7 Mistakes Indie Authors Make Designing Their Book Cover

This is a guest post by Kari Anders, the designer behind Free eBook Covers. Learn about the seven most common mistakes indie authors make when designing their book covers.


As self-publishing becomes more and more prevalent, I’ve noticed a trend in authors working to stand out from the crowd by professionally self-publishing. Authors of all experience levels are hiring teams of freelancers to edit and design their manuscript to prepare it for sale. This creates a unique marketplace where self-published and published works are often undistinguishable, and gives readers a wider (and less expensive) range of books to read.

However, not all self-published authors can afford to hire a team of freelancers to help sell their work. It becomes a chicken and egg problem. If the author cannot hire professionals, it’s likely their work will not sell as well, and therefore they will not earn enough to justify those costs. So many authors are choosing the do-it-yourself option of publishing. If you are self-publishing and planning on designing your own book cover, take a look at the seven most common mistakes I see from Indie authors:

Mistake #1: Using Text Overlays

I would classify this mistake as lazy design. When selecting an image, you should keep in mind possible arrangements for text placement. Not all great images will work as book covers. However, a classic mistake I see being made is where there is plenty of room on the image for text, yet the author creates an overlay instead. This causes the eye to gravitate towards the text and not look at the cover as a whole. A book cover is intended to sell your product, and you will only have a few seconds to draw a reader in before they flip to another book. You want the readers attention on the image first, not on the text (unless you are Stephen King and your name sells books).

These two book covers are great examples of the above mistake. There is so much room above the man in the first image to display the title, and here the overlay completely hides the image. The second one could have text split between the top and bottom of the image, and with the right color choices, would have stood out well on the darker image.

Mistake #2: Too Large of Font

It’s tempting to fall into this mistake when designing your own book cover, especially if you are picturing your title as a thumbnail image. The bigger the text, the more its readable, right? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Text that is too large or disjointed from the cover can require the eye to read it one letter at a time, requiring more processing time to take in the image. Cover art is meant to encapsulate the entire mood of the book; the specific text is less relevant. Avoid the desire to fill up blank space and your final product will look more complete.

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I actually really like this cover, and separate from the oversized font, it has a lot going for it. However, if the font was smaller and closer together it would read more powerfully. Here is just feels like four different words and not a book title.

Mistake #3: Unreadable Text or Images

Some authors try to get fancy with text placement or typography choices, and this ends up look amateurish and difficult to read. If the eye needs to sit on an image or text too long to decipher what it says, it will move on. You want to make sure you are answering the following questions on your book cover: What is this book about? What genre does it fall into? Am I the target audience? What’s it called? If your cover can’t do that is 5 seconds, you need to go back to the drawing board.

The title of the first cover is difficult to read, the typography choice, color and placement all lead to a poor design. On the second design, I have to really think about what the image is supposed to be and I am still not sure. Is that a snake in front of a pyramid?

Mistake #4: Subtitle Placement

Oh the awkward subtitle. First of all, I rarely see subtitles at all on professionally published books. So, if you are considering adding a subtitle, rethink that idea all together. If you must have it on your cover, it should be placed less conspicuously than the main title. The subtitle should be something you have to seek out to read. The main things our brain should take in first are the image(s), and the title. The rest will come secondary if we like the cover enough to stay.

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Oh and that colon is the worst.

Mistake #5: Ignoring Genre

Self-published authors are so worried they are one of many fish in the sea they have an innate desire to try to stand out. Unfortunately, this isn’t what readers want. If I am a reader looking for a erotic romance novel with vampires, then I am going to scroll through listings and descriptions until I find what I’m looking for. Being unqiue doesn’t make a book stand out, instead, it confuses readers. And confused readers don’t by. You can intrigue your audience while still being obvious about what your book is about and what genre it fits into. Before you look at designing your own cover, look at comparable books in the genre. Make sure your cover is fits in with similar well-known books so your book can find its audience.

The first cover gives me no indication of what the book is about. Reading the description, the book sounds very interesting. It’s about a woman who inherits tickets to a cruise when a family member passes away. But it’s not just any cruise. Reservations were set years in advanced to sail to the Southern Hemisphere to see Halley’s Comet. Sounds very interesting. For the second cover, I would say this cover fits into the bio/memoir genre. Maybe. It appears to be an actual photo taken that has some significance on the story. However, this is a paranormal novel and nothing about the cover says novel or paranormal. Yes, the shack COULD be scary, but really it just looks sad.

Mistake #6: Hand-Drawn Images

These images scream self-published. Unless you wrote an illustrated children’s book, you should not have anything hand-drawn on the cover. If you are set on selecting something that is illustrated, there are hundreds of thousands of inexpensive stock illustrated images on iStock or Shutterstock to chose from, and they have been inspected for quality control.

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This cover just looks incomplete.

Mistake #7: Word Art Typography

The best typography for book cover design is to stick with simplicity. The text should blend into the cover not stand out from it. Avoid adding anything to the text that isn’t completely necessary to make it readable (i.e. shadows, titled text, or fancy coloring).

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The shadow/outline makes the text look cheap, and the tilt has me confused on what it what.

The best advice I can give to someone insistent on designing their own book cover is this: Look through Amazon at 100 covers for books similar to yours. Find a quality stock image that encompasses the mood of your story, and keep the text simple and similar to your genre. When in doubt, hire a designer or buy a Pre-made eBook Cover. There is a large selection on thousands of book covers on the web starting at around $40, and it will be one of the best investments you can make in your work.


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Kari Anders is a book cover designer who works mostly with self-published authors and small publishing houses. She worked in freelance design for six years before attending graduate school, and now teaches design and runs freeebookcovers.com. All of Kari’s covers are designed as CreateSpace Wraps for only $75, with the eBook version included for free. Her site specializes in Pre-Made Book Covers, but she also does interior design and custom covers.

 

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Book Review- The Travelers

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The Travelers by Chris Pavone
Published by Crown on March 8, 2016
Genres: International Mystery & Crime, Conspiracies
Pages: 448
Goodreads
Amazon

It’s 3:00am. Do you know where your husband is?

Meet Will Rhodes: travel writer, recently married, barely solvent, his idealism rapidly giving way to disillusionment and the worry that he’s living the wrong life. Then one night, on assignment for the award-winning Travelers magazine in the wine region of Argentina, a beautiful woman makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Soon Will’s bad choices—and dark secrets—take him across Europe, from a chateau in Bordeaux to a midnight raid on a Paris mansion, from a dive bar in Dublin to a mega-yacht in the Mediterranean and an isolated cabin perched on the rugged cliffs of Iceland. As he’s drawn further into a tangled web of international intrigue, it becomes clear that nothing about Will Rhodes was ever ordinary, that the network of deception ensnaring him is part of an immense and deadly conspiracy with terrifying global implications—and that the people closest to him may pose the greatest threat of all.

It’s 3:00am. Your husband has just become a spy.

The Travelers was intense; and even that is an understatement. Throughout the whole book there were layers upon layers of deception, secrets, and lies. Each chapter was more exciting than the last, making it harder and harder to put the book down.

The tense of the writing is one I have not come across before. It’s written as if all the events in the book are happening in real time. It took a while to get used to, but after the first couple chapters I stopped noticing.

One thing I loved about The Travelers is how perfectly it was planned out. There was so much happening to so many people in a single moment, yet I had no problems following the story line. It was incredibly written as well; only revealing the necessary information and hinting at facts not yet discovered.

Although it took a while to get into, The Travelers was a great read. It was enthralling and exciting; keeping me on the edge of my seat for its entirety.

I am going to give The Travelers four out of five hearts.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

*I was given this book by Blogging For Books for free in exchange for an honest review. This has not in any way influenced my views or opinions of the book.

Author Q&A- Caitlyn Duffy

Today a had the honor of interviewing the amazing Caitlyn Duffy! She has been one of my favorites for a long time, and her books are definitely worth reading- again and again and again.

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Q: When did you start writing?

A: I started writing as soon as I learned how to hold a pen! Really! I loved making little “books” out of construction paper and pencils even as a little kid. I probably first started writing more seriously in high school, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do professionally. I’m not going to lie – most of high school was pure misery for me – but I had this fantastic English teacher named Sonia Kallick who thought I had talent. Her encouragement made it seem like becoming a writer was a possibility.

 

Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?

A: Just about everything I write is based on personal experience, at least on an emotional experience. For example, my dad is not a rock star (he’s just about the furthest thing from a rock star: a nuclear engineer) but I created the character of Taylor when I was grieving the loss of someone close to me. Her journey is about making peace with your life when circumstances beyond your control change. I wouldn’t say that I have a muse, necessarily, but a lot of readers on Wattpad have inspired me to keep writing.

 

Q: Your series, Treadwell Academy, follows girls from the school and deals with serious issues such as abuse, anorexia, and the death of a parent. What challenges did you face writing about these subjects?

A: Each of the books is pretty different, so the challenges were different. For Emma’s story, which is about anorexia, I wanted to be very careful to keep the story from triggering a condition in a reader, and to prevent it from making an existing condition worse for any reader already struggling with an eating disorder. For Grace’s story, it was a challenge to both represent her religious faith authentically and still keep the story engaging for any readers who might not be religious at all. With Taylor and Betsey, both of those characters could be kind of bratty sometimes, so I wanted the reader to empathize with what they were enduring.

 

Q: Do you plan on continuing the stories of any of the Treadwell girls? Are there any more girls to come?

A: I have at least ten more books outlined, and I’m not kidding! It’s just a matter of finding the time to write them. People have been asking me to write a proper sequel to the Taylor book for four years, so that’s probably next. Others on the horizon would be about Juliette, whose father is convicted of running a lucrative Ponzi scheme; Paige, who struggles with alcoholism, and Stacy, who’s a lesbian in love with a girl at school who is struggling with her own sexuality (you might be able to guess who).

 

Q: When you wrote The Rock Stars Daughter, did you know there would be more Treadwell girls after Taylor?

A: Yes. I started writing an outline for the entire Treadwell world back in 2003! I knew that there would at least be a book about Allison, Taylor’s best friend, and that Chase Atwood would be one of the judges for the reality TV show on which Allison was competing (that book, Center Stage, is free on Wattpad right now.

 

Q: What books do you like to read? In your opinion, what makes a book good?

A: I think the best books are ones in which the main character undergoes some kind of change, and it’s a change that the reader truly emotionally feels. I read a lot, and my reading tastes are all over the board. I’m a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell, Stephen King, and Neil Gaiman. Margaret Atwood and Lois Lowry are probably my two all-time favorites. Margaret Atwood posts a lot of new, experimental material to Wattpad, which I think is the coolest thing ever. And I have always loved – and will always love – Judy Blume.

 

Q: Of all the characters you have created, which is most like you and why?

A: That’s a tough question! Probably Taylor, because although she’s highly opinionated and very self-sufficient, she’s also a little bit of a lost soul. Throughout her whole life, no one has ever really taken care of her, and when her father and stepmother take a genuine interest in her, she’s not sure what to make of it! I was very independent at a young age, so my relationship with my parents has always been kind of atypical. And Allison, too, because I very distinctly remember feeling like I was invisible in high school. Allison got kind of a bad rap in The Rock Star’s Daughter, but it’s a pretty natural reaction to feel jealous when someone you know is being showered with all of the things you want most in life for yourself.

 

Q: If you could go back to the beginning of your writing career, what advice would you give yourself?

A: To start publishing sooner. I was very caught up in the belief that you need a literary agent and a formal publishing deal with a major publisher to be a proper writer. Without having either of those, I wrote The Rock Star’s Daughter, and it was on the iTunes Children’s Top 10 list for about 2.5 years in four countries. I’ve received emails from readers all over the world about that book; it’s a story that’s made a difference in the lives of a very wide variety of readers (girls in Nigeria, UAE, Australia, I mean – everywhere, and of all ages)! That means more to me than anything else I’ve ever accomplished professionally, and if I’d waited for a literary agent and a big publisher to tell me that my writing was good enough, I’m pretty sure I’d still be waiting.

 

Q: If you had two hours to waste on anything, what would you do?

A: Either run on the treadmill while listening to Drake, or watch four back-to-back episodes of The Mindy Project on Hulu.

 

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: I would want young women to know they are capable of so, so much more than the culture surrounding them constantly tells them. We live in a world of ironies; we preach #girlpower in social media while still force-feeding young women relentless messaging implying that looking a certain way should be their biggest priority. That’s a load of crap. Appreciating how spectacularly unique you are, and making sure everyone you meet realizes that you’re amazing – that should be your biggest priority.

You can find Caitlyn Online:

Twitter

Wattpad

Blog