Four steps to making a bad book cover design look good

Why should I have a good looking book cover?

Among over 1000 authors surveyed in the Taleist self-publishing stats earlier this year the 41% who went with a professional book cover designer reported that cover design alone improves your sales by up to 18%. That along with getting professional help with editing and proof reading you can make an extra 34%. That’s massive. That’s a third more than what you’re making now.

So I ask you this question: Do you think it’s important to have a well-designed book cover? Do you see how much a beautiful cover can change not only your sales, but your identity in the publishing world? I do. I believe having a professional book cover enables you to grab hold of that power inside you, inside that author self, inside the writer who is on your heroic publishing adventure, and carve out a magnificent Professional Publishing Identity.

Let’s look at how to improve a book cover.

Authors are intelligent, skilled workers and writing books gives you the mind set you need. To apply yourself, understand how it works and how it comes together. I have seen a great boost in the number of authors who are creating their own covers and producing really impressive quality. I love this. I encourage this. My purpose is to encourage the belief self-publishing is professional publishing, and that we create great quality literature for the hordes of readers to gorge on.

So I’m going to show you how to make a bad cover look like a good book cover in 4 steps.

  1. Be simple.

A lot of book covers have overcrowding of elements and images and type that are all competing for attention. A book cover with less will stand much taller than a book cover that has more. If you have a lot of ideas for your cover pick one and focus on it. Drill it down to the bone.

If it is a character, a symbol, an object – use this as a single image to bring strength to your cover. One well defined image of a main character is far better than three faces melded together. Empty space is not your enemy. It is okay to have areas on your cover which are not packed with images.

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  1. Seek examples. 

Know your genre. As an author with little or no design experience use world’s best practice to set your standard. Go to your local library, go to Goodreads, to Amazon, to forums and look at other book covers. Look at traditionally published books. Put them in front of you as you’re working so you can constantly reference and compare. If you’re going to put a model on your cover then seek out other book covers that have models and look at how they have done it.

Don’t go in blind. Pretending you know what you’re doing when you don’t have a point of reference or something you’re working off means your end product may be way off base and not what you planned. You need to have an end goal, something you’re working towards and can visualize. See how the best do it and follow their lead.



  1. Use classic font faces 

Be very careful with your type treatment. 80% of the time I see a book cover the reason it screams ‘DIY’ or ‘amateur’ is because they have not spent time on the title. The image is amazing but the type lets it down. And when I’m talking type treatment I’m not just talking about the font face, I’m talking about where the font goes and how it works with the image. The relationship between the type and the rest of the book cover. A lot of book covers, no matter the genre, can work with the classic font faces and don’t need distorted, playful, or dated font faces. You can find font faces I recommend, depending on your genre and style, here: What font or type faces should I use on my book cover?

Again this is where you can reflect on number 2 and look at how others have used font faces on their book covers. Learn by example.                                                                                   

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  1. Get feedback- and listen to it.

Feedback is freeking hard to handle. I’m not talking “yeah it’s good” or “nah it doesn’t really work.” I’m talking the critical, constructive critique we all need to go through in order to improve our work. Writer’s go through it all the time with beta readers. The beta readers identify the weak points, the plot holes, the characters who need more filling out.

Just like your book there are things about your cover you can’t see that others can- and that’s why you need feedback. Professional book designers- myself included- go through this. It’s not limited to only a certain group of people but everyone from the DIY authors to the best book designers in the world must go through feedback in order to get the best result.

Put it this way: Feeling wounded after receiving the feedback will pass. In an hour, a day, a week. But your book cover will stand for a long time. It’s okay to feel anxious about criticism because it’s pointing out things that could be improved but your anxiety will be reduced to nothing when you make the changes and know you’ve made the right decisions.

Are you an author who wants to be successful and proud of your work? Do you want to kick ass in selling your novel? Do you want to give yourself every chance of making a name for yourself in your publishing field? Then do it. And if you don’t feel confident doing it then hire a professional book cover designer. Your career, your life as a writer, is worth it.


Scarlett Rugers’ job is not just to design your book cover. As a Publishing Identity Consultant and Designer my purpose is to empower you to be the best author you can be, and collaborate with you to improve the quality of the book industry. I work on the principle of creating a Professional Publishing Identity through design. Believing in your Author-Self, acting as the professional author does, and learning from the best to be the best in your field. I am constantly working to inspire, strengthen and pursue the perception that self-publishing is professional publishing.

For an experience that will make you feel traditionally published you can email me at: or visit my website and see many examples of my work at, and come follow me on Twitter.