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Creating a Book Cover That Doesn’t Suck: Five Tips For the Self-Published Author @AnneMitchell0 #writers

#Indieauthor #Selfpublishing

We are in for a treat today, readers. Author Anne Mitchell is here to talk about designing book covers. A subject close to all our book publishing hearts.

If you are thinking of self-publishing in the future or you are already out there with your books check out what Anne has to say below.

Please give a warm welcome to Anne.


If you’re a self-published writer like me, you’re probably always trying to work out ways to keep your costs down. Which isn’t, let’s face it, all that easy.

It’s vital not to skimp on numerous important aspects of the self-publishing biz, the gurus tell us. Editing, proof-reading, advertising, marketing – all these need appropriate investment. However, the thing we really, REALLY shouldn’t be skimping on, they warn, is the cover. On no account should you try to do it yourself. It will inevitably suck, and even if your novel is brilliant, no one will ever find out because they won’t get any further than the c**p exterior.

But what if you simply don’t have that several hundred pounds or dollars it costs to outsource your cover to a decent designer? What if it’s DIY or nothing? I’ve been creating my own covers since I self-published my first book, Happy Hour, in 2012, and my first DIY covers truly did suck. But I’ve learned quite a few things over the years about creating a decent-looking cover, and I’d like to share some of them with you. 

Research, research, research. By this I mean look really carefully at covers of bestselling books in the same genre as yours. Your aim is to make your book resemble, as much as possible, the traditionally published books in its genre. Consider colours, fonts, whether photos or illustrations are used, whether there are common tropes such as a lone figure walking away from the camera (a staple of crime and thrillers). Compare ‘good’ covers (those that draw you in, giving you a good sense of the kind of book it is), with bad (too busy, confusing, ugly, not clearly conveying the genre). What are the good covers doing that the bad covers aren’t – and vice versa?

Forget illustrations. Unless you happen to be a professional artist or are related to one, I would forget about illustrations. Yes, vector illustrations are available fairly cheaply from sites like Shutterstock (more on that below), but it’s difficult for anyone who isn’t a graphic artist to put together a professional-looking cover using them. This throws up a particular problem in my own genre, contemporary romance, where 99% of the UK covers are artist-made illustrations. However, I noticed that this is far less true in the US market, where contemporary romance covers are more often created with photographs. So, since most of my readers hail from the US anyway, I decided I’d go with it and make my covers using photo stock. Which brings me to…

Choose your stock photograph(s) carefully. I use Shutterstock, where you can currently buy a pack of five images for £29 – excellent value, I’d say. There are thousands of images to choose from, but relatively few of them will be suitable for a cover. The photo you choose must satisfy several criteria: it must be striking in some way, it should convey the mood, tone and importantly the genre of your novel, it mustn’t be too busy or confusing, and there must be somewhere for your title to go. Fulfilling all these criteria whittles down the number of suitable images quite a bit. Shutterstock allows you to create ‘collections’, where you can save possible images without buying them. I have two collections, one from which I’ll choose the cover of my next book (it’s about a wedding venue, so weddings), and a general one to which I save images which I think could work as covers, but for which I don’t currently have a particular book in mind.

Choose your fonts carefully. Different genres tend to use fonts specific to them. Crime and thrillers, for example, tend towards strong colours and striking, sans-serif fonts, often in capitals. Whereas the covers of the contemporary fiction novels I’m aiming to emulate with my own covers often feature ‘traditional’ lower-case serif fonts in softer colours (‘serif’ by the way, means the little extra bits at the tops and bottoms of the strokes of the letters). Notice how the individual words in the titles aren’t all the same size, or necessarily the same colour. Play around with the size, colour and placement of your chosen font until you find something that looks right, then get at least two other opinions on it. One other thing I’ve noticed with a lot of self-published books, by the way: the title is too small. It should be at least large enough to read easily, of course, but it should also fill most of the space available that isn’t taken up with important features of the image. And whatever you do, don’t use a whacky or unusual font. It needs to be clear, readable and in line with other books in the same genre.

Keep trying. You probably won’t learn how to create good-looking covers in a day, a week or a month. And if your IT skills are negligible, as mine are, you’ll need to persuade/bribe someone to help you who’s reasonably familiar with Adobe Photoshop or similar. But I believe that with some work and some visual nous, most self-published authors could create decent-looking covers at a fraction of the cost of outsourcing them. So, are my own covers perfect? Definitely not. Would I outsource them to a designer if the day came when I could justify the cost? Probably. And it’s important to emphasise that I’m talking about ebook covers here. If and when I decide to get into paperbacks, I’ll have to get a designer involved. But in the meantime I enjoy putting my covers together; in fact – ahem – sometimes I enjoy it more than the actual writing. If you too decide to go ahead and have a go at creating your own cover, the best of luck to you. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Lucy for inviting me onto her wonderful blog to share a little of what I’ve learnt.


White Wedding Blues is my latest novel, published last month. 

Following the death of her father, Grace Allerton returns to Allerton Park, her vast, but crumbling family home. With no money left for repairs Grace decides to market Allerton as a wedding venue, facing strong opposition from her mother at every turn.

Then her ex, Charlie, makes a sudden reappearance in her life, along with Izzy, an old schoolfriend, who turns up to “help”. Throw in Ted Barker, a property developer who has Allerton earmarked for a retirement complex, and Grace’s head is in a spin.

Thank goodness for Sam, her loyal childhood friend. Grace doesn’t know what she’d do without him and hopes she’ll never have to find out. Sam will always be there for her …won’t he?

Will Grace be able to save Allerton Park, and will she ever find her own Mr. Right?

White Wedding Blues is available on Amazon here:

2 comments on “Creating a Book Cover That Doesn’t Suck: Five Tips For the Self-Published Author @AnneMitchell0 #writers

  1. Lots of fab advice there!

  2. So good to hear from a fellow self-publishing author who realises that we can’t all afford to spend lots on book covers! Great reminder to study the market of bestsellers in your genre to get a feel for the type of cover that sells.
    Happy Canva-ing!

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