4. COVERS: Your Primary Sales Device

Nobody cares that the picture you found looks exactly like your MC. No one is interested in that gorgeous scrolly font you found. NO ONE cares how pretty the picture is.

COVERS ARE HARD. Really good ones are designed by amazing graphic artists making big bucks getting it right for trad publishers. You have yourself. If you’re like me, you have less artistic talent than gold bars under your bathroom sink.

Get out of AuthorMode.  It’s time to be a Publisher.


Ideally your title and image will immediately convey what genre your book is and be enticing enough to get a click. It will not look so amateurish the reader will skip right by. It will not have a graph of copy you expect them to read, because THEY WON’T. You save the blurb for the sales page. If you have a short slug, go for it. COVEREXAMPLE1

People hunt for titles online. On phones and tablets and sometimes on big monitors but the cover is going to be a lot smaller than the thing on your screen when you’re designing it. 2/3 of your cover should be title and author name. 1/3 should be image. Of course,you can put text over part of the image.

The cover on the right ticks every box. The title, even if you weren’t familiar with Patterson, tells you it’s a courtroom drama. The figure is probably the title character, one young woman alone against the huge justice system, represented by the big-ass stone columns. You know she’s young by the ponytail. She is headed away, into trouble, in her bright Red Riding Hood coat.

No extra explanation necessary. Hell, I want to read it and I don’t even like James COVEREXAMPLE1smallPatterson. This is a cover that makes you click. Look at it here at iPhone size. You can still clearly read the title and selling name. That’s 65 x 100px. Make sure your books do that.

Go to Amazon and put “top 100 legal thrillers” in the search box and do some homework. You’ll notice how many by Big 5 trad publishers follow this rule. You’ll notice when they don’t, they’re from indie authors.

Note the colors. Complementary. Red and turquoise. You’ll see orange and green hues.COVEREXAMPLE2 Contrast, eye-grabbing images no one has to stare at to figure out what they are or what the words say. I wish I could say I’ve always followed my own advice. But I tend to succumb to the same newb mistakes everyone else does.

The cover on the right isn’t terrible but is not good. The fancy script takes effort to decipher. It tells us almost nothing about what the book is about. (I’ll assume it takes place in the country.) The blob of oranges and browns isn’t easily recognizable as a woman carrying a dog. The author’s name being big is good, she apparently won a RITA. Which it says. On the cover. In unreadable font.

COVEREXAMPLE3You don’t care about anything on your cover other than if it will get someone to click it. That’s all. You don’t title your book without thinking about promotion. My titles are for the most part stupid that way. But the first book in my series miraculously had a fairly good cover. You can judge me, now.

The title could be bigger but I wouldn’t give up the font. I picked Cinzel because I wanted to convey this wasn’t a one-hander, it wasn’t smut, or “fap fiction.” The title lets everyone know it’s BDSM. The slug is readable or not at different sizes and lets them know it’s a strong character as a sub, a cop. It’s dark, but the figure is not a monument to steroids. It’s enough to get them to click. When I learned more, I did a new cover in the blue-orange palette. People didn’t seem to like it very much so I went back to the classic.

This cover has a steady click-thru rate of slightly more than 3% depending on what kind of promo I’m running, with a 30% buy. And if they read it, about 60% read through the entire series.


If you want to pay for a cover, that’s fine. Just remember the rules. Look at what the graphic designers do. Study covers in your genre and others. Change your title if something else works better. If you had a Big 5 publisher, they would.





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