How to get exactly the book cover you want (and ruin your writing career).

Several months ago I was helping an author try to make a book cover.

They had something very ugly, and I made something much better.

I was working mostly for free (something I’m trying to stop doing) because I felt bad for the author (I feel bad for authors with ugly covers). Even though I did lots of revisions and ALSO offered to do the formatting for free, ultimately the author became unhappy that I wasn’t doing it exactly as he wanted, and got fed up waiting for me to make changes.

Today, looking over another book cover designer’s website, I found that the same author had hired a new designer to make him a new cover. The cover design isn’t terrible, but makes basic amateur mistakes like too many colors, too much different and confusing stuff going on (too symbolic) and dropshadow on text – a rookie habit for sure.

Very telling, was the author’s raving testimonial: the designer is a genius. The author got exactly what he wanted. After having “disappointing” experiences with other designers (me), the author is thrilled to have found a designer at half the cost! Wahoo!

That book, with the new cover, has a sales rank of almost 2million. That’s not very good.

Price isn’t necessarily an indication of quality; I know for a fact there are better designers than me charging much less. But I also know there are a lot of designers who are just mediocre.

Finding a designer who will take your money and make what YOU want is a narcissistic exercise of a control freak and is destined to kill your book sales. Especially if you have a certain scene or symbolic representations in mind, or you choose the colors and fonts that appeal to you personally.

I don’t know why, but most authors are drawn to ugly designs (usually because they are thinking symbolically and conceptually, and ignore aesthetics). Their taste in style and design is completely out of whack. They love Comic Sans and red and blue and green and yellow.

If left to their own devices they will use and love really ugly book covers.

Getting exactly the cover you want is usually a great way to destroy your author career.

I try my best to make book covers that sell books; it’s a passion of mine, and I love the challenge.

But the biggest difficulty – the biggest barrier to creating an amazing book cover that sells books – is almost always the author. And that’s frustrating. And stupid.

It’s like having a customer walk into a high-end salon and saying, “I want you to die my hair blue, shave half my head and write my initials with a trimmer.”

And they’ll pay you, and they’re happy, but you still feel like you let them down.

If I were better at business, I would focus on giving clients what they want and making them happy. Except… I know it’s really better, for them and me, if I’m kind of a jerk, refuse to make what they want, and tell them they have to use this or that cover design instead because it will sell more books.

They may be unhappy in the beginning. Maybe they really loved the idea that I shot down and feel regretful about it.

That’s why I’m always happy to give refunds to authors so they can go find another designer to make them happy.

I’m not that guy.

I help you sell books.



Is Penguin using stock photography for cover designs?

I was a little surprised today to see the cover of Ruth Long’s book “The Treachery of Beautiful Things”. After being warned by a designer friend about using stock images (because the same image might end up on multiple book covers) “Treachery” jumped out at me because I’ve been working with the same stock photo for another cover design. Of course I assumed it was an indie published book; even so I will have to ditch the photo as I don’t want to design a cover so similar to something already out there. Turns out this book is actually being published by Penguin! Why oh why is Penguin using stock images for book covers? Isn’t that a little unfair against the little guys who have no choice but to use them? Or has independent publishing so threatened traditional publishing that they can’t hire their own photographers anymore and search for royalty free images like the rest of us?

Anyway it’s a beautiful cover, the book is probably good as well.

My cover was still in a very early (rough) phase, but would have been just as good as the one above eventually.




Photoshop generated 3D book covers for book promotion and marketing

I use (and recommend) Cover Action Pro to generate the awesome 3D book images you see on this site; I make them for all my clients’ finished book covers to use in book marketing and promotion. If you can use Adobe Photoshop already, you might want to think about getting the $247 software.

But if you have a book cover design already and just want me to make it 3D for you, I can do it for $49. This price includes 3 different 3D book images, which could either be ebook/paperback/hardback (like on my homepage), or three different views of the book from different angles. Even if you have an ebook, presenting the book as a “real” book is important to raise its perceived value.

Below are the main choices for hardcover and softcover 3D images I can make; in addition to these I can put your cover on a 3D e-reader like the Kindle or iPad. (Or if you want to be really creative, I can add your cover to just about anything – like the side of an elephant or hanging behind the president.)


Hardcover book covers


Paperback book covers


If this is what you’re looking for, you can send me a message or just get started by paying and then sending me your cover (make sure to tell me your three choices; if you look at the pictures closely you can see each image’s #…PB1, PB2, etc.)

Heck ya I wanna 3D my book for only $49! Let’s do it!

Which is better, a complex book cover or a simple minimalist book cover?

Book cover design is changing. Recently, especially among top book cover designers, there is almost a “minimalistic” competition to see who can do more with less. But how little is too little? A book cover that won several awards awhile back was “Killing the Buddha” – which featured a blue sky covered by a big red X:

The image sums up the title nicely, and got a lot of attention to the book because it is so revolutionary. But what about an action or thriller with a complicated plot? How do you explain what a novel is about when fiction titles are usual brief and enigmatic? Don’t you have to show more?

As an exercise, here are two versions of a book cover I’m working on. Actually I have five versions but here are the most complex and the most simple.

The first cover is pretty simple. (If I really wanted it to appeal to designers, I would have changed all the elements to white so they look nice but are hard to see). It reminds me a little of the mockingjay covers for the Hunger Games series – a complex series about killing, war, revolution, death; but you can’t get any of that from the simple and stylistic covers…

A simple cover like this will probably appeal more to young adults. It seems a little more friendly, light, fun. Maybe humorous. The second cover has a bit too much, but I’ve tried to make it all look nice anyway. The book is actually about the apocalypse, zombies, vampires, aliens and religious history – so that’s a lot of stuff to try and convey. For the genre, I’ll probably stick with the more serious 2nd cover (even though the first appeals to me more).

Which one do you like?