Why Authors should never design their own Book Covers

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people propagating the misconception that authors should design their own covers. These people include

  1. Marketing ‘experts’ selling courses on ‘Cover Design Magic’. Prices for such courses vary from $50 to $500
  2. Software companies selling software to self design book covers. Prices for such software vary from free to $100
  3. Cover Design Template sellers who sell book design templates. Prices vary from free to $200 for ‘packages of book cover templates’

You will notice that nearly everyone advocating for authors to ‘design their own covers’ and ‘save money on book cover design’ are people selling tools and services to ‘self-design book covers’. All these people make money when authors choose to shoot themselves in the foot by designing their own covers

Let’s look at why authors should NEVER design their own book cover

What is the Importance of Book Covers

Book Covers have two very critical functions

  1. BEFORE the reader has arrived on your book page – The Book Cover has to catch the eye, show quality and genre relevance, and get the reader to click on the cover and visit the book page
    1. This is the absolute most important function of a Book Cover
    2. If the Book Cover does not catch the reader’s eye and get the reader to click on the book cover
    3. Then you don’t even get a chance to get a book sale
  2. AFTER the reader has arrived on your book page – The Book Cover has to show very high quality and high attention to detail and must fit the book genre. So that readers feel the book’s writing will also be high quality and have attention to detail and it is the right genre. This helps convince the reader to purchase the book
    1. This is the second most important function of a Book Cover
    2. The Book Cover has to show high quality and attention to detail. So the reader feels their time and money will be well spent if they buy and read this book
    3. The Book Cover has to match genre expectations and conventions. So the reader is reassured the book is in the right genre
    4. The more reviews your book has, and the higher the review rating, the less important the book cover becomes (it is still the most important thing before the reader has arrived at the book page)
    5. If your book has zero or very few reviews, then the Book Cover has incredibly high importance as it is the only proxy for the quality of the book

You cannot ignore these main two functions of a book cover. A book cover’s function is not to make the author happy or to save the author money

A book cover’s function is to get readers to go to the book page and it is to get readers to buy the book

Please also read our post on What is the Most Important Function of a Book Cover

Can Authors Self Design Their Covers?

Yes, of course you can design your book cover yourself

However, you should not!

We did an entire post on it – How long for an Author to start making Good Book Cover Designs?

We’ve worked with over 7,000 authors and over 400 bestselling authors (New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Authors)

  1. Less than 5% of Bestselling authors make their own covers
  2. Even less do their own editing

Yet, new authors coming into the Publishing ecosystem think they are ‘saving money’ and asserting their creative independence by editing their own books and designing their own covers

By designing your own book covers you are killing the prospects of your book. That $50 or $100 or $200 or $500 you save, will cause your book to fail. Even in the rare case (10% chance) that you succeed with a self brewed book cover, you would assuredly sell more if you got a proper professional cover designer to make you a proper book cover instead

Can Authors do a very good job of self designing their covers?

No, it’s impossible

Firstly, where are you going to get the time from?

Your primary focus should be on the 3 Core Skills

  1. Knowing what to write i.e. writing for the right market
  2. Writing Very Well
  3. Marketing Very Well

That’s 3 difficult skills that you have to master. Most authors have a hard time mastering even one of those three skills

How on Earth are you going to get the time to master book cover design?


Secondly, why devote time and energy to a skill that is very difficult

It takes 3 to 5 years to learn graphic design. You need to do a college course to understand all the basics well

Then it takes 10 to 20 years to learn how to make great book covers

Do you have 13 to 25 years of your life available?


Thirdly, you should focus on your core competency

Your core competency is being an author. Focus on figuring out what to write, writing very well, and marketing your book very well

Already, in addition to writing skills, you have to learn market research (to figure out what to write), and marketing (to market your book)

There is absolutely no reason to compromise on those 3 core skills and instead focus on book cover design skills


Fourthly, an author learning Book Cover Design does not confer any great benefit

You don’t have to ‘master’ book cover design. Book Covers are not that expensive (relatively speaking)

Mastering writing very well will make you a millionaire. Mastering book cover design will take way more time and it will save you just a few hundred to a few thousand dollars over your entire career as a writer

Mastering marketing will also make you a millionaire

Mastering Picking the Right Market will make you a multi-millionaire

Would you rather master one of those 3 skills (Finding the Right Market, Writing Very Well, Marketing Very Well) which will make you a millionaire, or would you rather master book cover design so that you can save a few hundred to a few thousand dollars?

Pros of Self Designing Your Book Covers

  1. You can be like Frank Sinatra and sing ‘I did it my way’
    1. That is the single biggest advantage in most authors’ minds – that feeling of ‘my way or the highway’ and ‘what do you mean I can’t design my own book cover’
    2. It’s just stubbornness
    3. It’s also the #1 reasons authors do it. To ‘prove’ they can do it
  2. You will not be successful as an author because your self designed book cover will hamper your success
    1. The pain of that failure will make you a better writer
  3.  You can save $30 to $300 per book you write
    1. If you are going to write 20 books, that’s $600 to $6,000
  4. You can tell people – not only did I write the book, I designed the cover too
    1. Double impress them (or not)
  5. If you are creative, it is one more avenue to explore your creativity
  6. To overcome your sales killing self made book covers, you will be forced to improve in other areas
    1. You will either have to become a much better writer
    2. Or you will have to become a much better marketer
    3. Or you will have to get much better at finding great markets to write in
  7.  You will build character. The repeated failure of ‘doing it your way and making your own book cover’ will harden you and teach you a lot about yourself

Perhaps the biggest pro of self designing your book covers is that when you finally realize you’ve made a big mistake, and switch to professionally designed book covers

You will see a big improvement in sales

Cons of Self Designing Your Book Covers

  1. Your self designed book cover will massively hamper your chances of success
    1. Your book will sell less
  2. You will sell less books, so you will have less money
  3. You might get stuck in the ‘I Design my book covers myself’ trap
    1. If you don’t realize your failure is caused largely by having a self designed book cover
    2. You will double down on your mistake and self design the covers of all your future books
  4. Your marketing and advertising budget will basically be wasted
    1. If a marketing channel is giving you 20 sales with a self designed cover, with a professionally designed cover it would give you 40 to 100 sales
    2. Some marketing channels will give you zero sales with a self designed cover
  5. You might get discouraged and start experiencing ‘learned helplessness’

Self designing your book covers is easily one of the biggest mistakes you can make

If you do not identify it quickly, it is a career ending mistake

If Apple CEO Tim Cook were to say

  1. I will design what Apple Stores look like
  2. I will design what the iPhone looks like
  3. I will design what the packaging and promotional material look like

You would be perplexed. Does this CEO think he can step into areas that are not his core competency and do a better job than the experts?

Yet, that is exactly what you are trying to do when you self design your book cover

Additional Articles about Book Cover Design that are worth reading

Here are some more of our articles about book cover design, which are worth reading

Most Important: Levels of Book Cover Design Mastery

Additional Articles

  1. How long for an Author to start making Good Book Cover Designs?
  2. What are the Elements of a Beautiful Cover Design which will sell Books?
  3. Why do Authors massively underestimate the importance of Book Covers?

Please do think about how you view book covers, and how highly you value book covers. They are the most important aspect of selling books. Without a good, genre relevant book cover, readers will not even visit your book page

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