Top 10 Most Common Book Cover Mistakes (Part 1)

Often, when you see a bad book cover, it can be quite hard to put a finger on what’s wrong with it. As a designer, I’ve got used to analyzing book covers and thinking about what does and what does not work in a cover.

In fact, something I do regularly is redesigning book covers that someone else has had made in the past and that the author now wants to change. Most of the time changes are needed because the cover has one of the mistakes that I’m going to mention in this article.

Note: This article actually started as a full list of 10, but I felt it was just too much information overwhelm for one post, so broke it down into two. Come back next week for the second part of this list!

10. Forgetting the Audience

I’ve mentioned this in a blog post before about the importance of knowing your audience, but in brief, it’s always important to remember that your book cover shouldn’t be about what you want, but about what your audience wants. You should always be thinking “What are the readers looking for?” and “What does the genre expect?”, rather than “What do I like?”.

Have a look at the bestselling book covers in your genre and make sure that your cover looks the way your ideal reader expects. Always have this ideal reader in your mind when you are having your cover designed.

9. Trying to Be (too) Different

It’s okay for your cover to be a little different. In fact, that’s a good thing because that way you can grab a potential reader’s attention, and stand out from the other books surrounding it in the online store. However, “very unique” doesn’t really mean “very much better”! An unusual cover design in your genre can make you stand out, but probably not in a good way.

As I mentioned in the entry, follow the genre conventions and always make sure that your book looks like it belongs in the genre that it’s written in. Your cover designer can then come up with a unique angle – maybe a color, maybe a font, maybe the use of an image – that is going to make your cover stand out without making it look like it doesn’t belong.

8. Looking for Perfect Photos that Don’t Appear on Any Other Book Covers

A custom photo shoot is a great way to get professional images that are unique and perfect for your cover. Unfortunately, this can run into the thousands of dollars – something that most authors can’t afford or don’t have the time to organize. Fortunately, there is a great alternative to this, and that’s stock photo sites.

These websites (such as Depositphotos or iStock) have enormous numbers of images in their databases. However, despite their big range, the most popular and best-looking images do rise at the top and are often chosen time and time again for book covers. You might have noticed this when browsing on Amazon… you come across the same models in similar poses on the covers of numerous books.

Obviously, this is not something particularly desirable, but you might not be able to avoid it. Don’t worry about finding an image that you have never seen on a book cover. Don’t sacrifice quality in order to get something unique – as I mentioned before, being unique isn’t that much of an advantage. Instead, just make sure that your book cover design looks more professional and better than the other covers with similar images. That way the readers will automatically think that your cover design was the original one and other authors have copied it from you – even if that’s not the truth!


“If you can’t be unique, be better.”

7. Too Many Details

It often happens that authors come to me and want to include all the details from their story in their cover design. I’ve written about this problem in one of my previous blog posts , but what I really recommend is you forget about the details and focus on the core of the story.

You can tell your cover designer about these details, but don’t be disappointed when they don’t implement them all – that would be a really over-crowded cover. A good designer will have a think about the elements that would be best used on the cover. It’s important not to overthink the cover design, which authors can be likely to do because they are very close to the story. Instead, try to look at your book cover from the position of an outsider. In design, and in art general, it’s often true that “less is more”.

6. Too Many Special Effects

This is another example of less being more. In a recent blog post I wrote I describe ten simple tweaks that make your book cover stand out. Once you have learned about them, it might be very tempting to use all of these effects in your book cover. While these effects can be very powerful individually or carefully combined, when you dump together all ten effects, I guarantee that it’s going to look terrible. Pick a couple of effects you like, and stick with them.


Make sure you come back next week for the next five items on this list!

Top 10 Most Common Book Cover Mistakes (Part 1)