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 cover is what readers see first. But unlike other genres, nonfiction is subject to a much higher standard because the quality of the 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 cover. Let me give you my reasons below.
What Makes a Good Book Cover?
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 cover design process for DIY authors.
However, your nonfiction 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 designers. 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. 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 designer 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 designer and you can also use this knowledge as part of your screening process when you are looking for a candidate to hire.
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 for your book cover. It’s always best to discuss your ideas with your cover designer and let them source the images for you at the correct resolution. Design professionals have access to large libraries of high-quality images.
- Do-it-Yourself: Don’t supply your designer with do-it-yourself graphics or images, 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 on your cover. Also, don’t choose highly rated stock photos because by nature they’re over-used, and you want your book cover to be as unique as possible. Finally, stay away from clichéd images that are 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 graphics that are under copyright, unless you have been granted written permission by the copyright holder. It’s always best to let your designer source all intellectual property to be used on your cover, which will naturally come at a cost. If you do use an image for which you’re not authorized you’re inviting a lawsuit from the copyright holder.
Mistake #2: Fonts
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. 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.
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 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 leave a typo on your cover. Make sure that the entire text of your book cover, including the marketing copy 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 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.
Mistake #4: Cover Design
Now, let’s focus on your general cover design:
- Audience: Never create your book cover with you in mind (i.e. so that “you” like it). Your 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 designer to place an image or photograph on the 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 cover design fits your genre. Different genres call for different styles and only a professional book designer has the expertise to know which works with which.
- Provider: Don’t hire a graphic designer without experience in nonfiction book covers. Make sure you see many samples of their work before making a hiring decision. Fiction cover designers and even general graphic designers will not know all the rules that are applicable to this genre.
Mistake #5: Overall Balance
Last but not least, here are some general mistakes that are common in amateurish cover 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” in the cover.
- Impact: Trying to be different for the sake of standing out.
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 book cover designer.
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!
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.
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Bennett R. Coles is the author of 6 books published through Harper Collins (NY) and Titan Publishing Group (UK). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press and the founder/CEO 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, printing, distribution and marketing.