I’m subscribed to a daily book deals email, and I’ve been noticing some trends. A lot of indie covers scream “amateur” right from the start. I can glance through the email and in less than three seconds each spot the indie covers, with very few exceptions.
Here are five things to avoid if you want your cover to look pro:
1. “A Novel” – Yes, some traditionally published books have this on there. Way too many books have this on there, IMO. I know it’s a novel. Tell me something interesting about it.
2. “Book 1 of the (whatever) series” – I see this on a lot of indie covers. Almost never will you see this on a New York cover. The exception is if the series has become blockbuster and been repackaged, like the Twilight Saga – then it might have that on all the books, BUT the first one will just have the series title. It won’t say “Book 1.”
3. Text goes right to the edges of the cover or lies right along the top/bottom. Open space is an important part of design, and it’s one that amateurs often leave out. Give the text a little room to breathe, OK?
4. Three or more different fonts, and/or wacky fonts. Be conservative on the fonts, guys. The font shouldn’t compete with the cover art. I usually use two, one for the title/byline, and a plainer one for any other text on the cover.
5. Half of a woman’s face with glowy or colored eye. This is popping up a lot lately. I think it’s because of this repackaged Eclipse cover (at right). Don’t do this. Too many people have already done it. It’s dead, Jim.
I like getting the book deals email. It’s taught me some things to avoid, and really made me look at the differences between the covers that appear amateur to me and the ones that look pro. I’m always working to improve my design techniques, and love learning new tricks.
The danger there is when you learn a new trick, you can easily go overboard with it. I try to keep in mind a quote from the movie Impromptu, where Chopin tells a student, “Simplicity is the hardest thing. It’s the final thing.”
I had a lot of trouble making the example cover at the top of this post. I kept trying to fix things, make them better. Here’s a version where I’ve improved on the issues I’m griping about. I tweaked a couple of other details, too – see if you can spot which ones.