Never judge a book by it’s cover

It never ceases to amaze me how we make snap decisions about other people based on their clothes, looks and accents, among other things. But we do. Based on stereotyping, our experiences and how we have coded these into our non-conscious minds, we leap to an opinion in less time than it takes to snap our fingers.

I can remember years ago, wearing my favourite leopard print dress (from Paradise Garage a punk clothes shop in Cardiff) on a special night out. Feeling rather lovely and unusually wearing high heels, I was approached by a scruffy man, who looked me up and down and said ‘nice dress, shame about the face’.

This was devastating for my young 20 something ears. The dress had cost me £20 (I still have the receipt, no I don’t know why!) which was expensive (for me) back then. Because that evening was important, I made an investment in looking the best that I could for my night out.

Had he bothered to get to know me and what I was like on the inside, maybe he wouldn’t have been so rude. Who knows, perhaps he was simply a rude git who gets off on saying nasty things to make himself look good.

When it comes to book covers, we also make snap decisions about whether to buy the book or not. I know I do. When I see a cover that looks home made and you can usually tell that they are. My instinct is to not want to read the book. This could mean, of course, that I miss reading what could potentially be a great book.

The reason publishers spend so much time and thought on the cover is because it is a highly competitive business and they want their book to sell.

That’s what fantastic covers do – they help sell books.

With the increase in self-publishing, more and more people are writing and publishing books. Knowing that they have put their heart and soul into their creations, on one hand pleases me immensely, because writing a book is not easy. Then on the other hand I feel disappointed when they haven’t put much thought into the outside.

For the self-published author a cover need not cost much. I for example use a wonderful artist on Fiverr. My experience of Fiverr hasn’t always been great, but now I have found her and I love her style, I am staying. At approx $55 per cover it wont break the bank and it gives me a consistent look and feel.

Despite having graphics packages and being capable of a passable design, I know that I am not a designer, I am a writer. It is my belief that things like cover design, like proof reading must be carried out by a professional.

What about you? Think for a moment why and how you buy books. I typically buy something that :-

  • Has been recommended
  • Is by a favourite author
  • Catches my eye, because the cover is well designed

How to get a great cover design, that wont break your bank account

  1. Gather together book covers that you like and analyse them. Also look at covers you don’t like and consider what you do not like. Remember that the covers that you like, have very probably been professionally designed. So guess what – you are already tapping into amazing creativity.

  2. Make a list of what you like and ask what do these elements convey. Also consider what the whole cover conveys. You might not have any idea what you want your cover to look like right now, but you may with the help of these covers be able to articulate what you want yours to convey.

  3. Do the 30 to 8 exercise. Put 30 words about your book onto post it notes, then whittle them down to 8 which portray the essence of your book.

  4. Using your 8 words write up 2-3 sentences to describe your book.

Write up your cover specification and include things like:-

  • What is your book about
  • Who is your ideal reader
  • What do you want your reader to feel as they it
  • The blurb – that’s the stuff on the back
  • Include the images you like and state why you like them
  • What about colours – what colours would you like to use
  • Be bold and tell your designer what it must include and that it must, must stand out
  • Include book covers you want them to model if possible


  • Ask for recommendations
  • Find out who designed your favourite cover and get a quote,
  • Head over to Fiverr or Elance and look until you find someones work you admire
  • Try 99designs and get a whole bunch of designers to take part in a design competition

Above all do not (unless you are a designer) design your own cover.

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