Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Why Book Covers are So Important

by Shanna Hatfield 

Many scoff at that adage of not judging a book by its cover, but the harsh truth is that people judge books by their covers every minute of every day.

That’s why it is so, so important for book covers to stand out from the crowd – in a good way.

First, let me state that I am not an expert on book covers. Not at all.

However, I have learned a few things in the last two years of self-publishing about book covers and thought I’d share them with you today.

Your book cover should provide, at a glance, some hint about your story. People should be able to look at your cover and see a tiny preview into the book.

If you’re writing a flowery romance that’s all sunshine and roses, you wouldn’t slap a photo of death and destruction on the cover. Likewise, if your book is a dark, suspense thriller, you wouldn’t make the cover all happy and cheery. Your cover should set the tone for the book. Similarly, it’s helpful if your cover image reflects the content of your book.

If your book is set in the mid-1800s in a western town, you wouldn’t put a photo of a skyscraper on the cover. The image should allude to the story.

The next step is one I think many people forget to take into consideration when they are choosing a book cover. Picture your cover the size of a postage stamp. That is close to the size your book appears in on-line retailers. Can readers clearly see the image? The title? Your name?

While a cover may look great filling your computer screen at full resolution, when you get it down to that tiny little size, it may lose all the important detail.

It is tempting for authors just getting started to cut costs by slapping together something for a cover. Resist that urge with every fiber of your being. If you don’t have graphic design skills or resources, hire someone who does to design your cover. You want your book cover to look professional and polished.

Avoid purchasing a popular pre-made book cover. I’ve noticed, especially during the holiday season,
you can easily find the same cover on a dozen different books in a quick look through online offerings. When a reader is browsing through sea of identical covers, there’s a strong chance they won’t choose any of the books. Stand out from the crowd with something unique. There are many talented graphic artists working for reasonable fees.

You absolutely want your book cover to be an original. Invest time, funds, or effort into making it the very best cover possible.

Your book deserves it and so do you.

Shanna Hatfield is a hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure. In addition to blogging, eating too much chocolate, and being smitten with Captain Cavedweller, she writes clean romantic fiction with a healthy dose of humor. She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America. Find Shanna’s books and follow her online: ShannaHatfield


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for hosting me today!

Mama Hen said...

I've been working on cover design the last couple days, so appreciate this post. I especially like your point about remembering that many consumers will first see the book on-line, and to make sure the cover is suitable to that format.

C.M. Mayo said...

Shanna, Oh, you are so right, readers do judge books by their cover. And I think, like a frame on a fine painting, it can make all the difference. Oe maybe another way to see it: serving a sandwich on a paperplate vs on fine china.

A couple of resources: The Chip Kidd online class in designing book covers at is very good (he's considered one of the best book deisgners in the business) and very reasonably priced.

An incredible variety of high res images are available for purchase at

Freelance book cover designers can be found at

On some of my books I have high res images of paintings-- with permission from the artist, of course.

You can also request permission to use museum paintings-- sometimes the fee is reasonable.

Oh, and fonts. That's a whole 'nuther blog post.

Carmen Peone said...

Not only the front cover, but the back also. A person with decide in a matter of seconds if they are going to read your its cover. Great job, Shanna. Thank you.

Linda Broday said...

Very interesting. I certainly have had a learning curve with my first three published books that I self-pubbed again as e-books two years ago. The first set of covers where awful. Wish I'd known back then how they'd look when reduced down to the size of a postage stamp. Couldn't read them at all. I smartened up last year and had new covers professionally designed and the books have sold so much better. I love them. There are tons of horrible covers floating around. It helps to do your homework and get professional help. It pays off in the long run.

Sarah Pearce said...

I've heard a wide range of advice about book covers. The cover should convey the tone of the book, I agree. Many of the covers I see on goodreads and Amazon look awfully similar, though. Dark backgrounds with one large image...usually a character featured predominately. Since my book, The Promise of Fate, has several characters, I can't really pick a character. So I picked the setting: a mining town. I like the cover! It may not jump out at you...but it tells you where the story is going to take place. My cover was critiqued by a fairly successful writer and he suggested that it needed to be "sexier". Yikes! He also said that "you may LOVE the cover but that doesn't mean it's going to sell a book."I'm working on my next book and am really grappling with the ideas for covers.