Judging a Self-Published Book by Its Cover

It’s easy to spot a self-published book by its cover because it sucks. Seriously.

I’m not referring to all self-published books in general by the way since there are some that look so awesome you’d think they were published traditionally. But more often than not, most self-published books out there look amateurish. Even comedic at times. No offense.

I do understand of course that what matters the most is the content of the book. Readers will surely spend more time with the interior pages rather than the cover, but as cruel as this may sound, the saying “Don’t judge the book by its cover,” doesn’t apply to each and every one of us. Yours truly included.

It may have to do with the fact that I’m inclined to art and I appreciate things that are properly designed. But then again, I know a lot of bookworms who practically ignore a book (even traditionally published ones) just because they hated the cover.

To help you understand where I’m coming from, below are some of the characteristics I have observed from a typical self-published books with awful book covers.

Generic Fonts

Comic Sans, Arial, Bank Gothic, Papyrus and even Chiller. Somehow, these fonts have become default selections for self-published books.

Bad Color Combinations

Using a shocking color for your title text along with an equally shocking, not to mention eye inducing pain for a background color may make heads turn, but that’s all. Unless you have a really interesting blurb on your back cover, don’t expect people to purchase your book, let alone pick it up.

Misuse of Stock Photos

Most DIY self-published authors use stock photos for their book covers and there’s nothing wrong with that. I personally do it and I do the same for my clients. It’s easy and it saves us time and money compared to hiring a model/photographer to do the work for us. But then again, with lots of affordable stock photos out there, we need to be smart in choosing the right ones for our book.

Don’t use a photo just because it looks beautiful. Make sure it’s related to the theme of your story or to the characters, most especially the main character as much as possible.

Too Much Photoshop

You know how to use Photoshop? That’s great. Now, for the sake of all things holy, please observe the following:

• Don’t use too much drop shadows.

• Don’t use too much custom brushes. In fact, stop using too much effects and stop showing off that you know how to use them. Remember, less is more!

No Photo

Though this may work on some books, you better have a good reason to do so. At least play around with the layout of your text to make it interesting.

That being said, here are two simple tips that can help you come out with a book cover that does not scream “self-published” all over the place.

  1. Keep it simple. Avoid fonts that are too fancy. You want people to read your book’s title whether they happen to pass by or when they’re scrolling down their monitor/gadget (for eBooks). Choose a font that’s easy to read. And again, no shocking colors.
  2. When using stock photos, don’t just paste it along with your book title and your name. Play around with the layout. The title doesn’t have to be placed right in the middle of the cover. Why not try putting it a little to the left? Perhaps play around with the letter spacing as well.

Look at your favorite books, especially those with nice book covers that grabbed your attention and observe the following:

• Font selection. (Is it all caps? What’s the color used?)

• Image/illustration. Does it make sense with the story?

• Layout. Where is the author’s name? On top or at the bottom? Why do you think it was put there?

If you’re really serious about self-publishing, I strongly advice on investing in a beautiful book cover. You can always hire a professional or use templates (not really recommended unless you’re on a tight budget though).

With the sudden boom of eBooks, the number of published books rises every single day. And since your book cover will also be the face of your book, it is very important to attract potential buyers in checking out your book. I mean, do you want to present your creation screaming “I’m a newbie” all over the place? I guess not.

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