Common Book Cover Design Mistakes: Part 1

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1106 Design

May 11, 2010

Long ago, someone said “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” This is especially true in cover design. All of the Top 3 Cover Design Mistakes can actually be grouped under one category: creating a book that looks self-published.

Self-publishing can be a personally rewarding and exciting endeavor. The problem is, you don’t want your book to LOOK self-published. If it does, then reviewers, retailers and buyers will pass it by, and your content will remain undiscovered.

Cover Design Mistake #1: Creating a cover in isolation. This mistake occurs when authors, and sometimes designers, begin the cover design process by focusing on what they “like”. This can be a favorite font, a color, a graphic…almost any aspect of the cover design.

The problem with this approach is that it’s really risky. What you’re doing, in essence, is creating a product, presenting it to the market, and hoping that the market agrees with you. What if they don’t? Now you have a book cover that isn’t selling your book.

It’s much safer to begin the design process by learning what buyers want, and then giving it to them. Fortunately it’s easy to find out what buyers want; all we have to do is look at what they are buying.

If you start the design process at Amazon.com and click on Bestsellers and New York Times Bestsellers, you’ll find the types of book cover design in your genre that people are buying now. Not only buying, but buying in great numbers.

When you look at these books, you’ll begin to see patterns. You may find, for instance, that the current trend is to use muted colors, rather than bright colors. You may find that other books in your category are primarily typographic, or primarily photographic. You may find that the current trend is simple and stark design, rather than ornate and busy. You may find more than one pattern.

Whatever you find, you’ll be certain that a lot of other people have responded favorably to it, and you can use this knowledge to guide the design of your own book cover.

Compare the self-published book at left to the bestseller beside it. See the difference?

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The book at left is is evidently a cookbook, but no effort has been made to show….drum roll, please…FOOD. Even if the chef depicted on the front cover is well-known, surrounding his picture with a dark shadow does nothing to bring out his portrait.  Showing his full figure, in fact, makes it less likely that we’ll focus on his face. The solid yellow background communicates nothing. The designer of this cover missed the point entirely. When buyers look for a cookbook, they want abundant, delicious food and the instructions on how to prepare it.

By contrast, the book at left makes full use of color, type and imagery to communicate the subject matter of the book, even before the viewer has had a chance to fully interpret it. The flag in the background, the red, white, and blue type instantly tell the viewer that this book is about America.  The author of this book is very well known. Since he is the “product”, his image is prominent. In this cover, all the elements work together to create a powerful, unified image and message.

By emulating the look of bestsellers, you’ll give your book instant credibility. You’ll tell the buyer that it’s safe to take a chance on an unknown author, and you’ll give your book the very best chance to sell.

Is your cover free of the Top 10 Cover Design Mistakes? Find out at our cover design service..

Need cover design help? Check out our portfolio at the links above and contact us today using the Contact Us page.

Michele DeFilippo, owner, 1106 Design

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