10 Tips to Help Banish the "Self-Published Cover"

We have all seen a book cover at some point in our Amazon browsing that has made us go,

"Oh dear.  That needs a new cover."  (Or dubbed it a "self-published cover".)

(Please note that I am not bashing self-published books.  Some of my favorite books are self-published.  I am simply using a connotation commonly associated with bad book covers.)

And so we scroll past without even looking at the summary.  People say to not judge a book by its cover, but they do it anyways.


The book cover is the first impression.  If it is appealing to the eye, it will attract people to the second impression: the summary.

1. Perfect typography is key.

One of the elements that can make or break a cover is the positioning and font of the wording.  Think of it as word art.

1. Look to the professionals for inspiration.

2. Pick a font that is bold, readable, and goes with your genre.  (A fantastic place to look is dafont.com.)

3. Find the perfect positioning for your font.

4. Typography is an art!  

Mess around and try something unconventional!  Here are some great photoshop typography tutorials: http://design.tutsplus.com/categories/text-effects

5. Keep it readable.

Let's take a look at some examples.

This is a great example!  The text goes
with the color palette, is easy to read, and
is bold enough to be the first thing that jumps
out at you.
On this cover, the first thing we see is "Choosing".
The letters are easy to read.  The positioning is good
 too, as it helps "tell the story".  The main character must
choose between the life presented at the top of
the cover, and the life presented on the bottom.
(Just a warning, I have not read this book or know its contents.)
This is an example of a book cover that is all typography.  Honestly,
 I love these type of book covers.  Their simplicity is unmatched.
Anyway, notice how the font is readable, varied
yet the same, and interlocks perfectly.
The title is bold, readable, and
even has some character to it.

2. Less is more.

Have you ever looked at a book cover and thought that it was way too busy?  That's what you don't want to happen.  Believe me, simplicity is best.  (And right now, simple covers are what are "in".)

If you Google "best book covers of 2015", you will find that all of them have a sense of simplicity about them.

Here is a fantastic example of a simple, yet beautiful book cover: (Disclaimer: I have never read this book or know what it is about.  I simply like the cover.)

Simply having a solid colored background is a good place to start with this, depending on the style of your book cover.

3. Have a color palette.

Make sure the colors on your cover go together.

4. The cover doesn't have to be a beautiful painting.

I know we all love those beautifully illustrated covers where the characters come to life.  But we are not all painters.

5. Get a second (or third) opinion.

I don't know about you, but when I first create something, I think it is amazing and perfect.  Then I send it to someone...and they don't like it nearly a much.  This helps me realize my mistakes and how I can improve my work.  Opinions are invaluable.

6. You might not get it right the first time.

A lot of times, it takes me a few tries before I come up with a design I actually like.  Then it takes me more time to perfect that idea.  (This is true for professionals as well.)

7. Make the cover intriguing.

The job of the book cover is to make the reader want to know more.  Make sure you leave some mystery.  :)

8. Know your limitations.

Not everyone can photoshop a person onto another background and make it look realistic.  And that's okay.  Try another style of cover.  Have you considered a cover where the typography is the star of the show?  What about finding another image?

9. Don't settle for decent.

If you have been working on a cover for a long time and it still isn't right, KEEP WORKING.  Look for more inspiration.  Ask someone for help.  Maybe you could hire a professional cover designer.

10. Find inspiration.

There is no set way to make a book cover.  As this is true, the best way to learn the art of making book covers is by studying professionally made book covers.  Many times when I am ready to make a book cover, I will search for book covers and pick out what I like and don't like.  From this, I will get a pretty good idea in my head of what it should look like.

Bonus: For more tips on making book covers, this is a fantastic post written by Canva.


What do you think makes a good book cover?  Are there any other tips you would add to this list?


  1. Thanks for this post, Alea! I think a BIG thing (which you mentioned) is showing the cover to other people and asking for their opinions. That helps a lot. ;)

    I personally do not like all type covers. I think (unless done really well) they usually tend to look plain and un-professional. *shrugs* That's just me. The example you showed worked well though.

    It's also super important to look at books in your genre!!! If I make my historical-fiction book with a sci-fi cover, it won't work at all. =) Studying different types of covers is fun too! =)

    Thanks for the great post, and especially those handy links!! ;)

    1. Definitely. :) I also think it's important for those people to be completely honest and be willing to provide constructive criticism.

      I actually really like type covers...as long as they are very well done.

      I think that is important, but I think that the cover should go more with the feel of the particular book rather than with the genre.

      I'm glad I could help! :)

  2. Great post! It was fun to read the post and then look at your cover to see how you worked your tips in. :) And I loved every one of the covers you showed as an example. :)

  3. Less is more... very true. Clutter can look AWFUL.

    Wonderful post!

    1. Simple covers are some of my favorites. :)

      Thank you!

  4. Great post! The cover needs to be good so that people want to have the book on their shelves, I do not buy books with covers I don't like because I want my shelves to look pretty!

    1. Ahh, yes. :) Pretty bookshelves are the best!

  5. Very useful tips. I must admit that one of my favourite books ever has a cover that doesn't appeal to me. It really does have that self-published look to it and that annoys me, because I think the book deserves better. It is fairly simple and clear I must admit, but...

    1. Thank you, Anna! I think I know which cover you are talking about... I agree with you on that. It deserves so much better!

  6. This post is exactly what I needed! I'm in the middle of trying to figure out what my book's cover should look like. And it is going to be self-published so avoiding that icky, cliche look is my goal!

    1. Well, I'm glad I could help! Good luck with making your cover! I am excited to see it when it is revealed! :)

  7. *comes along three days later* Yaaas! if they're too busy, it's hard.

    1. :) I always look forward to new comments! No shame in being late.

      Agreed. :)

  8. Great post, Alea!! These are lots of good tips. I've tried making a mock cover for the story that I am writing, and I can definitely find ways to improve it by reading this! Thanks for posting!

    1. Thanks, Ariel! Good luck with your cover! I'm sure it will be awesome!

  9. I loved this post, Alea! I love trying to make mock covers for my books ... but they never seem to turn out right :D. I'll definitely being using your tips next time!

    1. Thank you, Savannah. :) I love making mock covers too. Good luck making covers!


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