Book Cover Rules to Follow for Indie Author Success

Authors that reach out to me want to sell more books. The number one hurdle prohibiting them from reaching this goal is often their book cover design. So I’m sharing some of my top book cover rules here so you can avoid that pitfall. This is a more common problem for indie authors because we’re left… [Read More]

Book cover rules for indie success by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

Authors that reach out to me want to sell more books. The number one hurdle prohibiting them from reaching this goal is often their book cover design. So I'm sharing some of my top book cover rules here so you can avoid that pitfall.

This is a more common problem for indie authors because we’re left to our own devices. There is no publishing house or marketing team making expert recommendations to a team of in-house professional designers. It’s all on us.

Instead of lamenting the ways indie authors have it harder, get serious about your book cover. If you want to sell more books, you need to take an objective look at your book cover, and determine whether it’s supporting your book marketing, or if it’s actually letting you down.

Keep It Simple

Your book cover needs to be clear, concise, and easy to read. This is one of the fundamental book cover rules.

Perhaps you got a great review and you think slapping it on the cover will help you sell more books. But if you can’t incorporate it in an aesthetically appealing way, it will just detract from your book marketing efforts.

The same goes for photographs. I’ve worked with a lot of authors that bring some great personal photographs to the table, but they don’t translate into a powerful book cover.

Indie authors need to remember to check their ego at the door when it comes to book cover design and focus on what really works.

This is a great example of an easy-to-read cover:

Book cover rules for indie success by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

Optimize Your Book Cover for Digital Purchase

Equally important among book cover rules is that it is designed for online shopping. Book marketing today (marketing in general, honestly) is about being savvy online, and your book cover is no exception.

Yes, your original design may look good as a full-sized PDF on your computer, but it also needs to be strong as an Amazon-sized thumbnail since that’s how many shoppers will see it.

This is an example of a cover that is way too busy to be impactful online:

Book cover rules for indie success by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

Don’t Neglect your Genre

Creating a design that fits your genre will automatically engage the readers most likely to buy your book.

Don’t think broad scope book marketing here. Think niche: not simply romance, but paranormal fantasy romance. Not just business, but personal finance.

As part of your book marketing approach, you should have detailed descriptions and demographics of your target buyer markets. Use these to determine what your book cover design needs to convey to be associated with things they already like to buy. This may seem the most self-evident of the book cover rules, but many indies miss the mark on this one.

Is there any doubt in your mind that this is a thriller/crime novel?

Book cover rules for indie success by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

Covers Should Evoke an Emotional Response

What are your goals as an author? What kind of reader aligns with these goals?

If you’re looking to sell more books, you sometimes have to take the genre notes a step further. Remember that your book cover design should also communicate your intentions in a way that resonates with your buyer market.

Book marketing is about connecting, and connecting in an authentic way takes some finesse.

This is an example of a book cover that just has too much text. The author wanted to go for a “look” but it’s not something you’d associate with higher consciousness:

Book cover rules for indie success by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

Be On Trend Without Being Cliché

Marketing and advertising are all based on psychology. We appeal to the most basic human emotions to make impressions and evoke memories—which hopefully all lead to making a purchase.

So you want to be sure the imagery and font you’re using represents your work. Your cover should reflect what we’re seeing in the world today if the book is current, or what people were seeing in the past if the book is historical.

This book was published in 2017 and is supposed to be about color theory. But the hard-to-read text and dated images of women do not make the author seem like a trustworthy authority on women’s lifestyle topics:

Book cover rules for indie success by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

Bonus Book Cover Rules

Drag and drop clip art to the trash. You don’t need it.

Children’s books are bought by adults. So writing a children’s book does not give you a free pass to use corny graphics or your granddaughter’s preschool artwork. Hire a professional, use little Madison’s drawing as part of your acknowledgments.Book cover rules for indie success by Penny Sansevieri for BookWorks.com

You’re the author, not the illustrator. It’s not your job to design your own cover. Even if you are an artist, that has no place on your cover. Use your art within the story if it’s relevant, or use it as bonus content on your blog or social media. But pay a professional book cover designer to do the cover. Hiring qualified professionals is money well spent.

If you want to sell more books, you need to market a product that looks better than the books on the shelf at the store. Your book cover must be competitive.

Head to your local Target and check out their book section. All of the covers are top notch. There’s a reason for that, and it’s because the author and/or their publisher understood how critical a good cover can be to a book’s success.


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One thought on “Book Cover Rules to Follow for Indie Author Success”

  1. Some good points in your article, Penny.

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