Common Cover Design Mistakes (List)

What’s wrong with your cover?

It could be one of the following amateur design mistakes:

KERNING: Kerning is the space between individual letters. Most text needs to be manually adjusted to create a professionally-kerned headline or author name. Quick video tutorial about kerning. More info: Thinking with Type, Design Shack

TRACKING/LEADING: Tracking is the  s p a c e  between all the letters. Leading is the space between the lines of text. Current design styles often reflect a fairly tight tracking and leading.

TOO MANY TYPEFACES: It’s best to use no more than two different typefaces on your cover. Some specialized designs can get away with more than two, but it’s generally not a good idea. By the way, they are called typefaces not fonts.

APOSTROPHE: There is a difference between an apostrophe (’) and a foot mark (‘ ). These are often referred to as curly quotes vs. straight quotes. Always use the curly quotes unless your title is 6′ of Danger. Even then it is best to write it out as Six Feet of Danger.

BAD TYPEFACE CHOICE: Typefaces like Papyrus and Bleeding Cowboys are incredibly overused and mark your cover as amateur-ville. Typefaces like Times/Times New Roman can look generic. More here.

UNPROFESSIONAL PHOTO: Another mark of a poorly designed cover is an unprofessional photo. Always use a quality stock image or photo by an experienced photographer. Don’t use a snapshot of your nephew or a vacation photo. More here.

LOW CONTRAST: Dark type over a dark background or light type over a light background makes the cover hard to read. Given that most Amazon shoppers first see your cover in a very small size (100 x 160 pixels or 160 x 240 pixels), you want to make the cover as readable as possible.

TOO CLUTTERED: See above. Some covers get cluttered with taglines, quotes, logos, badges, icons. Too many elements besides title, author name, and image can make your cover look like a mess. What works on a 6.5 inch by 9.5 inch hardcover doesn’t necessarily translate to a postage stamp sized image on a website.

POOR LAYOUT: The size and arrangement of elements on your cover is called the layout. Everything needs to fit together to form a cohesive cover. Problems can arise when elements are too big, too small, or are in the wrong position. An example: a horizontal photo slapped on the cover with empty space above and below.

WRONG ASPECT RATIO: Except for certain picture books, most books are a bit taller than they are wide. Amazon recommends a height/width ratio of 1:1.6. That means if your cover is 1000 pixels wide, it should be at least 1600 pixels tall.

MISMATCH WITH GENRE:The #1 goal of the cover is to help shoppers determine if they want to read the book. Often shoppers scan covers (in the old days at a bookshop, but now most often on an Amazon page). If they are looking for a horror novel, they want the cover to signal that it is a horror novel. They don’t want the cover to look like “chick lit.” Likewise, a novel aimed at kids or YA should not have a brutal cover.


Book Cover Design Mistakes Series