Rock Your Book Cover with Derek Murphy

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Today we’ll share five takeaways from Derek Murphy’s talk at Author Marketing Live. Murphy is an author, book cover designer, and book editor. In addition to sharing plenty of information about book covers and giving examples, he provided critiques to help authors in the audience improve their book covers.

1. The thing the author makes is the story, not the cover. Covers can be aesthetically pleasing (they should be), but they are not the product. Rather, book covers are important tools to sell your books.

2. Ground Rules. Your cover (even a great one) will not save a bad story. A good story can survive an ugly cover. A good story AND a great cover will make everything much easier.

3. The book cover is merely a doorway to your content. Murphy said that a book cover is a pass/fail proposition: it either invites the reader in or makes them pass it over for something more visually appealing. What makes a book cover better or worse is about how well it sells your book.  The cover doesn’t serve as a description of the book’s content, but rather as your book’s calling card.

4. Your book cover should look like it belongs with others in its genre. While many new authors think their book cover should stand out from the crowd, the opposite is actually true. You want the reader to know right away that they’re looking at romance, horror, or literary fiction. Murphy gave the example of the bread aisle at the grocery store; all the bagels come in similar packaging. A shopper knows right away that she’s in the right place. Bagels packaged in a box will confuse rather than attract a buyer. Similarly, your book cover should resemble others in the genre. Look at the top 100 bestsellers in your genre to see how much they have in common.

5. Be willing to trust your designer. If you decide to employ a cover designer, be clear how the relationship will work up front: Iron out the details on revisions, costs, and refunds before the work begins. Provide the designer with five or fewer samples of covers you like and a short summary of your book. Then, listen and be receptive to feedback—the cover you like most isn’t always the one that will do the best job of selling your book.

Book covers are important marketing tools, and are difficult to do well on your own unless you have insight into the process as well as design skills. For more guidance, check out Murphy’s sites CreativINDIE and DIY Book Covers.

Is there one takeaway here that you can apply now? Tweaks you want to make to your current covers? Do these takeaways inspire other ideas that you want to run with? We invite you to share in the comments below what’s next in your own journey to successful authorpreneurship. We learned so much from Murphy that we’ll be providing even more tips from this talk later on in this blog. So, be sure to sign up for regular updates from the Captain’s Publishing Blog so you won’t miss any of these posts!