Novel Covers Self-Publishing

Getting the Right Book Cover

Andrew Knighton
Written by Andrew Knighton

Your book’s cover is one of its primary selling points, alongside your cover copy. It may not feel fair that people will judge your words by the image they’re wrapped in, but it’s the way we work as people. We’re visually oriented. That glimpse of the cover will make all the difference in whether we read the blurb, never mind giving the whole book a go.

For an indie author, there are plenty of options for getting a cover. Whichever one you choose, how do you get the cover right?

Research Your Genre

This is a step that comes up in every aspect of book marketing. There’s a good reason for that. If you don’t have a good understanding of how your genre is marketed then you’re unlikely to market well within it.

Identify other authors who write work similar to yours or who are appealing to the same readers. Look at how their covers are designed. What sort of colour schemes do they use? What fonts feature in the lettering? How are the title and the author’s name displayed? What is the imagery like – abstract shapes, people, scenery, action?

Work out the common patterns, the things that stand out, and what makes an appealing cover in your genre and sub-genre.

Consider Your Brand

Book marketing isn’t just about the individual book – it’s about your whole brand. You want your work to create a consistent whole. This is comforting to readers and makes it obvious that each book is yours and relates to the others.

You should already be thinking about your author brand. Bear that in mind when choosing a cover. The tone, colours, imagery, and even font should be consistent with your other books and your website. They should help to sell who you are as an author and what sort of books you write.

Consider How it Will be Seen

When choosing a cover, it’s not enough to select a good design. You have to select a good design that works well in the places people will see it. This means thinking in two different ways.

First, look at the cover as it will be seen on the book. Does the image work at that size? Will it stand out in bookshops and on stalls at conventions? Will it be pleasing to someone who holds the book in their hands?

Secondly, look at how it will be seen on sites like Amazon and the pages of book review blogs. Here, it will be shrunk down to perhaps two hundred pixels across. It will be one small part of a screen crowded with words, adverts, and other images. Is the design strong enough to be clear and interesting at this size? Is it still eye-catching? If not, it’s time to think again about it.

Research Designers

Having worked out the criteria that make a design good for you, you need to find a designer who can bring it to life. Whether you’re getting a custom design or something pre-made, browse the work of a range of designers. Look at who makes the most interesting and most effective designs. Do they work well in your genre? Can you see that they can capture the tone you want?

At the end of the day, you’ll have to balance this against other factors such as budget and availability. You may not be able to afford your first choice. But you need a designer who is a match for your book.

Be Specific with the Briefing

Finally, bring all of this together. Write a briefing for your designer that tells them what you want. Explain the brand and tone that you’re after. Provide links to examples of covers that you like and why you like them.

This doesn’t mean telling the designer what image to use. Those decisions are their job, and they’ll do a better job of it than you. After all, your specialty is words, theirs is images.

But it does mean being specific about what you want and sharing your research. The better you explain yourself, the more likely you are to get what you need.

Getting the right cover is hard work, but it can make or break your book. In the end, it’s worth the effort.

About the author

Andrew Knighton

Andrew Knighton

Andrew Knighton is a Yorkshire based ghostwriter, responsible for writing many books in other people's names. He's had over fifty stories published in his own name in places such as Daily Science Fiction and Wily Writers. His steampunk adventure series, The Epiphany Club, is out now in all e-book formats, and the first volume, Guns and Guano, is available for free from Amazon or Smashwords. You can find free stories and links to more of his books at and follow him on Twitter where he’s @gibbondemon.

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