Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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June 26, 2024

Judging a Book by its Cover

by Jenn Windrow

Photo of a hand holding a fountain pen on an open, pocket-sized journal. Written in bold letters across the fold is "Don't judge a book by it's cover."

In last month’s post we discussed everything having to do with editing. The importance of a well edited project, the different kinds of editing, and how to find an editor. This month we are going to talk about the second most important part of your indie published book…covers.

If a well edited product is the number one thing to spend money on in your self-publishing career, a great cover design is the second. Although some might argue that it is even more important because people DO judge a book by its cover.

Even if you aren’t at the stage to buy a cover or work with a designer, it is never too late to research the covers used in your genre. Most genres have a very specific look and feel to their covers and you don’t want to get too far off base or your book won’t appeal to the readers of that genre.

I write Urban fantasy and I fell in love with a premade book cover before my first UF was published. It DID NOT fit in with the UF genre at all and it affected my book sales. So, even though I loved my covers, I spent part of 2020 reworking my UF covers to be more genre specific. In the end I am happy I made the change, but I am frustrated that it took me so long to do something I knew from the start needed to be done.

Don’t be me.

But if you aren’t ready to buy a cover or get a designer there is something easy you can do. Use Pinterest to find genre-specific covers that appeal to you. I’ve done this, and when my publisher asked me for ideas for my Paranormal Romance series, I literally sent her my already created Pinterest board for her to see what appealed to me.

Here is the link to what I sent her…

It’s a simple and effective way to get your ideas across to a cover designer who is most likely very visual. 

But how about when you’re ready to find a cover designer, how do you go about getting one?

There are several ways to find a good designer.

Word of mouth. Like with a good editor, you can talk to other writers who love working with their cover designers.

Facebook groups. There are so many FB groups devoted to cover designs for all genres. A simple search on FB will get you some amazing results.

Google search. Another easy by effective way of finding great cover designers and even some premade covers.

Etsy. Yes, Etsy. There are tons of designers on Etsy trying to sell their products and time.

FIVRR - Another great place to find cover designers looking for work.

There are also such things as premade book covers. Designers put together covers and put them up for sale. You usually can’t make many changes beyond the title and author name and tagline for the book, but they are also usually priced well, and some are really beautiful. In fact, the new covers for my UF series were a set of premades that I fell in love with by a well-known UF cover designer.

There are a ton of premade book cover sites, like The Book Cover Designer, but if you put in something like Urban Fantasy Premade book covers into a google search, you’ll get a lot of results and covers to choose from. 

In closing, do your research when it comes to a good cover design and find one that you love because you will be looking at it for years to come.

I love to look at pretty things, so let’s play show and tell. Show me some of those beautiful covers in the comment section!!

* * * * * *

About Jenn

Sass. Snark. Supernatural Sizzle.

Award winning author of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. Vampires, Greek gods, and a bit of Demon Destroyer fun for everyone.Jenn Windrow loves characters who have a pinch of spunk, a dash of attitude, and a large dollop of sex appeal. Top it all off with a huge heaping helping of snark, and you’ve got the ingredients for the kind of fast-paced stories she loves to read and write. Home is a suburb of it’s-so-hot-my-shoes-have-melted-to-the-pavement Phoenix. Where she lives with her husband, two teenagers, and a slew of animals that seem to keep following her home, at least that’s what she claims.

Website: https://jennwindrow.com/

Top photo from Depositphotos.

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22 comments on “Judging a Book by its Cover”

  1. I'd love to - have an idea and want your opinion - but how do we share photos in the comments? Don't see the option, and copy/paste doesn't work. Help!

    1. Email it to me. I didn’t know we couldn’t share photos so this could be an interesting day!!

  2. Great column, Jenn. You really packed a lot of info into not a lot of space.
    Thank you for the ideas.

  3. Jenn,

    Thank you for sharing important advice about the correlation between genre and expected book cover art. Very wise!

    I have a question, though I hope it does not assume too much and I clearly may have missed an important point, but ...

    In this day and age of so many create your art software and website options, including but not limited to the variety of AI-generated art, how necessary is really to have to hire a cover designer? I think I may be naive in this regard, and so have overlooked some important considerations?

    This is something I created, for example, for a sci-fi novella I am currently working on (although I am not sure we can post urls here):


    Thanks for enlightening me. [smile]


    1. Great question and totally relevant for today's times. As a graphic designer, of course my answer is it is absolutely necessary. BUT, there are so many options these days, like Canva, which has a great book cover design options for those looking to save some money. If you think you have the skills to create your own, you can absolutely do that. BUT if you don't have an artistic eye, I would say hire a designer or go out and look for premade covers.

      As for AI, there are a lot of readers who don't want to support AI generated art. There are a lot of creatives who are against AI generated anything. And people can tell if it is AI or not. I am not one of those people who can tell, or wants to dig deep enough to even look. I know that even Amazon asks you know when you are publishing if anything on your cover or in your book is AI generated and I think they put a disclaimer on the products now, but I have never dealt with it, so I am not 100% sure. I have seen some nasty social media threads about the use of AI generated art on book covers, so make sure you are okay with some of the backlash you will receive if you do anything AI.

      In the end you have to be happy with your cover, proud to sell it and display it, so the choice is always yours. But like I said above, if you don't have the eye or the talent, I would always hire someone to do it for you. I have a BFA in graphic design and illustration and I still have a hard time designing my own covers, it is such a personal thing to the author.

      Your image is lovely, very artistic, if you did that via AI, you did a good job with the prompts, which is a skill of its own.

  4. I have heard before that you should look at bestsellers in your genre to see what sorts of covers are trending, and I think it makes a lot of sense. My question, though, is how do you stand out if they all look the same? I write Romantic Suspense and when I look at the top 50 on Amazon, they look almost identical.

    1. Great question. And that is great advice and very true. It isn't as much about standing out as it is about fitting in. In most genres, you don't want to be the "ugly duckling" so to speak. You want to blend in enough, have a catchy enough title, and a wow-them cover to draw the reader into clicking on your book and going to the sales page. Once there you need to have a fantastic back cover blurb to close the sale.

      But a great designer will know that a strong typographic font will help to pop a cover, or a striking picture or illustration depending on your genre. There are many ways to standout in an oversaturated crowd, you just need to trust your designer to help you get there. Romantic suspense does have a particular look and feel for sure, but with the right image and well done font, you can attract readers.

      I hope that helps a little, I feel like I lost the plot in there somewhere.

  5. I'm in the unenviable position of having to republish my first book because my first publisher quit paying royalties due to COVID putting the owner in the hospital. I got all my rights back and decided to go with BookLocker to republish. Their cover designer sent the cover art yesterday, and it's everything I asked for.

    1. That's amazing! It is fantastic to hear great cover stories, since some of them can be so bad. And the main thing is you are happy with it. That's important because you have to sell it and be proud of the product you are selling!

    1. I adore your new covers. They fit the genre so well. I also loved your old covers, but these fit so much better!!

  6. One aspect of the cover project that's always left me wondering, is how so many readers shop online, on their phones, and your expensive cover is now smaller than a postage stamp on their screen. Well crafted details are now a blur, and the only legible font is bold block letters. Recently, I've noticed a trend toward simple drawings, bright pastel colors, and bold titles, even for Fantasy and Scifi. Less is more, from what I see on the B&N bookshelves.

    1. I have the hardest time seeing those tiny covers with my aging eyes!! But yes, bright colors will help you stand out among the crowd!! And illustrative covers are the new trend!!

  7. I love your advice. Why didn't I think about using a Pinterest board to guide my book cover designer?! And your covers are awesome!

    What I've also found to be important is changing your covers if it's been a while and the style of book covers in your genre has shifted.

    1. Pinterest is my go to social media!

      Yes, sometimes you need to shift with the times and the change in genre.

  8. Hi Jenn,
    The books I've published thus far are children's chapter books with illustrations. I had my illustrator do the cover art and I did the remaining work, text, text placement and such. She does is not interested in doing that. It was a challenge, but the covers turned out well!

    To me, it makes sense to have the illustrator create the cover art. I'll email the covers to you.

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