Feedback on Cover Design


The Importance of Cover Design

A great cover can do wonders for great content:

  • An appealing cover helps to get a book discovered among millions.
  • A cover that quickly signifies the genre and content helps attract the target audience.
  • A fantastic cover catches attention when sorting through several thumbnails.
  • A professional cover suggests that the content may also be professional.
  • Cover appeal can have a positive impact on a buyer’s mood and mindset.
  • Book covers play an important role in branding the book’s image.

However, a great cover won’t sell a lousy book. Once the target audience discovers the book, it’s up to the blurb and Look Inside to generate the sale. Once the book is sold, it’s up to excellent content to generate recommendations. Lousy content with a great cover will backfire with negative reviews.

A lousy cover can have a negative impact on good content:

  • If the cover doesn’t seem professional, shoppers will wonder if the content also lacks effort or quality.
  • If it attracts the wrong audience, the people who discover the book won’t buy it.
  • Covers are fashionable. People are reluctant to buy books with covers with styles they don’t like.
  • When a cover isn’t good, it has a negative impact on a buyer’s mood and mindset.

Feedback on Cover Design

Consider these thoughts:

  • Wouldn’t it be nice to know how your target audience reacts to your book before you publish your book?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to know how your book cover rates in terms of the various elements of cover design?

The only thing that prevents you from doing these things is you.

It’s wise to research cover design to learn about the various elements. Even if you hire an illustrator, you should understand what the illustrator is trying to achieve (and communicate clearly with your designer).

But even if you master the theory, practice is another matter. Show your cover to people and get feedback. If you can get a few people with expertise in cover design to look at your cover, that will help you assess any issues that your cover-in-progress may have. The most important thing is to seek honest feedback from your target audience.

With successful premarketing, you may have some fans and followers starting out to help provide feedback for stages of your cover reveal. When publishing subsequent books, you may already have a fan club in place.

Cover feedback helps you build buzz for your book. It serves two purposes, so how could you possibly skip this valuable pre-publishing step?

Check out this new website: It allows you to post a cover for the purpose of receiving a critique of the design. It’s worth checking it out and exploring the comments on covers already there, as you can learn helpful information about cover design from the comments. I can’t make any warranties or recommendations on posting your potential cover on this site, as I haven’t used this service myself, but I can emphasize the importance of receiving feedback. Even more important is learning how your target audience reacts to your cover.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

What Does a Good Cover Do?

Cover designed by Melissa Stevens at

What a good book cover should do depends on your primary objective. For example,

  • If your main goal is to interest relevant readers in your book, then the cover is effective if it attracts your target audience.
  • If your main goal is to create fashion for your book, then the cover is effective if readers appreciate its style.
  • If your main goal is to please your family, then your cover should be geared to them.

I will focus on cover design geared toward attracting the target audience. This is what most authors and publishers strive to achieve.

The Importance of Cover Design

100% of readers see your book’s cover before they open the book. Some won’t open the book unless it looks inviting.

There are several ways that an effective cover may help to inspire interest or deter sales:

  • Customers see thumbnails in search results. Most covers have just a few seconds to catch the shopper’s attention and appeal to the shopper’s interests.
  • People see your cover in your various marketing endeavors. Your cover is a big part of your branding process.
  • Your cover makes the first impression on a buyer. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.
  • Books are read on airplanes, in trains, on park benches, and left on coffee tables. The cover is a marketing opportunity.
  • A readers will set the book down periodically. A good cover helps to renew interest in the story.

Designing the Cover

Focus on attracting the target audience:

  • It’s not just to grab attention. It needs to appeal to the specific target audience.
  • It needs to clearly signify the genre and content. Three seconds or no deal.
  • The cover must look professional. Buyers expect it to reflect the quality of the content.
  • The text must be easy to read. Key words should be especially clear.
  • The colors need to work well together.

How to Do It

Here are some tips:

  • Research and study the covers of top-selling books similar to yours, especially those which aren’t selling because of the author’s or publisher’s name recognition. This is what your target audience is accustomed to seeing. When they see covers like these, they ‘know’ (in three seconds) that these books are a good fit.
  • The main image (and cover as a whole) must attract the target audience and signify the genre and content. This image can make or break the sale. If your book has highly marketable content, it’s well worth the extra time or reasonable expense to find the ‘right’ image.
  • Don’t make the cover too busy. One central image sends a quicker, clearer signal.
  • Placing the main image according to the rule of thirds may attract more interest than placing it in the center of the front cover.
  • Many top covers follow the three-color rule: 60% primary, 30% secondary, 10% accent. Study color coordination (there are many free online resources) to find colors that work well together. If designing a paperback cover, note that colors often print much darker than they appear on the screen.
  • Select a font that fits the cover, genre, and content well. The font style plays a more pivotal role than most people realize. Buyers themselves often pass up a book based on font without even realizing it.
  • Get feedback from your target audience. This may also help you create a little buzz for your book.

When your cover is finished, remember your main objective. What matters most is whether or not it will attract the target audience.


Look at the thumbnail that I included with this post. It’s for Cursive Handwriting Practice Workbook for Teens by Julie Harper; the cover was designed by Melissa Stevens (

I’ll admit that when I first saw this book, I wondered if the artist and author had taken a risk with this cover. Then I realized that I’m not in the target audience. I think the art does appeal to teens. Especially, if you consider what typical educational resources look like, this might be a ‘cool’ alternative. The cursive element might be a little subtle: You see this with the first word in the title, a few words of the title written in cursive, and less obvious in the background. Most handwriting workbooks emphasize the handwriting element with a few very large handwritten letters or words. This cover went against the grain, which generally can be a risk. But the most important thing is if the book appeals to the specific target audience. This book does a good job of saying, effectively, “If you’re looking for a handwriting workbook that isn’t geared toward small children, check me out.”

Let me emphasize that this cover wasn’t designed (that’s my impression) to go against the grain. It was designed to attract the specific target audience. Focus on this element of cover design. It might also break a couple of the ‘rules’ of cover design. Remember, what matters most is how the cover appeals to the target audience and signifies the proper genre and content. Everything else is just a guideline.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Cover Fonts


Plasma Drip font from Font Squirrel at

The right font is an important ingredient for successful cover design. It can also be one of the more challenging elements to perfect.

What to look for

  • The cover text should fit the genre or subject matter.
  • It should look like the font belongs on the cover.
  • The font should inspire interest in the book.
  • It shouldn’t be a distraction.
  • The text should be easy to read. Any uncommon words should be immediately clear.
  • Key words should stand out in the thumbnail.
  • Pixelation, stray marks, blurriness, and other issues will detract from the cover.
  • Too many different fonts on the cover is a problem. Two different fonts must work well together.


We’ll look at a movie and t.v. show. Although these aren’t books, the font is equally important—more so, if you count the money invested.

Check out the font for Disney’s Frozen: It fits the content perfectly.

Another example is Nick’s The Haunted Hathaways:

Getting it right

The font and cover as a whole must look right to your eye. Well, not your eye. What really matters is your specific target audience.

That’s why feedback is so important. Some people have a good eye for font style. If you can get their opinions, that will help. You can also solicit feedback from your target audience, helping you build a little buzz while also perfecting your cover.

Finding the font

You need to go on the Great Font Scavenger Hunt. But it’s worth it.

If you’re using the font on your book cover, you’ll need a font that permits commercial use. There are many fonts online that allow free commercial use, along with many more with reasonable prices. For example, check out Font Squirrel. Google free fonts to find a host of other sites. You can also find many font collections for sale.

Read the license agreement carefully to learn whether or not commercial use is permitted. While some free fonts allow commercial use, beware that some paid fonts don’t. Check the license to be sure.

Note that paid font collections often exaggerate the total number of fonts. If the same font comes in normal, bold, italics, condensed, and expanded, for example, that single font might count as 9 different fonts (since condensed bold italic is different from condensed bold, for example).

Another issue is browsing through the fonts and testing it out with your specific text. A paid collection might come with a booklet that shows just the first 7 letters of thousands of fonts, which really makes it challenging to find the right one. An advantage of browsing online is that you often see larger fonts, spaced out better, and you can search and filter to better find what you’re looking for.

Once you have the fonts of interest installed on your computer, you can open up Microsoft Word, type the text, highlight the text, then scroll through the various fonts to see how it looks using the up/down arrows on the keyboard. This is pretty convenient. (If the font window blocks the text, you can move the text over by changing its alignment to right, for example.)

Don’t ignore it

If you did a survey among avid readers who know nothing about cover design, they might tell you that font style isn’t important to them. But that’s only because they don’t realize it.

Online, before you see the book’s product page, you see the thumbnail for the cover. Usually, the thumbnail is on a page with a dozen or more other covers. Very often, a shopper is scrolling through several pages of thumbnails to find a book. In a bookstore, you see the spines of hundreds of books.

The cover that best attracts the target audience gets the most attention. The font style does have a significant impact on cover appeal, even if we don’t realize it.

A successful cover signifies the genre and attracts the specific target audience in three seconds. The right font helps to pull this off.

Cover Design

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles, including cover design, by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Cover Reveal for Spooky Word Scrambles

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000443_00051]

In the past, I’ve always designed my own covers, and I’ve enjoyed doing so. But I’ve seen so many awesome covers here at WordPress, I wanted to have one like those on my new book, too. That’s a great thing about interacting with other authors here at WordPress: I think we all find a little motivation and some ideas toward improvement.

This cover is far better than I could have done myself. For one, if I have to put a person on my cover, I’m hopeless (a stick figure probably isn’t the way to go). There are some cool effects here that I wouldn’t have thought to try to do, and wouldn’t have been able to pull off if I had. If you hire a cover designer, (at a minimum) you definitely want the result to include features that you couldn’t have done by yourself.

Melissa Stevens at, designed this cover. She has some cool horror covers on her website, and she also designed a cool spooky cursive workbook cover for a friend, July Harper (you can see all of Melissa’s covers by clicking Gallery on her website). So I knew that she would be a good fit to design a spooky, Halloween-themed cover for my book. Melissa also provided several illustrations that were used to decorate the interior (like the one shown below). Even if word scrambles don’t interest you, you might check out the interior in a week or so on Amazon, if you’re curious about how the interior is decorated.

My word scramble books don’t sell as well as many of my other books, but I still feel very good about this cover. I’m very glad to have it on my book. (Of course, my coauthor actually did most of the work on what I just called “my” book.)

We’ve been working on this spooky word scrambles book for a year and several months now. We wanted to release in time for Halloween last year, but when that didn’t happen, we decided to put extra time into it. It’s barely coming out in time for Halloween this year. It should be out later this week. Although the title is Spooky Word Scrambles, many of the puzzles relate to Halloween. I think a cool feature of our word scramble books is the Hints section (separate from the Answers section). Have you ever been stuck on a word jumble, and wanted just a little help without getting the full answer? The hints section gives the first letter of the answer, which helps with this.

Target audience: I mention this frequently in my marketing posts. The focus of my blog is to help authors with self-publishing ideas. The audience for my blog isn’t word scramble lovers. Okay, maybe a couple of you do like puzzles, but definitely, if I’m trying to sell word scrambles, I have a target audience mismatch. I preach all the time that this is a huge problem.

However, I didn’t do this cover reveal to try to sell word scramble books (but I’d also be a fool to beg you to please not buy it). Rather, I thought that my experience of hiring a cover designer may be relevant, and I want to use this cover to make a few points about cover design, which I shall do now.

Cover design:

  • Three colors is a good rule of thumb, often in the ration 6:3:1. This cover follows this fairly well, with a primary green, secondary purple, and accent black. The other colors, used just a little, complement the main three, and at least a fourth color is usually inevitable when using a person or picture on the cover.
  • Text should be interesting, fit the theme, and be highly readable. If you really want to be a picky cover critic, you could complain about readability in the title, but then you’d be awful silly in this case: Since it’s a word scramble book, if you can’t figure out the title, this book probably isn’t for you. 🙂 For most other books, I’d be more cautious before staggering the letters like this. I like the way the author names stand out in the cauldron, and I like the style of this font for the theme, too.
  • There is a danger of making a cover too busy. There are a few things going on here. The biggest question to ask is whether or not it’s distracting. The bats kind of just seem like shadows in the background, so may not distract too much. The bubbles serve a purpose by holding the title letters.
  • The biggest problem is that I have a dozen (or so) word scramble books, but the covers aren’t remotely uniform. It’s not really a series, so to speak, but it would be nice if I had had the foresight to make them fit together in some way. I guess the only solution is to go back in time and hire a cover designer sooner. 🙂 (I guess I could have them redesigned, but then a few customers might accidentally buy the same book again, so I think I’ll just focus on the new covers.)

However, even if you’re not in the target audience, your opinion would be valued. Feel free to disagree with my comments above. Obviously, I’m partial toward this cover; you’re more likely to be objective than I am. If there is anything about the cover that you like or dislike, please share it; I will be grateful for honest feedback.

Here is a sample puzzle, in case you want to enjoy a fun word puzzle while you’re here. As in the book, every word scramble on a page fits a specific theme. So if you’re stuck on a puzzle, knowing that all of the words are related in some way may be helpful.

  • P A C E
  • G S A F N
  • D O B O L
  • K A T E S
  • N O C T U
  • T A Y B T
  • M A P R E V I
  • A L C A R D U

You can find the answers at the very end of the post (below the picture).

Happy Halloween. 🙂

If you haven’t already heard about Read Tuesday, you should check it out.

It’s going to be HUGE!

Give the gift of reading this holiday season.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Halloween Scrambles Title Page

cape, fangs, blood, stake, count, batty, vampire, Dracula