Book Cover Design “Strategies” You Should Avoid | Self-Publishing Relief

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At Self-Publishing Relief, we know the road to poor book sales is often paved with good intentions. Sometimes writers will choose cover art design strategies that should work—in theory—but might inadvertently steer potential buyers away from their books. Since many self-publishers feel illegitimate in the larger publishing industry, they blindly copy cover art design strategies used by well-known authors. But covers are not one-size-fits-all, and even beautiful, well-designed cover art can be a poor marketing decision.

5 Book Cover Design Traps Self-Published Writers Must Avoid

Beautiful cover art that looks great—but doesn’t represent the right genre. Many writers fall into the trap of using aesthetically pleasing images at the expense of suiting the tone and genre of the novels. While design elements like florals, pastel colors, and flowing fonts look pretty, they wouldn’t suit your murder mystery novel. And readers looking for a thriller or mystery know what books in that genre look like, so they’ll barely glance at your book.

Images that misrepresent the story. While sprawling fantasy landscapes make popular book covers, using these images for your book set in the streets of New York City will give readers the wrong impression. Some self-published authors make the mistake of choosing people and places that they think will sell their books, but don’t actually represent the content. While it is tempting to have a gorgeous model on your cover, this will create a disconnect for your reader if the main character is actually a haggard witch. When designing cover art based around a single character, a writer should capture that character’s true essence.

Review quotes from people who are not professional reviewers or bloggers. Does your mother love your book? Your spouse? Your best friend? We’re sure they do! However, it is not the best strategy to incorporate quotes from them on your cover, even if their reviews are glowing. While you may think that praise of your book from anyone can help market it to new readers, this can actually push readers away if they realize your featured reviews aren’t from reputable sources. Are you looking to get some legitimate reviews for your book? Read more here.

Having your name larger than the book title. James Patterson…Stephen King…these authors are big names in the publishing industry who are notorious for featuring their names in a larger print than their book titles. And let’s face it, they’ve earned the right. But while this strategy can boost sales for well-known authors, it doesn’t work as well for up-and-coming self-published authors. In fact, it could even detract from your marketability because your name does not have the same recognition factor. Thankfully, it is possible to build a big reputation as a self-published writer.

Stealing the exact same images or designs from another author’s cover. It’s a great strategy to check out other cover art design tactics from books in your genre to get a sense of the general themes authors tend to use. You want potential buyers to instantly recognize your book’s genre. But it’s a bad idea to take the exact same images or design elements from covers you love in an attempt to market your book. First, it will only serve to confuse your buyers—do you want them buying the other author’s book when they mean to buy yours? Second, imitation is not always flattery, and this is bad publishing etiquette that borders on plagiarism.

Remember, when designing your book cover, it’s important to consider content, genre, and who you are as an author so you don’t mislead readers about your book—and so you attract the readers who will be most interested in buying and reading your work!

And if the idea of designing your own book cover sounds intimidating, Self-Publishing Relief can help. Let our experts design it for you!


Question: Have you ever been misled by a book’s cover design? How so?

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