One of the ironies of being an author is that you are likely to need the help of an artist or graphic designer in order to sell your work. The reason for this is that readers do judge books by their covers and if the cover has been well-created they will have a lot of helpful information with which to do so. If your budget really doesn’t stretch to hiring a professional, then it is crucial to create the best cover you possible can and to avoid these five major errors.
Being Too Obvious
You may have crafted an intriguing murder-mystery with a stunning twist, but if the front cover shows a standard image of a gun or a knife covered in blood, potential readers are likely to assume that the content between the covers is equally hackneyed. Think about what it is that makes your creation fresh and have the cover focus on that.
Being Too Topical
While it’s great for a cover to reflect the period of a book, be very careful with topical allusions, particularly jokes. By their very nature, topical events date quickly and today’s pointed reference may be tomorrow’s cliché.
Using Royalty-Free Images
Low-cost image libraries have their uses and especially if you have a limited budget to work with. However they need to be approached with caution. If you are designing your own cover you should be willing to spend a lot of time searching for suitable images. Be careful that you don’t get tempted to use an image that has such a tenuous relationship with the content of your book that only you will appreciate the connection. Avoid having a pre-conceived idea of what your cover image should be unless you have the resources to stage the photography or pay for an artist to create the image from scratch. It’s also fair to say that an image which looks good to you probably also looks good to other authors. Leaving aside the fact that a cover should be as individual as your book, this also creates the risk of embarrassment by association. In other words, if you’ve created a feel-good romantic comedy, you don’t want to find yourself sharing a cover with a steamy, erotic novel.
Even some major creative agencies have come to grief with Photoshop. It certainly has its uses but professional designers know to resist the temptation to become over enthusiastic about it. A cover should show what is special about your book, not demonstrate that you’ve learned how to use masks and create composite images. By the same token, be careful with adding effects to text. It can work very well, but it can also make key information more difficult to read, which is a serious error.
Crowding The Space
The cover should make an immediate, meaningful impact. This means that less is often best. Leaving some neutral space on the cover allows the key points to stand out more clearly. A good test for an effective cover is if it works from a distance of a metre or so. In other words, if a person is walking past an aisle or browsing at speed through the internet, will it get their attention? Fine details and full-featured covers are likely to lose impact in this situation, whereas simpler covers can be more easily digested.