Warning to ebook authors who do not put effort into book covers…

… no matter how brilliant your book content is, it will not sell!

Sorry for shouting (virtually), but I am sick and tired of seeing bad book covers.

Book CoversWhy? It is not because they hurt my eyes. It is because it means there are countless potential literary masterpieces out there that will never get the recognition and appreciation they and their authors deserve.

Disclosure: If you click a link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission.

What do I consider a ‘bad’ book cover?

Okay, so I am not going to provide examples of actual book covers, because that would just be mean. And, you can easily find countless examples on display in the 99 cents price bracket on Amazon, etc.

For me, a bad book cover is one that looks cheap and unloved, one that has had little thought or effort put into its creation. Tell tale signs are:

– the use of default font types

– lack of interaction between the image and text, e.g. picture in the centre of the rectangle with text squished at the top and or bottom

– raw photo imagery

– garish colour choices, too much text

– thin black borders around the entire cover, picture or text boxes

The psychology of a book buyer

When faced with any choice in life, we use all the information at our disposal to distinguish between competing offers. Readers are not being superficial when judging a book by its cover – we are simply using all information available to us.

When I see a cheap looking or unloved book cover image, questions that come to my mind are:

If the author/publisher could not be bothered spending time and energy creating a good cover, why should I spend my $$ or time on the book?

If little care or attention to detail has been paid to the cover, can the same be said of the text within?

Think I’m being superficial or overly judgemental? Answer the following question honestly.

When you see a person driving a car that has multiple scratches and or dents in it, don’t you make the assumption that person must be a careless driver (and give them a wide berth)?

But graphic design costs money

Firstly, something ‘looking cheap’ does not necessarily mean it was inexpensive, and most importantly and fortunately, the converse is also true.

Book Questions

While we may not all be endowed with an eye for design or aesthetic sensibilities, there is a high chance we know someone who is. Or at the very least we can ask ourselves or those we can trust to give us an honest opinion,

‘Would this cover art look out of place in the prime position of a bookstore display?’

If the answer is YES, then take the time to do a bit of research and look at the characteristics of the cover art on popular book titles and see how your cover can be improved.

After that, if you do not feel you have the ability to design your own store quality book cover, these days there are plenty of under-employed technically savvy and creative types who would be appreciative of the opportunity to have their work on public display. Does a college near you offer courses in graphic design or marketing – would they be interested in a class project?

If you think outside the square, there should be inexpensive ways to get yourself a quality cover for your book.

So, to all the talented and hard working authors out there, I urge you to heed this warning…

First impressions do count.

When going to a job interview you would not just wear any old clothes from your wardrobe and neglect to wash your hair. You would spend time on your appearance and choose your outfit carefully so that it reflects either your individual personality or conveys your suitability for the role you are applying for.

When uploading a cover image for your ebook, please consider how well it will represents the product you are selling to your target audience.

You are proud of your written content – make sure your book cover is something you can be equally proud of.

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  1. I completely agree with you. Some authors are letting friends or family members design their book covers when they should really be outsourcing to someone with established talent for cover design in the publishing industry. First impressions count and ‘crappy covers’ just scream self-published. If the author doesn’t want to invest money in a great cover, then why should I invest my time/money in their book?

    1. It is such a shame isn’t it. I don’t have issues with self-publication, just please make it look professional. These days there are so many talented graphic freelancers out there seeking opportunities to have their work on display. With a little thought and planning, the dollar investment really need not be exorbitant.

  2. Wonderful article. I’m so happy to see I’m not the only one who cares about covers. I’m a cover tragic, I judge books by their covers. Besides the bad/ugly covers, I’m also getting tired of the half naked men on covers of romance novels (my preferred escapist genre). To be honest, I’m no fan of models on covers, but those 6-8 pack torsos drive me crazy (not in the way I’m guessing they were intended to). I’m friendly with a few authors and I’ve heard they don’t have much input when it comes to covers and/or titles – which I think it’s ridiculous, which is probably why many covers look so similar, not to mention the titles … better not start on the titles…

    1. Oh yes, me too. Too much flesh on a cover is a complete turn off, rather than the lure obviously intended.
      Given the growing trend of publishers placing so much of the promotional burden back on authors, it only seems fair that authors concerns about cover art are given greater weight.

  3. The problem is that big publishers frequently do not allow authors to have any say in the covers, Joanne. A friend of mine wrote a book about a couple in their late 30s. When it came out, the woman on the cover was fine but the bloke looked about 18. She was furious but couldn’t do anything about it.

    1. Yes, I understand that does happen, and really feel for authors when it does. I would be so distraught if it were my hard work and then I had no input into how it was represented. Comes down to the terms of the publishing contract, I guess…

  4. There are definitely some shocking covers out there, and not just in the self published market. Most of the time the cover is the first impression we get, so it is definitely important.

  5. It’s true (and unfortunately if you think of the “don’t judge by cover” idea), but books do need to be visually appealing to stand out. And readers can tell a self-published book from this, often – though not always and less so as time goes on. But we’re not there yet.

  6. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to covers until I started blogging but I have to agree with you. It’s worth taking the time to create professional looking covers and really not as difficult as some people make it seem!

    1. I know Shelleyrae, it really is not as hard as people might think. With only moderate effort even I have been able to come up with some fairly decent (i.m.o.) looking images for use on my blog (challenge buttons etc) using only ‘free’ or inexpensive clip art, and standard Paint and Microsoft Word software.

  7. It’s only natural that the potential buyer looks at the cover first. Before I published my two books, I went into an Angus & Robertson’s store, and consulted the manager who then took us around the crime book shelves, pointing out good and bad covers. The bad covers were the ones which had so many colours on them that they were hard to decipher. The other end of the spectrum had barely anything on them, so they were just as bad! Hopefully, I hit the right note :)

      1. I am so happy with my covers and we made sure that each has the same font and colour title, uncluttered on the back for the synopsis and the printing on the back and the spine are the same prominent colour as the cover – green for the first one and blue for the second!

  8. I agree, I always judge a book by its cover, maybe not the smartest move because I am probably missing out on a lot of really good books, but with the choices available – on Amazon for instance – I will scroll down until I find a cover and title that appeals to me, and that is probably the book i will buy. Covers and titles are vital. Great post :)

    1. Thanks Rosemary. I hope this advice is helpful to authors. After spending so much time writing a book it seems a shame to not give it the greatest chance of being a success.