3 Book Cover Secrets Revealed - Self-Publishing Tips Part #13


“Book covers are extremely important. The original cover of Elemental came off as very paranormal romance-y. And, unfortunately, it attracted readers who were avid paranormal romance fans. Many of them responded negatively to being surprised with a space opera with very little romance. 

A cover is a form of communication. It has to pique the interest of your target audience. If you pique the interest of someone who isn’t going to like what’s inside the book, then you’ve just wasted your time and money on the wrong cover.” ~Emily White, bestselling indie author 

I realize that I can get kind of preachy about book cover design, but it’s only because I’ve made my own fair share of blunders, and I have a heartfelt desire to help other indie authors, and it is only to help the writer brain switch from storyteller mode into a smart book marketer. 

The biggest obstacle for most self-published authors is understanding and acknowledging that covers should be extremely "genre specific." A genre cover will tell the reader instantly what kind of book it is: self-help, urban fantasy, new adult romance, mystery/thriller, chick-lit, and so on.


Based on that statement, anyone reading this post would assume that it’s the story within the novel that really counts and not the book cover. 

Well, that kind of thinking will only hinder book sales. Now please allow me explain why...


For example, could anyone identify just by glancing at the odd cover posted above what genre the story is, or even what the book is about? 

Perhaps it’s a mystery because of the giant blue eyeball or maybe a paranormal novel, but it’s really hard to even make a good guess. 

And that’s the crutch, a writer never wants a potential reader guessing or feeling confused by their cover design because then they move on to the next book that has obvious genre “tells.”

If a book cover doesn’t match the current trends in the genre, then there’s a good chance that the story won’t reach the author’s intended audience. And if the book cover isn’t genre specific enough, then chances are a writer won’t sell as many books. (I use the term “genre specific” throughout the narrative, meaning a design that looks similar to others in the same genre category as the story.)

Think of your book covers as your business card and a big part of your marketing campaign. If they look professional, then readers will assume that the writing is, too. Your book has a better chance of attracting readers with the right cover.


For example, in the cover featured above, what do you think this book would be about? What is the genre? 

Maybe it’s about an airline pilot who loves his cat and likes to take long walks during a full, green moon. Or maybe his cat is stuck in the tree. That would be a good guess, but it still doesn’t reflect any specific genre. And there are so many things wrong with it that it’s hard to know where to start! The fonts are generic and don’t match. There are too many different images that don’t blend together or make any sense. The entire design looks unprofessional. 

In other words, it is not “genre specific” enough to reach its intended audience.
To attract the right readership, a professional cover should give readers an instant idea of the genre and a hint about what the story entails. 

But some of you might be scratching your heads and asking yourself, what does “professional cover” mean?

Regrettably, there’s no correct answer, but I think most readers can easily recognize a professional-looking design when they see it. While a cover doesn’t need to be perfect, the design does have to meet a certain genre standard, because in the publishing industry, professional looking also implies recognizable. 

A professional cover must correspond with the reader’s expectations, while having a familiar look to other covers in the same genre. The more distinct or unique a cover is, the more it wanders away from the current trends in design, and could result in lost sales.

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