5 Common Book Cover Mistakes & Tips to Create Your Own Great Cover

Samples of what’s possible with Microsoft Word from DIYBookCovers.com.

Samples of what’s possible with Microsoft Word from DIYBookCovers.com.

Book covers are important marketing tools, and are difficult to do well on your own unless you possess insight about what works and design skills. In September, we shared takeaways from Derek Murphy’s talk at Author Marketing Live to help you work with a designer. Murphy is an author, book cover designer, and editor. Today we’ll pass along common mistakes that authors make when they take the DIY route and tips for creating a winning cover.

If you want your DIY book cover to sell your books, avoid these common mistakes.

1. Don’t focus on a scene or symbolism. Your cover’s purpose is to attract readers, not explain the story beyond conveying the book’s genre. Murphy recommended focusing on the heart, not the head, to attract readers.

2. Don’t try to be different or interesting. The cover is not an expression of your creativity; it’s the book’s calling card.

3. Don’t give the reader a puzzle or a surprise. You don’t want a potential reader guessing about whether they want to buy your book.

4. Don’t use a font that doesn’t work well. Font styles that have drop shadow or beveled edges, for example, are too busy and unattractive for covers.


Here are tips to help you create a successful DIY book cover.

1. Make it pop. Use contrasting light and dark colors. Teal and orange are a great combination for fiction.

2. For nonfiction use a light or white cover with one central image. A clever and simple juxtaposition is appropriate.

3. For a series, use one decorative font, and two simple fonts. One item among the author’s name, the name of the series, and the title of the book can be in a more ornate font. The other two should be simple so that the cover is not cluttered.

4. Use stock photography rather than illustrations. Using a face to convey an emotion is better than a symbol or drawing.

5. Your cover shouldn’t need words. The image should communicate your genre and generally what the book is about.


For more guidance, check out Murphy’s sites CreativINDIE and DIY Book Covers. If you’d like feedback on your book cover, you can upload it to another of Murphy’s sites: Does my book cover suck, or is it awesome?

Is there one takeaway here that you can apply today? Tweaks you want to make to your current covers? Are you inspired to run with other ideas? We invite you to share what’s next in your own journey to successful authorpreneurship. And, be sure to sign up for regular updates from the Captain’s Publishing Blog so you won’t miss any of these posts!