The importance of creating a professional book cover
I’ve written a number of books over the years in a few different genres. As an indy author, I’ve had to write, edit, create a cover, and market the books on my own. This suits me fine as I like to have complete control over my creative projects.
But I’ve also had to learn that my graphic artist skills aren’t quite up-to-snuff and I should leave this particular skill to the experts.
Looking back, I can see a great difference in professionalism for some of my book covers. Designing them myself labeled them “self-published”, and with that, readers may assume that if the cover is amateurish then so is the content.
Health & Fitness Books
For example, I designed the cover for my first non-fiction book, Fit for Faith — 7 weeks to improved spiritual & physical health. The first cover on the left below lacks vibrancy. It also doesn’t attract my target market, which is primarily women. Thirdly, the subtitle and my name are difficult to read, especially as a thumbnail.
The cover on the right above was designed by a professional graphic artist. It captures the exuberance of the book, is easy to read, and the colours are perfectly suited to my target market.
My second published book, Women of Strength — A devotional to improve spiritual & physical health suffered the same problems.
The first cover on the left below was designed by me. However, although the flower is a neat photo it has nothing to do with the content of the book. Again, the subtitle is hard to read. And there is no defined border. I’ve also learned that the author’s name should not include “By” in front of it. This is a dead giveaway that it’s not a professionally designed cover.
The cover on the right above was designed by the same graphic artist and shows consistency in the type font, colours, and feel of the cover.
I’m a little embarrassed to share my other covers. They are boring, hard to read the titles and subtitles, and don’t capture the true essence of the book. There is no consistency in the look even though they are all within the same series.
The updates on the right make all my books in the Health & Faith Matters series pop. I personally love the colours, the pictures, and the overall look of all 5 covers.
Although this graphic artist did a fantastic job, you do have to do your research to find an artist who understands your book and your target market.
My original book covers for my three smaller books, Flex Your Spirit, Food for Thought, and Fit for Prayer were obviously designed by me using clipart (see top photo below). I hired a graphic artist to update the covers and they created book covers that do look better than my original ones. The pictures captured the content and I liked the colours of purple, green, and red (see middle photo below). However, when compared with the final covers (see bottom photo below) they look bland and boring.
But because I personally still liked the ones in the middle, I decided to keep them as-is for my e-course series under the same titles.
Although my book, ABCs of Gratitude — Giving thanks through the alphabet for your blessings, isn’t a fitness book it does relate to health and so I wanted to update my cover in the same way.
Again, I preferred the colours of purple and green. The title and the picture with “Thank You” really stand out. There’s more depth to the cover that gives a more energized look.
For my memoir, East City Girl — A Micro-Memoir of Growing Up Catholic, we had to go through four drafts to finally get the one I loved.
The first cover on the far left above had a cathedral building that really had nothing to do with my memoir. The graphic artist thought that because I used “Catholic” in the title, the stone church would be a good fit.
Instead of letting them choose another photo, I researched and discovered a photo of the Hunter Street Bridge in Peterborough that leads into East City…the exact area where all my memories take place.
The second cover above had East separated from City Girl. The graphic artist didn’t realize that “East City” is the actual location of my memoir.
The third and fourth cover drafts had font and colours that I really didn’t like.
She nailed it on the fifth draft (far right above). I love the font, the photo, and the colours.
My children’s series of books also went through cover updates. Although I liked the original covers, I had changed so much of the content and even the titles that they required new ISBNs and so new book covers.
My first children’s book, Trees of the Book — Learning from God’s Creation, was an activity book. A few years later, I took out the puzzles to make it a reader and so available as an ebook. I realized that when someone wants to learn about trees that they may find in the Bible they wouldn’t google “trees of the book” but rather “trees of the Bible” so I changed the title to Trees of the Bible — 7 Bible stories told from the viewpoint of a tree. I then created a new cover myself. You can see in the middle photo below that although it’s not a horrible book cover it does look amateurish beside the professional one.
I updated the book this year with 10 more trees, 10 more project suggestions, along with 6–16 more words and characters added to the “Glossary” and “People of the Bible” sections. I changed the title to Trees in the Bible — Learn About Trees While Exploring God’s Word. This new subtitle explains exactly what the reader can expect in the book. It also is better suited for all future books in the series.
My second children’s book, Adam’s Animals — Fun Facts About God’s Creation, was also an activity book with a word search and colouring page. At the same time I updated the Trees book above, I also took out the activities to make this book a reader and so available as an ebook. I changed the title to Animals of the Bible — Over 35 Animal Bible Stories. I created the cover myself (see middle photo below). Again, you can see the difference between my amateurish attempt and the professional cover beside it.
I re-added the illustrations of the animals in the back of the book but made them much smaller and grouped them together within each classification. I changed the title to Animals in the Bible — Learn About Animals While Exploring God’s Word to better suit what’s in the book and to help with reader’s googling about animals.
In updating these books, I also wanted the book covers to have consistency in the series, Exploring God’s Word. So I asked the graphic artist to create other children’s book covers for Weather in the Bible and Music in the Bible. Now I just need to sit down and write these two other books!
My newest book, Oma Loves Her Little Grandbug was originally titled How Much Do I Love You? and was only 6-pages long. Before I published this book, I posted a question on Facebook to see which cover readers preferred. Mine on the left below or the graphic artist’s on the right.
I really thought that readers would like mine better, but the graphic artist won hands-down. (Will I ever learn?) Readers stated that the graphic artist’s design was more calming, had better spacing, was cleaner and less busy, had a bigger picture, and they liked the colours. They especially liked the colour print on white background. The main suggestion was to remove the cursive in favour of a different font.
I took their comments and asked my graphic artist to tweak her design. She created a beautiful cover.
Years ago, I had submitted my devotional book called Voice of a New Christian — A collection of 52 devotionals to a writer’s contest. I didn’t win, however, the feedback I received was worth the cost of entry. One comment that stood out was the judge’s question about why I chose an angel on the front cover (see left photo below). They said it did not reflect the content of the book and stood out as crude. I lost a lot of marks because of my cover.
Looking back, I feel a little embarrassed but it was my first attempt at creating a book. I renamed the book, Where Life Meets Faith — A Collection of 52 Devotional Writings and hired a professional editor, and a graphic artist to do the interior layout and design the cover.
With the same content but a different cover, I won Honourable Mention in a writer’s contest. I also asked her to do the same for the next two devotionals, Where Family Meets Faith and Where Fitness Meets Faith.
(The photo on the Where Family Meets Faith book is a picture I took of my own children.)
Although I am primarily a non-fiction writer, the first book I ever wrote was a novella based on a true-life story, called Tooth for Tooth. Although my second cover is light-years better than the first, I know that if I hired a graphic artist it would be that much better again.
I find it motivating to have my book covers designed before I’ve finished my book. It gives me a reason to keep moving forward. Two books that are in process are What’s Your Story? Personal Testimonies to Encourage Your Faith and Writers on Writing — Interviews With Writers of Faith.
The graphic artist designed similar covers using the same font, same colour scheme but different photos. Once completed, these two books will be part of a series on stories of faith.
So can you judge a book by its cover?
I’d like to say that it shouldn’t matter what the cover looks like as long as the content is professional. But…it does.
A professional cover will help to entice your readers to pick up your book.
Where can you find a graphic artist?
There are many ways to find a good graphic artist. I found mine through:
1) Being a member of two national writer’s groups, The Word Guild and Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship,
Regardless of how you find a graphic artist, I hope that sharing my somewhat embarrassing history of book covers will inspire you to spend time creating a book cover that you love and that sells your work.
(First featured on Medium platform July 5, 2021)