Why is a book cover important?

Good book covers vs bad book covers

The importance of a book cover isn’t always recognized by people who work outside the field of graphic design. You’ve worked so hard on your manuscript why shouldn’t people love it based on its merits? Once they read the first few they will pass it on to their friends and their parents and they will pass it on to their friends. The reason a book sells is because of the contents, not the cover, right?

People judge books by their covers.

I hate to break it to you but it’s true. Barry Eisler, successful author of the John Rain novels, who turned down $500,000 with legacy publishing in favour of self-publishing, has written a great article about ‘How to package a book‘. He describes the importance of a cover- and from the writer’s perspective.

Over at the Bookish Brunette the Brunette admits to refusing to review any book with an ugly cover.

Peter Salisbury considered his cover for The First Completely Electronic Robot and Science Fiction Limerick Book when sales were at an all time low at 2 per day. When he made small, aesthetic adjustments to the cover to improve it his sales jumped to 12 the next day, and continued up to 21 on day 3- the highest it had been in 3 months.

Over at the Taleist they completed a very successful self-publishing survey with responses from over 1,000 authors. They noted that authors who spent money on a professional book cover earned 18% more royalties.

Which has compelled me to write this article about why book covers are so important.

Lets say, you’re standing in a book store. Here’s an example of good and bad book covers:

Good book covers vs bad book covers


Which cover do you feel compelled to pick up? Why? What about the cover intrigues you? How does it connect to the story?

Benefits of a book cover:

1. You can display your book in a shop, or online. Without it you only have a title page.

2. You can let people know visually what genre your book is.

3. You can display images that are paramount to the book, for e.g.: A character, a place, an object.

4. You can stand out amongst your competition.

5. It is a display of professionalism.

6. It can convey the sense of the story, e.g.: is it whimsical, sad, cheerful, or dark?


As a self-publisher you have an advantage. You can have a say in how your book cover looks, from start to finish. You get to put your stamp of approval on it. ¬†Going with legacy publishing means your agent, and your publisher, would have more of a say than you do. And there have been plenty of examples of authors who hate their book covers. It also means it’s your responsibility to approve a book cover/create a book cover that you feel truly reflects your story.

You have a lot to consider, getting the reader to pick up your book is half the battle! Your book cover is as critical as the blurb and title. Give your book design consideration and energy, and if you don’t know how to find a designer head over and read ‘How To Find A Book Cover Designer‘.


What are your reasons for having a book cover? Do you find it’s something you put a lot of effort in to, or it’s not a vital aspect of your self-publishing journey?

Comments 4

  1. Good points! I was just on a SP writer’s site, where she said she had books that were action-adventure. It looked like she’d grabbed some photos related to the setting and slapped them on the cover. The result was that instead of suggesting these books were action-adventure, the covers suggested romance, inspirational, or nothing at all.

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