C is for Cover

cThat all-important eye-catching wrapper is the first introduction of your masterpiece to your reader. You never can make a new first impression. How do you put your best face forward? With a fabulous cover.

Whether you are using a photograph, original artwork or stark text, your cover needs to be a few things. Since 18% of readers claim the cover was the reason they even read the book description, let’s look at a few examples not to emulate.


(c) Hazel West

(c) Hazel West

After working for the perfect title, the reader needs to be able to read it. Your title needs to be:

  • unimpeded by graphics
  • in a legible font
  • in a contrasting color to the background
  • large enough to read at a glance

All of the above are equally applicable to your name.

On the cover to the right, the title and subtitle are difficult to read because they are the same color as the man’s hair.


A busy cover can leave a strange taste in your reader’s mouth. Collage covers need to stick to the content of the book and leave enough open space for the reader not to be overwhelmed by all of the parts.

If you are going to depict characters from your book, you may want to use snapshot candid photographs, portraits or a scene. Certain genres, like romance and fantasy, often show a scene central to the theme or in introduction of the characters.

Balance these so they do not interfere with the title and vice versa. Giving the reader’s eye some space sparks the imagination.


If you think about it, you can probably remember the cover to a book you read whose title escapes you entirely. The image was gripping or frightful or in some other way gave your emotions a shake. Like the melody of a song you cannot get out of your head, you remember.

Give this to your reader. By choosing a cover image which is central to your story line, you are making your story one readers will return to again to fill in the memory gaps.


Some common mistakes authors make when choosing what goes on their cover are:

Branding: Choosing an image indicative of the author’s lifestyle which is not reflected in the book.

Hooks: Excessive long spoilers to get the reader to buy the book, better suited for the jackback

(c) Gary Brecher

(c) Gary Brecher

Cluttering: Attempting to get a representative of every chapter on the cover

(c) Andy Schoepp

(c) Andy Schoepp

Color: Not enough contrast

Font: Something trendy which is not representative of the contents or something difficult to read

(c) Nancy Rommelmann Click to enlarge

(c) Nancy Rommelmann
Click to enlarge

Headshot: Fiction really should not have the author’s picture on the cover, especially not with questionable photo editing.

(c) The Four Redheads

(c) The Four Redheads

Missing Information: Subtitle and series insignia are musts.

Over Shopped: Morphing images can go horridly awry when attempting a complex cover.

(c) Janet Lane Walters

(c) Janet Lane Walters

Details Wrong: If your protagonist wears a blazer, putting him in a hoodie on the cover is wrong.

Emotion Wrong: Evoking an emotion not supported by the text

And he is not holding a bag...

And he is not holding a bag…

Sex Sells: Is your book erotica or romance or contain sex scenes? Then, no.

(c) William Goldman

(c) William Goldman

My Friend, The Artiste: Get more than one opinion on the quality of the art.

(c) Penny Watson

(c) Penny Watson

Framing: When layering images, be careful with the impression you leave.

(c) Penny Richards

(c) Penny Richards

License: Just because you downloaded it from a “free” site does not mean you may use it for commercial (selling your book) purposes without paying for a license from the image owner, who likely is not the owner of the website where you downloaded the image.


The elements of a terrific book cover are:

  • Easy to read title
  • Classic font face
  • Good contrast
  • Image indicative of content
  • Sufficient dead space

By keeping it simple, you can get a cover which will stay in the minds of your readers and draw them back to your book.

Just as you sent your manuscript to beta, test drive your cover with your blog audience, book club, beta readers and uninterested parties.

If you are going to do it yourself, remember your cover is going to represent the quality of the text beneath it. If it does not shine, pedestrian readers are not going to stop to see if your did a better job inside than out. Your cover is not a social media meme, yet. It will become your calling card.

When in doubt, contract an artist to do your cover. It is an investment in your book which can increase your sales more than 15%.

What is the worst cover? What is your favorite book cover? Do you have a book you remember the cover but not the plot? Have you ever bought a book solely because the cover was interesting?

Hashtags: #AtoZChallenge #amwriting #coverart

Thank you for sharing The M3 Blog with hashtags.

© Red Dwyer 2013
Re-Blogging of this or any other post on The M3 Blog
is expressly forbidden.
Copyright and Privacy Policy available in The Office.
Previous Post
Leave a comment


  1. I still remember many of the covers of books I have read: E.E. Doc Smith wrote many of my favorites and I still remember the book artwork! 🙂

    God Bless!

    Prenin recently posted..Wednesday – a trip to the Co-Op.My Profile

  2. Does anyone else find the cover of To Kill a Mockingbird lacking? Lackluster? Drab and offputting? I’m glad I got past it and actually read the book!

    • You would need to pick a specific one, but in the end, yes. The majority of overplay the simplistic image of a bird used solely as a metaphor. Over the years, I have seen a few which depict the Court scene or Scout on the cover, and while I find them more satisfying, I still believe it would have been a cover better suited to the hardback where the name is emblazoned on the front alone.

  3. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-D07feDVK-P0/TcAZVfhcK9I/AAAAAAAAAZs/Cm0M37DAZSo/s1600/pastor+no+clothes.jpg <—thought Id share.. 😉 the worst cover up there? well gee ummm ..not sure. My favorite book cover was from a book from childhood and yes I have bought a book by its cover. I don;t have a problem with the plot – the cover usually is a trigger to remember what the book is about. Loved this – I have had a few bad dreams wondering if covers I have done would look like any of these in peint or make it to the worst cover hall of fame. so far so good but I am not resting on my laurels lol..
    ♥ Lizzie
    Lizzie Cracked recently posted..A-Z Challenge; C is for Comfort FoodMy Profile

    • Oh.my.word. That ranks right up there! o.O I hope we have enough eyes on the covers not to end up on this sort of list! xxx

  4. This post is very clear and makes perfect sense, Red! The cover grabs my attention, especially if I’m not looking for a book… so it needs to sand out, in my opinion. In a good way, of course!
    Tom recently posted..Starweaver’s ReturnMy Profile

    • I have been amazed by some covers which never delivered the goods. When I get a book with a simple, easy-to-remember cover, I find them most delightful. It is a surprise package.

  5. I must be weird because I don’t remember hardly any covers at all unless I maybe really think about it. Chocky with the six-fingered hand print. And a big green book of children’s stories from when I was little.
    Binky recently posted..Honest FashionMy Profile

    • No, you are not. Many books have covers which are less than memorable. In fact, children’s books are often remembered for their covers far more than any other. Partly because they are designed to grab attention and match the story inside (creating agreement); Partly because they are read over and over.

  6. I cannot think of a specific book cover I disliked, but I know busy ones with lots of bright and busy colours make my eyes roll back in my head: mostly fantasy and science fiction.

    Indeed, a book cover has called to me from across the room, drawing me in like a magnet. Some of my best surprise reads have worked like this. I agree with clean and simple.
    Tess Kann recently posted..Flash in the Pan – DinerMy Profile

    • I think there are a number of them which should come with seizure warnings.

  7. ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ is a cover I remember from my childhood reads…… And yes I think the cover is very important as It catches the eye and imagination straight away, and the all important back page review..

    Wishing you a great Weekend Red… Hugs Sue xox
    Sue Dreamwalker recently posted..My Creative Art~TreesMy Profile

    • You have touched on something we will cover soon, the jackback. I hope you had a lovely weekend, Sue. xxx So very glad you stopped by.

  8. All points noted and understood.
    I actually never buy a book based on it’s cover, to me, content is king.
    I actually have a few books with disgusting covers but it didn’t put me off due to my focus being on the subject matter.
    I must admit, I will think twice if a cover displays images or pictures I find offensive, probably refusing to purchase…thankfully that hasn’t happened as yet.
    I think most think about the cost of employing a graphic designer…I know I have, some charge as if you are already making best-seller money to pay them.
    Phil recently posted..Matrimonial TestimonialsMy Profile

    • Considering you are asking a person to work on something which (provided you have done your job as well as you are asking the artist to do) you will sell in perpetuity. To be frank, most artists are bargains at $500. Considering a good cover can increase sales by more than 15%, it seems like a meagre investment.

      To say “content is king” means you do not browse for books. You shop with the intent of finding certain genres. For the casual book buyer, the cover is the first eye catcher.

  1. J is for Jackback | The M3 Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.