Friday, 17 January 2014

Guest Post: Alex Tanner Talks Book Covers

Today, I have something a little different on the blog. A guest post from the fantastic Alex Tanner. I recommended her book "Paradise Incoming" right before Christmas, and she's here today to talk about the importance of book covers!


Judge a Book by its Cover

Since we were children, weve had the mantra never judge a book by its coverdrilled into our heads. After all, whats important is whats inside the book. But whilst this is good advice when turning it into a metaphor for people, is it good advice when were actually talking about books?

No, it isnt. In fact its terrible advice. People are going to judge your book by its cover, so its important that your cover is the absolute Regina George of the Kindle store.

Being a cover designer myself, Ive come to learn a lot about what it takes to make a decent book cover. It has to pop, it has to stand out, it has to be simple. Less is more where book covers are concerned.

Here are some tips to make sure your book cover stands out:

Dont Fall Into the Genre Cover Hole

Book covers, just like anything visual, have fashions, and to say it annoys the bodily fluids out of me is an understatement.

Whilst your books cover must fit the theme and mood of your book (so having a chick lit novel with a black and white picture of blood and guts on the cover would be stupid), theres no harm in stretching your boundaries.

Observe some stereotypical and frankly quite overdone book cover styles:

The cartoon chick-lit cover:

The Young Adult fantasy book covers for older readers:

The monotonous eroticacovers:

The paranormal for teens covers:

I could go on, but I might start crying if I have to look at another copy-paste book cover again. If you find yourself on a stock images website and all of this looks familiar, rethink your cover - youll thank me later if your book stands out from the 100s of others that look the same.

Less Really is More

We often believe that to stand out we have to be bright and noticeable. That might count for people, but for books its a sure-fire way to get people to see it for entirely the wrong reasons.

This is my latest book cover

I went through god knows how many designs before settling on this. They were all overly busy, too colourful andjust too much. The red and black really pops against the white, and I felt the silhouette gave it a nice touch too. It may or may not be to everyones tastes, but it cant be denied that the cover, despite only having three colours, pops out.

To contrast, here is an example of what I feel is a terrible book cover.

Its just horrible, isnt it? The tacky silhouette, the boring typography, the total lack of design or flair. Obviously this person isnt a dab hand in PhotoShop. Dont let your book suffer because of it. Either learn PhotoShop, or find a service that can do it for you *polite cough* instead.

(if you want some truly bad examples of book covers, visit - they are all horrifyingly real and looking at them is addictive!)

No Fancy Fonts

Now let me explain this one. Fancy fonts can look great, but they can look extremely tacky as well. Look at your favourite, bestselling novels and their cover designs. Do you see wacky fonts on there? Comic Sans? Scripty-scrawly handwriting fonts? NO. And you never will, because these things are just not cricket in the cover designing world.

(Many cartoony chick-lit covers use the scripty-scrawly font option, and sometimes it makes them impossible or annoying to read from a small distance away, or in a thumbnail)

So thats my guide. Apologies to Kyra this went on far longer than it was supposed to - I will likely continue this over on my own blog, there are so many things to consider!


  1. I agree. I think covers are important, and a good one will definitely call to me to pull the book off the shelf. Thanks for this post! It's really helpful. ☺

  2. Covers are definitely incredibly important. And I hate when I can't read the title, too!

  3. Love the cover for Tequila Bartender. That does really pop. I've always been a fan of black/white and red color scheme though too.

  4. If the cover doesn't grab me, I won't pick up the book.
    I've been very fortunate with the covers my publisher created for my books.

  5. I Heart London, Fifty Shades of Grey and Fallen all have very good covers in my opinion. You can get a unique stock image cover if you know how to combine images and never just take one photo/image and slap it as your cover. While I agree that stock image has it's dangers it also looks beautiful when done right. I'm sorry to say Alex while some silhouette covers do work, for me yours doesn't. The X's creep me out and the white background just seems boring. But I do agree with you that covers need to be done properly to attract readers and thank you for visiting Kyra's blog.

    1. Hello :)

      I just found that Fifty Shades (and the other books that were released around the same time) were just random grey items of clothing shot in moody lighting at a funny angle with serif font over it. It's not that any of the covers up there are BAD, it's just that they all have the same theme and style and that's what I feel is overdone.

  6. I whole-heartedly agree! Especially on the YA romance front - the pouty glamor-girl covers have got to come to an end one of these days. Even though I think they're attractive covers, they've become the standard for the genre to the point that it's impossible for a book to stand out as memorable anymore. "Hey, which book were you telling me to check out?" "You know, the one with the girl on the cover. In the dress. Looking sad."

  7. Oh, AND I'm now hooked on the Lousy Book Covers tumblr, thank you very much ;-)

    1. Bwahahaha I AM SO NOT SORRY :p some of them just make me wonder if the author did it on purpose lmao

  8. The cover is the first thing a potential readers see, so for better or worse, it is important to have the right cover. And that Tequila Bartender cover is awesome!

  9. Another important reminder about the impact of a book cover. Love Trequila Bartender cover, it is very eye catching.

  10. Excellent post! I worked a long time on my book covers. I agree that less is more and to avoid the fancy fonts. The easier to read the better. Your cover is fantastic, Alex! :)

  11. Great post! Covers are so important and I struggle with each and every one. It's so hard when you are limited to stock photos and I am completely uncreative and very little help to cover artists.

  12. It is never an easy thing to choose a cover that represents your work, that's for sure. Covers do attract attention. Some more than others. I think it's the title that needs to stand out in some outstanding way or form to catch my attention.

    Best of luck with your new cover- I think it looks great.

  13. I've always had a thing for abstract covers because I loved the simplicity. It's good to know my thoughts are in the right direction!

  14. Covers are so important. I love the examples you've given. I love the font you've used on your cover, Alex.

  15. When I was a desk editor for a major publishing house, we had a teamm of people who spent most of their time designing covers. It really is a specialist job. Great post.

  16. I hadn't seen those redone fantasy covers - yikes!