What Makes A Great Book Cover

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog because there are already so many blogs on the internet that will inform you about what makes a great cover.

The answer is not simple and not easy to explain. 

As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For example, I found a book cover I didn’t like, and when I showed the book to my husband, he disagreed. He thought the book cover was well-designed and caught the eye making him want to pick up the book and read it.

Go figure.

Although my husband and I disagreed about a particular cover, there are some generalized rules to look for when you shop for a cover and make an informed decision about what to expect whether it’s pre-made or custom design. 

Let me start off by writing that your name in big, bold letters won’t sell your book. You’re not Stephen King, you’re not Heather Graham, or Nora Roberts. These authors could put a stick figure on their covers and they’d sell a million copies. Remember, their names are recognizable to the general public of readers. 

Is your name worth that yet?

Here’s the reality. You want your name in lights, but it’s not. Neither is mine. So, us smaller authors in the trenches have to rely on a good book covers to get noticed by the public (Besides other marketing, but that’s a blog for another time) to sell our books. 

Keep in mind, rules are different for indies than they are for traditional publishing.

I follow Derek Murphy from CreativIndie and he has published stellar advice about book covers over the years. He is very knowledgeable about book cover design and released a video on his design techniques. I found it fascinating as I watched how he designs his covers. 

On one of his videos referring to book covers, some comments popped out at me, and I thought I’d share them.

No, do the exact opposite, and Derek’s 100%  right. My current client did the opposite with his urban fantasy book covers and guess what, his sales were dismal. Now, I’ve designed all new covers for him and after I release them to him, it’ll be up to him how he markets the new designs, but I know the main reason for his horrible sales were his book covers. Once I’m finished, and he publishes them, I’ll add them to a blog tacked onto this one.

To feed off the next commentator’s point. Yes, they might bore you to use stock images and a person on the cover, but my goal as a designer AND a writer is to sell books. If the brunette with the sky-blue eyes and the magical sparks that appear on her hands sells the books, then so be it.

Blending stock images isn’t easy either. There’s a certain art to it and I learn something new every day. Most tutorials from Photoshop experts use real photographs for their demonstrations. Some of them are actual illustrators, but for the most part, they’re designers. They take an image and manipulate it. I’ll post PixImperfect as a great example of what we do as designers.

I might be a little defensive. So, I’ll stop with comments and move on to great book covers. 


The reader must know the genre. Readers are passionate about their genres and when they set their gaze upon a new book, they will look at the cover art and realize that’s what they want and buy the book. Urban fantasy and Science Fiction come to mind immediately with this. When I’m doing research in those genres for a book cover to make, reviewers will comment on the book cover and how it made them buy the book even if they didn’t like the story.

The Story

You don’t want to give away the whole book in one image, but you want to tease the reader with the story even if they haven’t read the synopsis just yet. Rule of thumb, it only takes seconds to impress a reader enough for them to buy or reject the book and it will base most of those emotions on what’s designed on the book cover. 


You don’t need a fancy font for a good book cover. I’m a stickler for simple serif fonts. I make a few exceptions for certain genres, but I feel the image should speak to the reader, not a script font they can’t read if they’re looking at it as a thumbnail. Just make sure the font will flow with the book cover.


The main image can be a scene or an image to catch the reader’s eye. A simple scene that tells the reader what the book is about. Never use a bunch of different images and place them on the cover, unless you understand coloring, blending, and/or spacing. One stock image background with your hero or heroine is all you need. A wooden path with the right coloring also works. In science fiction, a red and yellow planet works. It sets the tone of the book and that’s what you’re aiming for. 


I remember someone from another blog quote a designer. The designer said, “Make it shiny.” I’m sorry I can’t remember the blog or the exact quote, so I’m paraphrasing. I happened upon this quote when I was researching how to start Broken Candle Book Designs. That one small sentence stuck with me. The designer was referring to Urban fantasy. Here’s an example of how I make them shiny. 

See the contrast of colors? That catches the reader’s eye.

In my book, Carlton House, there are contrasting colors but the colors are subtle because it’s gothic horror. 

A Simple Tagline

In Carlton House, my tagline is; Some secrets should stay behind closed doors.

It’s long, but not long enough where I couldn’t fit it into my marketing campaigns and onto the book cover. It’s simple, yet effective.

If you asked me to design your book cover and asked me to place a paragraph on there. I would flat out say no. If it’s a recommendation for the book, I would still say no and tell you to shorten it into one sentence. The only time I make exceptions is when it’s non-fiction. On those books, you can get away with using a whole paragraph but again, keep it short and simple. 

Social Media

One thing I should have added in my last blog is social media. Do not go to any book groups and ask for opinions on book covers including professionally designed ones. Most authors are not designers and they may lie and tell you what you want to hear. If you must have a third-party opinion, then seek out a designer. They may charge you for an opinion, they may try to upsell you a fix or a whole new book cover, but it never hurts to ask a person with a professional eye to assess the problems with the cover and what needs to be fixed.

What do you think makes a good book cover? Let me know in the comments below.

Next will be a blog about anti-heroes based on The Walking Dead season finale. 

Check out my pre-made and custom designs over on Broken Candle Book Designs!

Want a free and quick read? Download my short horror story Vacancy from Prolific Works!

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