5 Common Book Cover Mistakes Made by Indie Authors

Designer Eleanor Bennett provides us with 5 common book cover mistakes made by indie authors…

Colour schemes speak volumes to your audience about what they’re about to read. Something light will use lots of blues, whereas aqua and yellow might represent something like a self-help guide or meditation book.

A title that uses deep browns, violent reds and sharp contrasts will be more likely be a thriller or horror book. With fonts if you are zapped for ideas on what will complement your image, then keep it simple and minimalist. Better to be slightly understated than resorting to what will look like a tired novelty and date badly in a few years to come.

You get the most room for uninhibited creativity when the image and book contents are contemporary. A line from a passage can be paired with a simple object to make a great front cover.

Your readers will look for the symbolism of the starring object featured. What is the simplest photograph/illustration you can construct that alludes to your book thematically (without giving away the plot)? Think about using this.

Book cover design
Have you thought about designing the cover of your book? Artist Eleanor Bennett lets us in on the most common mistakes indie authors make… Image Credit: Pimthida via Flickr Creative Commons.

Mistakes DIY Indie Authors Make

1. Not having any budget for good cover art design

Your book is something you cherish creatively – you may have been writing it for years… Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by not having anything budget-wise in reserve for the cover.

Put aside few hundred dollars if you want a professional book cover without having to sign a contract to pay royalties to the artist based on your future sales.

If you’ve invested the time to write for your potential audience, it isn’t only the words that have to speak. The cover is what makes them pick up your book and what will stop them from putting it back down. Don’t underestimate its importance.

2. Using the wrong image just because it looks “cool”

Using the wrong imagery for your book could leave your reader feeling misled or confused. Just because the cover may be similar to a successful bestseller doesn’t mean it’s for you.

It’s far better to be strange rather than a copycat. I don’t think you can take too long to think about your cover.

3. Using an image found everywhere

There is a massive difference between using a photograph that has been published in National Geographic or exhibited at an international art fair (if you get to work with an experienced artist) and using a photograph downloaded over a thousand times (or many more times as in most cases) from a stock image website.

With using a stock image so widely distributed there is a point where you can’t dress it up anymore as a different image to make the cover look fresh. Over editing just quickens the arrival of the point in which art becomes stale.

With independent publishers, some of their artists, agree to hold off on distributing the image again for a certain time frame.

While you are releasing the pre-press publicity and later, the book itself, this can save you a bit of money, while also guaranteeing the design is not found readily by other sources.

All rights return to the artist for them to publish anywhere again after the contract states that is permissible. Some publishers ask for these rights when they are not paying the artist anything, which severely hurts artists who need to sell their work as an income.

Many writers will be able to understand this kind of challenge.

4. Shoddy editing and mismatched typography

Even if you’re planning on publishing an ebook only, you still need to think in terms of print quality. Make sure you get the back cover designed as well, even if you only need the front – you may decide later on that you want it to go to print.

Just because the image quality (grain, interpolation, slight flaws on the lens, glare) might be good enough to get away with on a small scale doesn’t mean it’s a good plan. What if your book happens to get more popular than you predict?

Make sure your cover looks superb on a large scale and it will look wonderful in all formats. I can tell when people cut corners when my exhibited work has been printed in large scale at many events around the world.

You should look for every flaw possible before your readers seek that out for themselves. The font and sizes you choose shouldn’t be bearable or just alright.

What the secret here is, is that the text you select is like a key that makes the lock trap everything inside so that it can’t be picked away at and it can’t be dissected, it just effortlessly works.

5. Will it stand the test of time?

From the boom of self-publishing I have seen too many covers that make one book indistinguishable from the next one.

There are far too many romance covers without any original thought behind them, too many horror covers trying to use sexuality in ways that ends up conveying a crude type of violence…

When considering a book cover, I want something to stir me and make me take a second look.

Forthcoming designs need to be diverse, interesting and must take contributions from all different voices to make us look forward to a stunning and ingenious future of cover and interior art.

Click the following links for cover design inspiration: Demurez Cover Arts, New Pages and Pinterest.



Have you ever wondered how much input traditional authors get when it comes to the design of their book cover? Editor Kyra Bandte speaks to established authors Shady Cosgrove, Pip Newling and more to get the lowdown.

You can also get to know the Kindling designer, Alissa Dinallo here.

Eleanor Bennett

Eleanor is the CIWEM Young Environmental Photographer of The Year 2013 and has also won first places with National Geographic, The World Photography Organisation, Nature's Best Photography and The National Trust to name a few. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph, The Guardian, The British Journal of Psychiatry, Life Force Magazine, British Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and as the front cover of books and magazines extensively throughout the world. Eleanor's written work is regularly showcased on the official company blog of Zenfolio. In 2012 she was invited by the founder of the BCC to contribute an article to highlight the importance of the Day Of The Imprisoned Writer.

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