Is Your Book Cover Design Stopping You From Being On The Bestseller List?

book cover design

Would you like to see your book on the bestseller list?

Who wouldn’t enjoy seeing the words “A New York Times Bestselling Author” gracing the cover of their next work?

While it is simply not possible for every author to gain “bestseller” status, even new authors’ books can carry the same quality and professionalism as those of established names in the business.

Bestselling Books Usually Have the Best Designs

As you walk through your local bookstore, you’ll see covers ranging from the bold type of John Grisham’s latest thriller to the frilly embellishments of Beverly Lewis’ newest Amish Romance.

Each carries a level of quality that you immediately equate with professionalism in the content.

It is the combination of the author’s reputation, and the thought and craftsmanship used in the design that persuade you that “this book is for you.”

Let’s face it – if you saw the average, self-designed book sitting next to Karen Kingsbury’s latest, it would stand out, though not for the right reasons.

Self-designed books rarely assure book buyers that they are anything other than, well, self-designed.

In an uncertain book market, getting a potential reader to buy is harder than ever.

The book cover is the first impression, so it has to do the job of convincing the potential buyer that the message inside is worth their time.

If the cover portrays even a hint of “my nephew designed this for his school project,” nine times out of ten, the book will not receive a second glance.

While it is true that a well-designed book cover alone isn’t enough, I can tell you from experience, it certainly helps.

How to Compete with Bestsellers

It is possible to compete with the bestsellers.

What gives big name authors their edge (aside from the quite massive typographical name placement) is the fact that they alone do not decide how the book looks.

Any writer who has signed with a leading publisher knows this.

Authors are asked for their input, but in most cases, it is the publisher who has the final word on the cover design. This is because the publisher knows what makes a book’s design successful.

Again, this is not to minimize the importance of the book’s content, but the design (inside and out) must convince readers that their purchase is worth every cent spent.

Hire a Pro

If you are one of the fortunate few to have sold a book to an established publisher, it’s likely that you’ll end up with a top-class book cover, because your publisher will hire a qualified, experienced, book cover designer to handle the project.

But what if no publisher has yet shown interest in your work?

Your book will still need the professional look if it is to compete successfully with other titles in the market.

The solution, then, is for you to do the same. Ask around, search online resources, and track down a designer who specializes in book cover design.

Book Cover Design on a Budget

At this point, you’re probably wondering how expensive it will be to hire a professional book cover designer.

Because a book cover is arguably the most important part of your marketing effort for your book, paying a book jacket designer who knows the industry or niche you’re writing in is a worthwhile investment.

But there’s also hope for those on a serious shoestring budget.

Thanks to services like Elance and oDesk, it is easier than ever to find a talented, knowledgeable designer at a budget that suits you.

Services like these allow you to list your project and your budget, while designers from around the world place bids or “proposals”  describe their experience, portfolio, price, and approach to the job.

I cannot emphasize it enough: as far as possible, trade “general” graphic designers for a professional book cover designer who is aware of current trends in the publishing industry. It will mean spending more time, but the results will be well worth the extra effort you make.

Don’t Hijack Your Project

Let’s say you’ve found the perfect designer for your book.

Despite having successfully accomplished step one, you are still not guaranteed a winning book cover design.

Many professional designers, editors and marketers work with authors every day and end up with a finished product they are not proud to call their own.

How can this happen after hiring a pro?

This happens when a project gets “hijacked.”


For example, an author may insist the designer change the font of the book’s title to “Comic Sans,” rather than working with the designer to understand the reasoning behind their typographical choice.

Or, the author may capitalize a word despite The Chicago Manual of Style suggesting otherwise.

Or, the author may ask for a cover that will sell well through Facebook ads, before even knowing whether they will find an audience on Facebook.

More often than not, “hijacked” projects render mediocre, at best.

What you need to do is partner with your designer. After all, how often do customers tell their mechanics how they want their brakes fixed?

You can have a book worthy of the time and care you’ve lavished to craft the finished manuscript.

All you need is to find a pro book designer conversant with book design trends in your genre, and work with them to have a book cover that’ll put your work on the same shelf as the bestsellers.

Have you tried to come up with the perfect cover design for your book? Share your tips and experience in the comments!

About the author

Thomas McGee

Thomas McGee has enjoyed working with publishers and authors on hundreds of book cover design projects. It is his joy to bring an author’s painstakingly-crafted works into market-targeted, stunning designs. Check out some of his work at Writely Designed and say hello on Twitter.