Guest Post: Judging a Book by its Cover

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Judging a Book by its Cover

by Alex Martin

As in every industry, when we look at the yearly information about self-publishing, there is always good news and bad news.

In several surveys applied across Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, the Smashwords online store, Oyster, Scribd, and Kobo, a few common trends are evident.

Bad news first?

Many authors quit after their first book. The why was not included, but an educated guess would lead to think that low sales and results that are below expectations would play a large role in making writers abandon their dreams, or at the least put them on an indefinite hold.

On the bright side, there is much good news to consider.

As of 2015 onwards, self-published books are representing more than 30% of e-book sales and authors are earning nearly 40% of total earnings. This is a clear indication that the market is still solid and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. This is all in spite of the data that also indicates that authors in general are earning less, but many are making a very healthy yearly profit. As an example, if you look up Mark Dawson, you will see that he is earning around $450.000 yearly as a self-published author.

Now, for a few points to consider, as we haven’t touched the topic related to the title of this article yet.

As a self-published author, you have several tools at your disposal to capture a reader’s attention. You can do a small test first, placing yourself in the position of a potential buyer. Let’s say you go to Amazon and type in a book genre, for example “romance”. As the list of related books appear, what is the first thing that you see?

That’s right, the book’s cover. And then if it captures your attention, the book’s title and only then will you probably click on it to read what it’s about.

With the romance genre example above, as you browse down the list, you will also probably notice how many of these covers have a man’s muscular torso on it, with the title written in some fancy cursive font. Now ask yourself, if you have a self-published romance book and you want customers to buy it, what makes it stand out from all the other covers with muscular torsos?

On the other hand, if the cover is not attractive, readers will also think that they will find the same quality inside the book, thus reducing drastically your chances of them buying your book.

This said, even if you are on a low budget, which you perhaps prefer to spend more on marketing your book, there are many very low cost options for good semi-professional book covers:

  • Canva

Canva is a free design tool that you can use both online or download as an app with which you can create great cover designs. It includes all the tools for text formatting, as well as a few free images that you can use. There are also paid images available at $1 each.

  • Public domain photos

If you do an internet search on public domain photos, you will find several sites that have a large database of photos and other types of images that are free to use. Just make sure that it specifies that it is free for commercial use. After choosing, all you need to do is perhaps add some photoshop filter and place the book’s title and author name, which you can do yourself with some basic design skills, or hire someone for as low as $5 to do it for you.

  • Low Cost Royalty Free Photos

There are also several sites offering royalty free images (no license attached), starting at $1 upwards.

  • Low Cost Designer

If you want to avoid all the hassle, you can go straight to a designer to have a cover made for you. Make sure, however, that you have a specific idea of what you want for your cover first, as any changes you may want to make once you receive the finished design may imply further costs.

With all these options, there are many ways of making your cover stand out among the rest. So, each time you take a break from writing, think of what type of cover you want for your book. A cover that would make you buy it without hesitation if you saw it.




Born 16275 days ago, books, music and film have always been an inspiration and an escape, fueling a desire to be a part of such noble professions. This is the beginning of the journey.



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