Five Mistakes Cover “Designers” Make

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April 27, 2014 by Mod

I previously discussed mistakes authors make with their covers, and some of those mistakes can be traced back to simply not engaging a professional designer. But there are a lot of “designers” out there so it’s important to make sure that you have one who understands the basic tenets of good cover design and image manipulation. Not every designer who claims to be experienced and qualified really is (see this story for example). Checking someone’s testimonials is key of course (including contacting the source of those testimonials to check their veracity) but a lot can be learned by simply looking at a designer’s work.

Here are some elementary mistakes to look out for:

(rather than point fingers at other designers I’m going to show you the mistakes by altering some designs of my own)

1. Poor Font Choice

You’re a writer. You probably have a computer, right? If you are using Word, check the preloaded fonts;  most of these are not suitable for book covers. If your designer has used Papyrus, Mistral, Brush Script, Lucinda Handwriting or Rage Italic (among others) it’s time to fire them. Another no-no is to have half a dozen fonts on one cover. A good rule of thumb is at most two fonts – only one fancy one (script for example) and one plainer (a simple serif or sans serif).

bandfont copy

2. Poor text legibility/image visibility

Ebook sales are the life blood of indie authors, and eBook covers do a large part of their selling in thumbnail form. While not every part of the text on the cover needs to be readable in thumbnail, at the very least the title should be. I’ve seen designs where even good fonts in large size are illegible. Or worse, sometimes the images are so small as to be indecipherable in most sizes. This is a deal breaker.

badligibility copy

 3. Poor Blending

Many covers use two or more images blended together. There are a few ways of going wrong with blending but one of the worst is simple bad image isolation. It can sometimes be tricky to remove the background of an image, but it needs to be done. If your designer can’t be bothered to take the time to do it properly then you should hire someone else.



 4. Poor Color Match

Another way designers go wrong in combining images is to mismatch the colors. This is particularly jarring with characters.  If two characters are supposed to be in a scene together they shouldn’t look like they are being lit by two different colored lights.


 5. Poor sizing

One of the most basic things a designer should be able to manage is the size and position of images. There is nothing more amateur looking than a model’s face stretched to fix the aspect ratio of a book cover. I have seen this repeatedly and it makes me crazy. It’s like trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole.


Hiring a designer is a big decision, and it shouldn’t be entered into lightly. In addition to pricing and payment policies that suit you, you should look for the skills necessary to achieve the professional looking cover you want. If you detect any of the above in designers examples, I would steer clear.

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