How to Avoid Amateurish Book Covers


1106 Design

July 08, 2013

Author-designed book covers usually stand out, but for the wrong reasons. How do these covers end up looking so amateurish, even when a professional designer was involved? While I’m not a betting person, I would wager that they fell into one or more of the following traps:

  1. A general graphic designer was hired rather than a book designer. Book designers specialize in book covers and interiors, which are very different from ads and annual reports. Likewise, book designers might have trouble designing what other designers do successfully!
  2. Family and friends weighed in with their opinions. Authors tend to listen to family and friends over the advice of book designers. However, specialists know what book buyers like. Family and friends know what you like, and will tell you whatever you want to hear.
  3. The cover photo was taken by an amateur photographer. Professionally-photographed images are properly framed and of the utmost quality. Your book designer is the best person to help you choose a photo that is relevant to your topic and genre.
  4. They used fonts from a desktop publishing program. Book designers have invested heavily in stand-out fonts not available with typical desktop publishing or word processing software, and the difference is evident in quality and uniqueness.

Below are some before and after images of cover makeovers, which contrast what can happen when an author designs their own cover and the difference a professional designer can make.



The uninspiring font used across the board screams “template.” The photo says nothing about the book – that it’s set in an Italian vineyard, complete with scandal and spirited family relationships!


ImperfectPairings-AfterThe clever title and images tell the buyer that they are in for an enjoyable excursion.



The title font is small and dull, and the subtitle is too small to read. The cover image is confusing: what does it have to do with canaries and coalmines, and why are seagulls attacking this woman?



The new title and the stark images intrigue the reader and hint at the topic.



The cover of this best seller needed a makeover. The fonts and colors were dated and the black type on the red background is difficult to read.



The new layout uses modern fonts and is elegant and contemporary. “BEST” in large type draws the eye, and the book’s promise to the reader is framed in gold.

Book designers want to help you create a book that gets noticed…and sold!






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