
Disclaimer: I don’t consider myself to be an expert so take everything I say with a grain of salt. Graphic design is something I have dabbled in for many years and while I have a solid grasp on how to do things, it doesn’t mean everything I say is correct. I’m not claiming to know it all cause I don’t.
Let’s get to it!
#1 The Case of the Terrible Font
We’ve all seen it. The image is compelling. The colors are glorious. Then you see the font and your eyes bleed and you quickly fling the book back to whatever realm you dragged it out of, hoping it didn’t do permanent damage.
Book covers are all about balance. If anything is out of balance on a book cover, the whole thing explodes in a fiery ball of disappointment! Great image but bad font? Ruined. Perfect font but the image is blurry? Ruined. Colors all work but the image doesn’t tell you anything about the story? Ruined. There is a lot to a book cover. Don’t ever underestimate how important each element is.
Below is a book cover I recently designed. I wanted the cover to be soft, with maybe a hint at some sort of mystery or romance. I chose a palette that expressed that. Shades of creamy tan, hints of soft peach and pink. We get a pop of color from the yellow butterfly, giving a center point to the whole image. The background, as well as the title, bring to mind paper. It looks old and faded and fragile. What story does this cover tell? More importantly, look at the font.
The font matches the colors of the image, standing out from it enough to read, but not overwhelming or taking away from the background image.
Remember, it’s all about balance!
Now to ruin it.
Note: Ignore the slight color alterations. There were some color shifts done on the final product but the point I’m trying to get across is the same.
So, what is wrong with this change? For starters, the white font is too bright against the creamy background. Your eye can’t focus on anything but the letters and fails to take in the background, the very thing giving the reader an idea of what your story is even about. We’re also seeing a lot of wasted space. Between the end of the title and the author name is a huge gap with nothing. No information, nothing to process. Just empty space. Boring space.
While the font isn’t horrendously jarring, it fails to match the feel of the image. While not that hard to read, it’s too bold. This cover is all about softness and fragility. This font does nothing to express that image and takes away from our center of focus – the butterfly.
Here is another example.
Remember when I talked about free cover design websites? This is likely the final product you’re going to see, especially if you have very little to work with and no design experience.
Is the font easy to read? Yeah, but it’s tiny.
Can you clearly see the image? Yes.
Is there anything else good about it? NO!
I see this problem all the time. The image is great, but the font completely destroys it. The font used here doesn’t match the image at all. It looks cheesy and unprofessional and doesn’t add anything of value to the cover. It’s too small, causing anyone viewing it on anything but a huge computer monitor to squint. We’re also seeing lots of wasted space again.
No matter how good the image, font use like this just makes it look slapped together. If you’re going to take the time to pick out a good image, take the time to find a font to match. There are thousands of commercial use fonts out there that don’t cost much or are entirely free to use.
The more effort you put into your cover, the better it will be. Again, balance. Don’t think that because you have a good image that it’s going to hide the fact that you put zero effort into your font choice. That’s not how it works.
Tips and Tricks
- Remember, balance is key. (You’re going to be so sick of this word by the time you’re done reading this book cover design series.)
- Considering adding a drop shadow to your text. This slight shadow will help give an extra buffer between your text and the image so it’s easier to read. Just don’t go too crazy. Shadows can be great as long as you don’t go overboard. Subtlety is your friend.
- Don’t waste space! Try to utilize your text in a way that it helps fill the space.
- Try using all caps for your title and name. While not an absolute must, it does help make it look more professional depending on the font. It also makes it easy to read which is pretty important, especially for ebooks!
- MAKE IT BIG! Be proud of your book title and the fact that you wrote it! Don’t make your reader squint to see what your book is called. That’s just rude.
Next up in the series: #2 The Case of the Photoshop Fails
What is your favorite book cover? What do you like about it?
Looking for someone to design a cover for you?
You can find custom covers over at Book Cover Connection designed by yours truly! 🙂