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Judging a book by its cover

It is said that the second most important thing to sell a book is the cover. What they don't tell you is the author name is the first thing. So if you are like me and a complete unknown then the cover is your greatest seller of your book. I know we aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover but that is exactly what we do.

I have previously spoken of genre specific things that can tell you what to expect from a book and what not to have on the cover if it isn't in there. This is a continuation of this. In this blog I'm going to talk about how to spot an amateur cover.


First of all don't ever use the standard fonts. They scream amateur. Instead, go download other fonts and simpler is better if you don't know what you are doing. Be careful of drop shadows and weird gradients. In this day and age people are going crazy with making the title visible when it is small and their name as well. This means there isn't space for anything else. Yes, the writing should be clear but it is that first glance that is important. Be careful of the retro styles and when you do put in a font think about how it will age. You don't want a Conan the Barbarian font that will be remembered for all the wrong things.


You don't have to have everything in your book on the cover. Also, you only need to get across the idea. You don't have the exact person in your book on the cover. I think of Patricia Briggs. The tattoo on Mercy changes on every cover. No, Mercy isn't getting a new tattoo but the artist instead gives a clue to what the book is in the tattoo.


Use the rule of thirds if you don't want to look silly. If you don't know what that is then you need to hire someone. I also like to use the Fibonacci spiral in my covers. Another layer that you only notice at that glance stage.

Unblended photos

If you can tell that they took two photos and put them together then that is a bad sign. I have another blog on how to improve on that. If you google the worst book covers most are due to this particular issue.


There are some lovely templates out there it is just that they get over used. I can spot the Createspace ones a mile off and I'm starting to get used to the Canva and Amazon ones but they will still be useable for a while before they become obvious. If you intend to change the cover later then go ahead and use Canva and Amazon templates. By the time you change the cover the templates will be obvious.

Lack of DPI

Anything that is blurry. I really hate it when publishers get lazy and just scan an old cover for their print books. I have other issues with these publishers, looking at you Penguin. They are super lazy and lazy translates to amateur.

Hand drawn

My mom is an artist so I know what real art looks like and yes you can get away with hand drawn, what I mean with hand drawn is your niece is pretty good at art and she does a doodle of your book and you think awesome I'll use that. You scan and bob's your uncle. No, no, no. Even my mother's drawings have to be manipulated for them to be good enough for a cover. There are certain expectations when it comes to anything digital and often hand drawn falls flat. I should tell you that my covers have a hand drawn image in the back ground. I have manipulated the crap out of it.

Colour blocking

This is Penguin. They published people years ago and now they can't just scan the cover instead they make a generic cover that uses colour blocking and a standard pattern. It is awful. The Createspace covers use this. Don't do it on your covers if you can help it. Colour blocking is when you throw a slab of colour over the cover to put the title in. This makes it easy to put in the text but it ruins the composition.

Looks like a computer game

These are hilarious and they age over night. They are cute but should never be done. Think Barbie meets a touch of realism and have an ugly baby. There is no way that you can make this kind of cover work. Instead, go for a stock photo and manipulate it. Or go the opposite and go very cartoony though that can easily be done wrong so I wouldn't recommend it.

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