5 Book Cover Maker Mistakes to Avoid When You Design a Nonfiction Cover

by Bennett R. Coles

Book Cover Maker

If you’re looking around for a book cover maker to create a cover for your nonfiction book this is a must-read article for you, because the design and execution of your book cover is much more important than you can imagine.

How Important Is a Book Cover?

The book cover is by far the most important piece of real estate in a nonfiction book. You could argue that it’s the most important piece of real estate for any book regardless of genre – after all the book cover is what people see first. But unlike other genres, nonfiction is subject to a much higher standard because the quality of the book cover doesn’t just reflect the quality of the book itself, but also the professional reputation of the author.

If you’re writing a nonfiction book to establish yourself as an expert in your industry or increase the profile of your business, I’d like to talk you out of using a book cover maker to design your own book cover. Let me give you my reasons below.

What Makes a Good Cover Design?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are great book cover makers out there and they’ve really come a long way in simplifying the design process for DIY authors.

However, your nonfiction book cover will be judged not just by your readers but also by gatekeepers and decision makers that have the power to swing the doors wide open for your career and your business – and you want them on your side.

These people will judge your book against the best practices in the industry, because they all expect “expert” authors to hire professional book cover and interior design experts. If they’re going to throw their weight behind your book, they’ll want it to make them look good too.

The problem is that as sleek as a book cover maker is in terms of features and ease of use, it cannot possibly automate the art of making a professional book cover design. There are just too many moving parts to consider – too many things that could go wrong and too many things that can break.

Now, there’s a place for book cover makers. For example, they can be a great tool for new authors writing their first novel, where it makes sense to keep the costs down. But as nonfiction author, you’ll be deemed an expert the minute your book comes out, so hiring a professional book cover design expert is virtually expected by your market.

Having said that, I’ll teach you below five mistakes to avoid in the design of a top-notch nonfiction book cover so you can become familiar with the best practices. This will allow you to have in-depth discussions with your book design expert and you can also use this knowledge as part of your screening process when you are looking for a candidate to hire.

Book Cover Mistake #1: Images and Graphics

First, I’m going to focus on the largest elements of your book cover – images and graphics. The following is a list of poor design choices that you should avoid:

  • Quality: Never use low-resolution images or illustrations for your book cover. It’s always best to discuss your ideas with your book cover design experts and let them source the images for you at the correct resolution. Book cover design experts have access to large libraries of high-quality professionally designed images.
  • Do-it-Yourself: Don’t supply your designer with a do-it-yourself graphic or image, unless you’re a graphic artist, since they’ll always look amateurish compared to the professionally designed books you’ll be competing with. The same goes for using your own photographs – hire a professional photographer instead.
  • Quantity: Never use too many images or photos on your book cover. Also, don’t choose highly rated stock photos because by nature they’re over-used, and you want your book cover design to be as unique as possible. Finally, stay away from a clichéd image that is too obvious and over-used, like sunrises and sunsets.
  • Special Effects: Stay away from sophisticated special effects if you can. If not done right (which can get expensive very quickly due to the custom work required) they’ll almost always look amateurish.
  • Permissions: Never use images or photos that are under copyright, unless you have been granted written permission by the copyright holder. It’s always best to let your design expert source all intellectual property to be used on your book cover, which will naturally come at a cost. If you do use images without authorization (even one tiny image) you’re inviting an expensive to implement cease and desist order followed by a lawsuit from the copyright holder.

Book Cover Mistake #2: Fonts

Book Cover Designer

The next key element on your book cover is fonts. Here are the main traps to avoid:

  • Quality: Don’t use amateur or gimmicky fonts in your book cover design. They’ll make your book look bad, and worse yet, they’ll make you look bad by extension.
  • Quantity: Don’t use more than two different fonts in your book cover otherwise it’ll look amateurish.
  • Size: Don’t use type that is too small in relation to the trim size of your book. It’ll look disproportionate and likely unreadable from a distance.

Book Cover Mistake #3: Text

Next, let’s tackle potential issues with different textual elements in your book cover:

  • Size: Don’t make your book title too small. Your title should always be the most prominent textual element on your book cover. Also, never make your subtitle’s font size larger than or equal to your title’s font size. Your subtitle should always be in a smaller font.
  • Quality: This goes without saying: never ever have a typo on your book cover. Make sure that the entire text of your book cover, including the marketing content on the back cover and any text on the spine, is fully proofread by a professional nonfiction editor before the book goes to print!
  • Readability: Never make a book cover that is too verbose (e.g. extra-long titles or subtitles). This makes it hard to read in bookstores and it makes your cover’s thumbnail on online bookstores nearly impossible to make out without enlarging the image.

Book Cover Mistake #4: Book Cover Design

Book Cover Design

Now, let’s focus on your general book cover design:

  • Audience: Never create your book cover with you in mind (i.e. so that “you” like it). Your book cover must always be designed for and targeted to your audience. Use design elements that your audience expects to see based on your niche (tip: check bestseller books in your space for ideas).
  • Influence: Don’t ask your design expert to place an image or photograph on the book cover simply because it has a special meaning to you – this rarely produces a good result. The same goes for favorite graphic elements or favorite fonts. These requests will hinder the artistic ability of your professional designer.
  • Genre: Make sure that your book cover design fits your genre. Different genres call for different styles and only a professional book cover designer has the expertise to know which works with which.
  • Provider: Don’t hire a graphic design specialist without experience in nonfiction book covers. Make sure you see many samples of their work before making a hiring decision. Fiction cover design experts and even general graphic design specialists will not know all the rules that are applicable to this genre.

Book Cover Mistake #5: Overall Balance

Last but not least, here are some general mistakes that are common in amateurish designs:

  • Color: Poor color choices and poor contrast between elements; colors that are flashy, gaudy or “over the top.”
  • Elements: Too many graphic elements, too many small details, too many textual elements competing for attention. Having too much “going on” on the book cover.
  • Impact: Trying to be different for the sake of standing out.

Next Steps:

While there’s nothing wrong with using a book cover maker to create a mock up, never use it as a substitute for the expertise of a professional cover design expert.

Your nonfiction book will be a part of your professional legacy and you want to make sure that its cover can stand the test of time.

I wish you the best in your book project!

If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of writing, designing or publishing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.


Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.

Here are some related articles I highly recommend:

How to Write a Compelling Book in 12 Steps: A Must-Read Guide for Nonfiction Authors

How Long Does it Take to Write a Book to Help Grow Your Business

Learn 10 Powerful Writing Habits to Fast Track Your Nonfiction Book

How to Find the Perfect Writing Coach for Your Nonfiction Book

How to Become a Great Book Writer in Business Nonfiction

Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six titles published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.

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    Thanks for taking the time to write this.

    1. Avatar
      Bennett R. Coles

      You’re welcome!

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