When I was little, I remember spending some of my free time browsing bookstores. My mom, giving me the freedom a school-age child can have, would let me choose various books. Often, these books were by local authors who didn’t have Wikipedia pages or reviews on the internet. For that reason, I relied on two factors when making my selections: the cover and the synopsis.
However, as I grew older, I realized that choosing books solely based on their covers was not the best technique. Sometimes I ended up with great books, but other times I didn’t enjoy them at all. I had foolishly chosen them based on the attractiveness of their covers.
Likewise, I would often disregard books with cover designs I didn’t like and hesitated to buy them. Now I understand that a poorly designed book cover doesn’t necessarily indicate poor writing. However, it’s important to recognize that not all potential readers will be as forgiving. With the market being highly competitive, every aspect of your work must be impeccable, including the book cover, which is often the first thing potential readers see.
What are the most common mistakes when designing a book cover? Having been both a reader and a writer, I have experienced both perspectives. It’s easy to be sympathetic when you know that some authors don’t have control over their covers or are unaware of the avoidable mistakes they might make. Therefore, in this article, I’ll highlight some common mistakes I’ve noticed on book covers and guide how to avoid them. Let’s get started!
1. Making a Book Cover Unsuitable for Your Genre
To attract your target audience, your book cover must be appealing to them. This may sound simple, but I recently spoke to a friend who was concerned that her book cover didn’t resonate with the right audience. Despite the cover being visually stunning, it failed to convey what the book was about at first glance.
It’s important to understand that genre-specific book covers often adopt specific trends and characteristics over time. I’m not suggesting you should always follow these trends, but it’s crucial to recognize their existence and the fact that readers are accustomed to them. Failing to align your book cover with its genre may cause you to lose potential readers who expect a certain look for that genre.
For example, take a look at this book cover design.
It features an illustration of a child with different sea animals. I found it adorable, and what’s even more important, it shows me what the book is about and what the target audience is. It’s a book for children, and the book cover captures it perfectly.
2. Overloading the Cover with Different Elements
Sadly, I made this mistake the first time I tried to design a book cover.
The thing is, I believed that as long as the design looked what I considered to be good, I would be fine. However, what looked like a decent design to me at first glance, it looked like a completely different thing for my friend.
When my friend took a look at it, he didn’t understand the design at all! What’s worse, he didn’t understand some of the elements on the cover because they were things that only I knew as the writer.
A well-designed book cover should strike a balance and feature a focal point that captures the viewer’s attention. However, I also have come across book cover designs that ignore this principle. Some inexperienced designers mistakenly believe that adding numerous elements will better represent the book, but this approach only confuses the viewer.
It’s essential to consider that potential readers might see the cover on smaller screens, such as phones or computers. Therefore, the elements on the cover should be easily understandable even in smaller sizes.
So, how do you avoid this mistake? You can show your main character in a specific scene and, in the background, show little details of what we will see in the book.
For example, look at this book cover design. Without a second thought, it’s a science fiction book. Did you see the flying cars in the background? That’s my favorite part.
One of the reasons why this book cover doesn’t look messy is because the elements are at different depths. In this book cover, we see a specific character as the main focus, attracting the attention of whoever sees this design.
3. Choosing an Inappropriate Font
Just as the main image of your book cover should hint at its genre, the typography should follow suit. This mistake is less common but still occurs frequently. Using a plain or mismatched font can make the cover appear unprofessional. For example, having the author’s name in Arial on the cover is not ideal.
Different genres often have specific font styles associated with them. If the font on your book cover doesn’t feel right, it might be too basic or not commonly used in your genre. Reviewing other covers within your genre can provide insights into popular typefaces that align with the genre’s aesthetics.
So, what would be an appropriate font? In particular, I like the following example.
The gold tones and the fire coming out of the first and last letter in the word Dragons are a nice extra that adds brilliance to this book cover.
4. Low Image Quality
When designing a book cover, images are often resized, enlarged, or cropped. To ensure the final result maintains good quality, it’s crucial to start with high-quality images. Unfortunately, I have come across book covers where the images appear blurry or indistinguishable. In some cases, one element within the cover may be of low quality while the rest appears fine.
Additionally, book covers must meet specific dimensions to display correctly. Failing to adhere to these dimensions may result in stretched images and further loss of quality. A skilled designer understands the necessary dimensions for e-books, hardcovers, and paperbacks.
The book covers I’ve shown previously are good examples of good-quality images. Still, I wanted to show you another one.
True to the title of the book, this cover depicts two characters close to each other. What I like most about this book cover are the details in the folds and creases of their clothing.
It is one of my favorite covers to exemplify good image quality.
5. Using too Many Colors
Avoid using an excessive number of unrelated colors on your book cover. One common mistake made by novice designers is neglecting to use a cohesive color palette. Some of my favorite book covers maintain consistency by following specific color schemes throughout their composition.
The next time you come across a book cover that doesn’t appeal to you, ask yourself: Do the colors work well together? Do they adhere to a consistent palette, or do they appear disorganized? Sometimes the design may be fitting, but the choice of colors doesn’t bring out its best features. While there is a trend of using vibrant colors in illustrated book covers, these covers often adhere to color theory principles to create visual harmony.
Alice in Marshland is a good example of how to avoid this mistake, as its entire composition shows us elements ranging from green to yellow and brown. It is an incredible work that benefits from following a specific color palette.
6. Believing that Readability is Not Important
I have discussed image quality, printing, and design elements. While these elements are crucial for conveying emotions and capturing the essence of the book, they become meaningless if they are not understood.
Blurred images, font colors that clash with the background, or small lettering can all contribute to a lack of comprehension. Readers will not be inclined to pick up a book if even the cover fails to convey a clear message.
Designers should strive to make the viewing experience easier, not more challenging.
7. Not Hiring a Professional Designer
Designing a book cover from scratch is more challenging than it may seem. One common mistake authors make when considering publishing their books is believing they should handle everything themselves. Although it may sound appealing, taking on all aspects of the publishing process can lead to burnout.
Ideally, specialists in various areas, such as design, marketing, and editing, should assist the author. Designing a cover involves adhering to specific standards, and it requires experience and expertise. Hiring a professional designer who understands these standards can ensure your book cover achieves harmony and resonates with potential readers.
Designing a book cover is a task that demands time, effort, and ideally, the expertise of a professional designer. However, understanding the most common mistakes in book cover design will empower you to create a cover that captivates your potential readers.
Using too many colors, low image quality, and overloading the cover are mistakes that can cost you potential readers in the long run. If you’re worried that your book cover is guilty of these mistakes, the next step is hiring a professional designer to help you with your book cover.
Happy writing, fellow writers!