The ‘Billboard’ That Can Make Or Break Your Book’s Success

Billboard Walt DisneyHave you ever been ‘grabbed’ by an outdoor billboard?  I certainly have.  In fact, I can remember a couple of billboards I’ve seen that were so striking that I nearly crashed my car…

We may not want our books to cause traffic accidents, but we do need to give them something that creates this ‘billboard effect’.  Something that grabs the attention of potential new readers.

In fact, the ‘billboard’ I’m talking about is actually a part of the book itself…

Book Covers Are The ‘Billboards’ Of Our Books

It’s crucial that a genre-fiction book cover is well designed if you want it to be noticed in a book store or on Amazon.

The right book cover can ignite sales for a book that would otherwise be unnoticed.  Mass book sales happen by reader word of mouth, so you must do everything you can to ignite the process.

The key point is to attract a prospective book buyer and give them a clue as to your story theme – what your book is about, in both Title and Image.   When I located these three covers, each one took my breath away because of their sheer beauty:

Book Cover DesignsBut there’s far more to it than looks alone.  So I’ve mapped some guidelines to ensure that your next book cover ticks all the right boxes for attracting your target reader.

There’s both imagery and title text, each of equal importance.  In fact, the title can largely drive the choice of imagery.

A powerful, effective book cover needs to achieve four goals:

1.  Instantly make it clear which market genre your book belongs to.  E.g. Historical Fiction, Romantic Historical Fiction, Thriller, Fantasy, Paranormal, YA Adventure etc.

2.  Uniquely convey the essence of your theme and story, in both title and image to trigger an emotional response so that it persuades a book buyer to look more closely.  In particular, an image of a person will massively increase the emotional communication power of the cover.  (See the 3 book covers above.)

3.  If your book is part of a series, maintain and build your book series brand, so readers know one when they see one.

H P Books

4.  Beauty. Sheer beauty, simplicity and attractiveness of design has a major bearing too, the same enchanting effect of the outdoor billboard.   And remember, simplicity means looking good at postage-stamp size on Amazon.

Linda Hilburn’s ‘Paranormal’ vampire book cover achieves all four goals, as does the Philippa Gregory cover which is unmistakably ‘Historical Fiction’.

Gregory & Hilburn

Sometimes the rules can be bent a little if the author is extremely well known, so the author’s name can take center stage, because the reader is buying the author first.  Such as these covers for books by famous authors Nora Roberts, George R.R. Martin and Jackie Collins:

Three Famous Writers

Creating A Great Book Title:

‘Naming’ your book is an equally important part of your book cover ‘billboard’.

Your title text is a key part of achieving the 4 goals for your book cover, and it needs to fit hand in glove with the visuals – they work together.

Tactics for creating great book titles:

1.   Convey your story and theme:

What you are attempting to say with your book – to convey?   What is your theme?  What is the essence of your story?  These will draw a potential reader in, along with character and setting.  Keep this at the front of your mind while musing over your title.

2.  You can simply describe the main character, which may convey sufficient information.

For example:

  • The Other Boleyn Girl
  • The Vampire Shrink

3.  The most powerful element in the book can be the source for your title

Writers approach a story by focusing on the main protagonist, and also often place key importance on the associated settings or story icons  – even the setting alone can be highly relevant.  The book title can be drawn from all of that.


  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • The House Of Seven Gables

The Magic Of A ‘Movie’ Styled Book Cover

Another more specific strategy for book covers is to make them look ‘Cinematic’ to attract the attention of movie makers.

This book jacket for the children’s story ‘Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes’ was deliberately designed with the title done in hand-crafted type suitable for a movie.

Peter Nimble And His Fantastic EyesThere’s far more ‘behind the scenes’ work in producing a selling book cover design than you may realize.  You can view the extensive evolution of this book jacket here:

Peter Nimble And His Fantastic Eyes

Another resource that will help you brain storm a title is this beautifully written article with examples about book titles by author Sarah Baughman – on Suzannah Freeman’s “Write It Sideways” blog.

Be Sure To Hire A Professional Cover Designer

The difference between doing it yourself and a having one created by a professional can be as clear as day versus night.

It’s tempting to cut costs by designing your own book cover using images downloaded from an inexpensive photo library, and applying type in Photoshop.  But ‘doing it yourself’ probably won’t produce the powerful sales-communication required.

A great cover design is well worth the investment, so if you’re self-publishing an eBook, be sure to locate a good quality freelancer.   The most immediate way to do this is look through covers in your fiction genre on Amazon, seek out the cover that you like, and contact the author to discover who the designer is.

It’s possible to multiply your Amazon book sales with a great book cover.  It captures attention, and helps to ignite the ‘word of mouth’ effect that gets your book on a roll.

But not on the Kindle itself of course, where covers are in black and white.

Will Book Covers Ever Disappear?

The whole idea of needing a cover at all on such devices as the Kindle has recently been called into question in this article from The Altantic.  But the article misses an important point.  Book covers have never been inside books.   (i.e. Inside a Kindle book.)  A cover is simply a form of EXTERIOR advertising.

Books will always need some type of visual cue to identify them when they are being advertised.   We see this for music albums being advertised on iTunes, and on Amazon to sell eBooks.

The ‘covers’ are often postage stamp sized on first view, but larger when more detail is searched for by a prospective buyer.   So it may require a more iconic form of cover design to be effective at that size.  But whatever precise form they take, covers will always remain a key part of selling books – including for example the new, highly popular idea of featuring your covers on Pinterest and developing boards there of beautiful genre-related images.

Book designers I admire: Jon PaulCarl Graves and Kim Killion at HotDamnDesigns (The name is absolutely accurate.) Also Aep Book Covers and Mars Dorian.  And here’s another group recommended by Joanna Penn: Creative Indie Covers.

What say you?  Have a favorite book cover?  Already have a great cover yourself?  Please do leave a comment below.

Jonathan Gunson

Article written by Jonathan Gunson

Author / CEO Bestseller Labs
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  • August 10, 2012 at 2:37am

    Well said, Jonathan! We’ve always taught that the front cover is a book’s billboard and your article reinforces this.

    The back cover acts as an advertisement to entice a reader into the book itself. Once inside, the interior design is just as important and will actually either drive the sale or send the book back to the shelf, whether physical or virtual.

    You know, design is so much more than aesthetics! Glad to know you’re out there educating authors and publishers of all experience levels, as knowledge is power and a great design will show potential readers that you take your responsibility to them seriously.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 10, 2012 at 2:52am

      Agree Tamara. Blurb on the back cover is another truly hot factor for sales.

      PS. Interestingly, have you noticed (re powerful visuals) that the opposite is the case with TV programs? It’s the sound track – voice, music and sound effects that do the work, even though all the cost is on the visual side.

    • August 10, 2012 at 11:06am

      The inside is even more important for e-books. If I sample one that is not right-justified or has formatting errors like some grafs in italics, I won’t read them. And before anyone says this is an indie problem, I am finding problems with e-books from major houses. I don’t think enough of them are doing good quality control.

      • Jonathan Gunson says:
        August 10, 2012 at 11:12am

        Hi Lev. You’ve put your finger right on the hot button. Elegant interior design is of paramount importance. Typographers rule. Steve Jobs started as one – that’s why all Apple products are so beautiful / elegant / easy to use / intuitive.

  • August 10, 2012 at 2:44am

    Great minds run in similar circles. My post yesterday was on the very exact same topic. Excellent post, Roland

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 10, 2012 at 3:01am

      Thank you for the ‘great minds’ Roland. :)

  • August 10, 2012 at 2:46am

    I just had a conversation a few days ago about book covers with several authors. A book cover is what gets your book picked from a pile. Excellent article, thank you.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 10, 2012 at 2:54am

      Any chance I can see your book covers Kelly? Dare to show! And don’t worry if they’re not million-dollar works. A reasonable attempt will get a book long way along the road.

  • KC Herbel says:
    August 10, 2012 at 3:24am

    Yes, a most excellent post! I wish I had read it a few years ago. I’m not entirely happy with the cover for the current edition of With a Jester of Kindness, though it beats the original cover. Perhaps had I known more…

  • Jon Paul says:
    August 10, 2012 at 3:34am

    I couldn’t agree more about how important the cover art is :)) Great article… I may be bias since I’ve been doing cover art going on thirty years now:)… and I thank you Jonathan that you mentioned you admired my work… I’m very flattered and honored. You made my day:)


    Jon Paul

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 10, 2012 at 5:43am

      You’re welcome Jon Paul. Your design work is nothing short of inspiring:

  • August 10, 2012 at 6:05am

    Loved the article Jonathan. As a special FX artist for film, I couldn’t agree with you more on the power of visuals. I hired a Dreamworks artist to do mine for Evertaster. You can see his work here: And his concepts here:

    thanks for the post!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 10, 2012 at 11:44am

      Always a huge fan of 3D character Adam. Did you see the Pixar 22 story rules post? Just your thing.

  • August 10, 2012 at 9:49am

    Great article. I judge a book by its cover! It’s the first thing I use to decide when I’m trying to find my next read.
    I’m pretty happy with my book cover. I think it really expresses the story, the gender, and is just beautiful!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 10, 2012 at 11:28am

      I assume you’re referring to ‘Mean’ your psychological thriller? Your design exactly matches it’s genre. LOVE your character breakdown too: “Poor Dark, Twisted & Damaged Characters…” Nice work.

      • August 10, 2012 at 11:41am

        Yep, that one!
        Thanks a lot, Jonathan. My daughter made the cover. I think she’s a great artist.

        I really love to write about dark, twisted and damaged characters… Poor people! :)

  • Adrijus says:
    August 10, 2012 at 9:57am

    True and Authors should focus on Typography a lot if they decide to do the cover themselves. I see a lot of self-made ones with bad text that doesn’t communicate what it should. Not recommended but some can’t afford it sometimes.

    Another tip is to check how your cover looks in black/white to see how it will look in the Kindle (not Fire but the ordinary one with no color since a lot of people only see cover through that device).


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 10, 2012 at 11:06am

      Good point re how the cover design appears in black and white. (Kindle invariably does its level best to wreck your colorful masterpiece.)

  • August 10, 2012 at 10:42am

    A great cover also can be used to re-design your web site. I was so pleased with the artist who did my Gilded Age historical that I had my web designer take some clues from its period and change my whole web design:

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 10, 2012 at 11:24am

      Your site very refined / with unique design Lev. A pleasure to see.

      The huge advantage of using black as a background is that it turns embedded images into glowing jewels. Everything looks beautiful – it’s a type of ‘shortcut to elegance’. The only downside is that blocks of text are a little harder to read – except for the reading impaired where the opposite is the case. (Hall & Hanna student tests. 2003)

      • January 24, 2013 at 10:59am

        re Black. I have two books on Amazon to date. (More to come!) Both have a black on white motif. Please click on my link to see the covers for yourself – it won’t take a minute! Great reviews, no sales. Shame. I’m just waiting for some cynic to post a caustic comment – “Hey! Your covers are the best part of your books!..”

        • Jonathan Gunson says:
          January 24, 2013 at 9:09pm

          Sean. Gritty, religious cover on your book ‘At the Praetorium’. Will you release on Kindle?

  • August 10, 2012 at 11:22am

    Great post… as usual :)

    I think book covers are so vitally important. I always want to make sure mine look as though they belong in a bookstore. I stress a lot about covers – I have someone do them for me, but I always want to tinker and play until it’s perfect. I know it’s such an important aspect of book production. I’m still not sure I get it right :)

    Posts like this help. Thanks!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 10, 2012 at 11:33am

      Melissa. Totally obsessive and quite right too. A cover needs to be perfect, it has a lot of selling work to do. For mouth watering visuals see Jon Paul’s Artwork.

  • Miranda says:
    August 10, 2012 at 11:57am

    Jonathan, this post couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m actually laying down plans to e-publish, and just yesterday I got stuck at the point of choosing a cover designer. I was thinking who to ask to recommend me some good names, and here you are with this! Thanks so much! Will definitely check out all your recommendations. :)

  • August 10, 2012 at 12:30pm

    I have learned many great tips from several cover design blogs and tried to incorporate those tips into my latest covers. There is much to say about eye line, use of color and readability of font when designing a cover. If you are not an artistic soul, don’t try to design your own cover. Hire a professional. Covers can indeed make or break a book… even if it is very well written.

  • August 10, 2012 at 2:34pm

    Thanks for the good advice, as usual. I’m glad I found you. I was very lucky with my self-published local history book, Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth. I found an etching which was perfect for my cover, which I was going to do myself. But when I asked permission from the copyright holders they insisted the cover be done by the brother, who is a graphic artist. So, quite by accident, I got a good quality cover for nothing!

  • Rob says:
    August 10, 2012 at 3:00pm

    Cover art is an important factor for me, as are the first couple of pages, which I will thumb through or read in sample form if it is an eBook. I buy a lot of books, but I haven’t read blurbs for probably a decade because I got tired of the spoilers in them. So, for me, those aren’t important at all. On the whole, though, they seem to have an impact on readers.

  • Charmain Z. Brackett says:
    August 10, 2012 at 3:23pm

    My brother is an artist and a multiple award-winning graphic designer. When I was finishing my first novel, he told me that he would design my cover because “no sister of mine will have a crappy book cover.” To him, I am forever grateful. I have seen some truly awful covers. No one listens to the old adage that tells us not to judge a book by its cover. They do, and if the cover is bad, people won’t buy the book. My book is The Key of Elyon, and I think it has a great cover.

  • August 10, 2012 at 4:56pm

    Thanks for the helpful hints! I can’t wait to read your book!! (I don’t need to sleep, right? 😉 The Billboard Effect: brilliant!

    My book (written under pen name Natalie Newport) is Ninja Nanny. YA Fiction.

  • August 10, 2012 at 6:35pm

    For my debut novel, I was very nervous about what cover I’d get via the publisher. The struggle for a title we could all agree on had been stressful, even though in the end that worked out. But I was estatic with the cover that came out of Media Bakery and artist Nicole Sommer Lecht: it captured the story, was visually arresting, and tempered in a way that I think also matched the novel. I attached a link: – The Ragnarök Conspiracy

    One thing I wonder about is the future of cover art in the ebook era…

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 10, 2012 at 10:21pm

      Erec – “One thing I wonder about is the future of cover art in the ebook era…”

      Just look at the music industry: Sumptuous LP covers were reduced to Tape Cassette covers, then CD size covers. Now it’s the iPod and no covers at all. Already the Kindle doesn’t do color. And the Kindle is just another rung on the ladder of development away from ‘paper’.

      But stories always need sales tools – and cover art is one. All it would take is for the black and white Kindle to also do color ‘eInk’ and color book covers would be ablaze all over again … yes? Besides, there’s already the Kindle Fire, the iPad and iPhone, all of which people use to read novels.

    • November 12, 2013 at 2:46pm

      Great cover – absolutely loved it.
      If it wouldn’t be too much to ask, could you apply your expert advice to my tentative cover design?

      Also, did you publish through Amazon? I’ve heard several people have trouble with the payment – did you have any problems with this?

      Thanks a lot,


  • August 10, 2012 at 11:14pm

    It’s funny -I just posted a blog post about my book cover process before I found your article. It details the evolution of how my cover was created:

    Bard Constantine. We Got It Covered: Evolution of the Troubleshooter Book Cover

    I certainly agree with the points that you made here. I’ve seen too many indie publishers that have covers that scream ‘amateur’ because of the lack of professional appearance. I changed the cover of my horror novella because a reviewer was nice enough to point out that it was hard to clearly see the original image. After taking a look at it on the Kindle I had to agree. It’s been selling steady since. It’s so important to take just as much care in creating a striking cover as you do a compelling story. Because readers do judge the book by it…

  • Jonathan Gunson says:
    August 10, 2012 at 11:53pm

    Hi Bard. Just read your article. The use of staged photographs to illuminate parts of the ‘Troubleshooter’ book for your fans is a serendipitous stroke of marketing genius. (Note: I redid the link in your comment so that it opens in a new page.)

  • August 11, 2012 at 4:51am

    Great Article, Jonathan. I always thought the book cover must be very important. Because, when I am out and look for a book, the first thing for me is, I am looking at the cover. If it appeals to me, I look at the back and read the blurb. But if the cover don’t appeal to me, I put it back.
    What do you think about my 3 book covers of my Talon series? I thought they are very good. But to have another opinion is always good.
    Gigi – Gigi Sedlmayer – Talon Series

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 11, 2012 at 6:06am

      The great thing about your covers Gigi is their consistency – they are clearly part of a family – a series.

      Appealing story idea too of the rejected girl with no friends: “…She found a pair of condors soaring near the mountains and with patience and a sense of adventure she befriended them….”

  • August 11, 2012 at 10:11am

    The cover IS important. I confess that I designed my own for my mythic fantasy novel Valda & the Valkyries. In my defence, I will offer up that I’ve worked as a graphic designer for nearly 20 years. I hadn’t designed any books, though, and found the process daunting at times. I had one cover up for the first year and I felt that it was skewing too young and turning away older readers. So I changed it to this one, but I still have days when I wonder if I made the right choice.
    Mark Neumayer – Valda & The Valkyries
    The great thing about indie publishing is you make all the decision but sometimes that is also the not-so-great thing about it..

  • Jonathan Gunson says:
    August 11, 2012 at 11:39am

    Mark, the ‘Valda’ cover design, mythological appearance, type face and sword hilt appears to hit its genre accurately, and works extremely well at a tiny size. I assume that the books in the series will have a similar look and feel. Plus, being a series carries a huge advantage. (See the Bestseller Labs post on series.)

  • August 11, 2012 at 4:47pm

    Great tips. With my books, I can definitely tell the difference between the covers I did myself and the ones a professional did. Not that mine are bad, they are just not as eye-catching as the professional covers are. I plan to have them all redone.

  • Allison says:
    August 11, 2012 at 6:12pm

    I am currently working with a graphic designer for my poetry book- but if it looks like it should be for my novel I may switch it over… depends on how it comes out… a work in progress! I have some marketing background so I’m resourceful to find someone if I need assistance. Great Blog as always!

  • August 13, 2012 at 2:11pm

    Good posting, Jonathon. It’s nice to have the obvious reaffirmed. Sometimes we humans can skip over the obvious, but the combination of book cover and book name were key factors that I considered as I was preparing to publish my first novel, Confederate Star Rises. Of course, the question in my mind (I would imagine in the minds of the readers as well) is … How did I do? Is my book cover a winner? Is the book title a good one? It seems difficult to get an objective answer to these questions. Is the answer that if you sell a lot of books, then the book cover / book title hit the mark? If so, how would I know that before I actually published my book?

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 13, 2012 at 10:29pm

      Richard, the importance of great cover design isn’t obvious to most sadly. It never occurs to them just how pivotal it can be.

      Re your question, cover design is a mixture of art and science. Science (including logic) being the quantifiable side. If you’ve made a determined attempt to tick the boxes of the ‘billboard’ criteria, so that the title hints at the content with its title and illustration, (sounds like yours does), plus indicates which genre it belongs to, (historical fiction?), and is attractive to boot, you’ve done it the right way.

      Beyond that point it’s all art and is less quantifiable. The ‘boxes to tick’ are less distinct and so yes, the reaction is more subjective / intuitive, like any ‘hit’.

  • […] If you’re going to self-publish, check out Lori Devoti’s digital self-publishing checklist. Lori spends a lot of time talking about your book’s cover, which Jonathan Gunson points out is the “billboard” that can make or break your book’s success. […]

  • August 17, 2012 at 7:07pm


    Interesting article, but I wondered why you lead with something a writer has relatively little control over (designing a book cover) and buried the part about creating a great title.

    I agree that for the writer finding the right title and log line or premise description are crucial for getting their work out there. If the writer doesn’t what “it” is, what their novel is about, they won’t be able to effectively communicate that. Finding the “it” – a great title and short summary are really important for new writers.

    As far as book cover design, I think a trip to the local book store would be a great start. What book covers grab you? Which book covers do you want to pick up and read the back description? Recently I went with a Graphic Designer friend to Barnes & Noble, I took about a hundred photographs and book spines that caught me in some way.

    Hiring a professional can get expensive. If you’re doing it on your own, I’d recommend trying to barter copywriting for design time.

    As writers, our job is to write. Unless there’s no other option, it’s not our job to design, so it’s important to find someone to work with who you can trust. That doesn’t mean going to craigslist looking for pro bono Graphic Designers either. How much is a great book cover worth to you? If you’re self-publishing how many books will you have to sell to recoup your costs?

    Thanks for sharing, and I wish your readers good luck!


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      August 17, 2012 at 9:57pm


      Great idea – going on a ‘design safari’ with a graphic designer to the book store for cover ideas. Highly productive and stimulating I imagine.

      Re your comment: “How much is a great book cover worth to you? If you’re self-publishing how many books will you have to sell to recoup your costs?

      Thinking that way is not a good line to take in my view. Taking a cheap option and compromising the cover simply because you think sales might not recoup the cost is completely upside-down thinking. The whole idea is to have a great cover that will sell. It’s an investment in advertising, ‘your billboard’. Otherwise it will indicate ‘amateur’ and compromise all the work that went into the writing.

      Re your comment: “The Book Title part is buried”. I don’t think so, it’s mentioned from top to bottom in the post. But in case anyone else has missed it as well, here’s some snippets from the post:

      “The key point is to attract a prospective book buyer and give them a clue as to your story – what your book is about, in both Title and Image.”
      “Creating A Great Book Title. ‘Naming’ your book is an equally important part of your book cover ‘billboard’.”
      “Your title text is a key part of achieving the 4 goals for your book cover, and it needs to fit hand in glove with the visuals – they work together.”

  • August 22, 2012 at 9:06pm

    […] The Billboard That Can Make or Break Your Book’s Success by Jonathan Gunson […]

  • August 25, 2012 at 6:34am

    Thank you Jonathan for this timely article and piece of invaluable information. I used to to think that the back cover of a book should be more attractive than the interior. Now I know better.
    Am an author on the verge of being published. Wouldn’t mind if u choose to help me out since you are a guru in the industry. Thank You.

  • August 27, 2012 at 12:24am


    Ban me from your fine blog. Not all writing is about sales.

    I am thrilled with this cover. and I know it is unattractive. From an artist’s viewpoint the abject is a wonderful concept to learn from and work with. The readers who judge a book by its cover (everyone) have avoided this book so far and that is fine with me. As you’ve written, there is no death by bookstore on the net.

    Art over sales? So shoot me. Wait, don’t shoot me. Not yet, anyway. I think this cover, created for me by Singaporean artist Debbie Ding, is exquisite.

    And this classic example of understatement and reserve, by David Bothwell, is also charming and professional.

    But, yeah.. I think one book cover like Furikake is enough for me to share publicly. And, in the digital world, changing a cover is usually just a click or two away…

    If the above interest you, take a look at my “book incubator”.


    Stephen Black

  • Jonathan Gunson says:
    August 27, 2012 at 3:27am

    Stephen. The point is that if you want to sell books as a successful commercial enterprise as a first priority, and 99% of authors do, then it pays to have a book cover that appeals to prospective readers. That’s why this blog is dubbed Bestseller Labs. I give tips here to help authors make sales – right up to bestseller level if possible.

    But if you are creating a form of intellectual art with your cover that’s more in alignment with the works of Marcel Duchamp, Christo, Damien Hirst, Mark Rothko et al, then by all means do, but that’s an entirely different conversation.

  • Jillian Bullock says:
    November 10, 2012 at 1:02pm

    Great information. As a self-published author I did design my own book cover for my memoir HERE I STAND. But now that I understand how important the cover is for book sales I’m going to get a professional designer to re-do it and see if my sales pick up.


  • December 3, 2012 at 7:23am

    Hi Jonathan,

    Have you written about how to create a series of covers for the sequels? My first ebook I never thought about that and created the cover myself. It’s a short story.

    (The Unfinished)

    It was written as a short story with plans to continue it, although the ending was a cliff hanger. Readers have asked for the next installment. Now I’m creating a book trailer, website, ebook cover, facebook, etc for the sequel.

    I created a much better ebook cover for the sequel, but it doesn’t resemble the first at all. Am I stuck with the original cover to work with on subsequent sequels?

    Also, what is your opinion on showing a characters face in a thriller ebook on the cover or in the book trailer?

    Thanks again for posting information for authors.


    PS You can see my ebook covers on my facebook page.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      December 3, 2012 at 10:30am

      Patrice. It would be worth investing in a revamp of your first cover, with a strongly identifiable design that can work across the coming books in the series. I would get a pro designer to design this for you, not DIY. This is your career, not a ship passing in the night. Check the criteria I gave for cover content.

      A face on the cover is OK, but needs to be clearly in some type of story or genre context. Having said that, there’s one potential problem with a face, in that you’ll then need to use the SAME face on all subsequent covers for series design / identity continuity.

  • […] Truth is, I recommend having a professional designer create your book covers.  See my blog post: ‘The Billboard That Can Make Or Break Your Book’s Success.’ […]

  • February 20, 2013 at 9:17pm

    Jonathan – Thanks for sharing your valuable knowledge! What do you think of my cover? It’s here: Ninja Nanny: The Beginning
    I’m about to publish the sequel, so I value your input!

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 20, 2013 at 9:31pm

      Slick cover. I’d say make the next one VERY similar with the same model and art direction. This is the start of a series I hope.

    • November 12, 2013 at 3:32pm

      Wow, that’s really nice and professional-looking. Did you make that yourself? If you did (and I should really commend you on doing a great job then), would you please have a look at mine and vote on your favorite out of two options (and maybe give some feedback)? Thank you so much, your cover looks absolutely amazing.

      This is the link to my covers:


  • February 21, 2013 at 4:04pm

    Thank you!! SO glad you said that. The next cover will be similar, and this is the beginning of a series. The third book will be a spinoff, and I have a kids’ book coming out as well.

  • July 22, 2013 at 6:51pm

    Just researching before launching a new book of my own and noticed the link to Creativindie Covers – thanks Jonathan! Your articles and material are really helpful.

  • August 1, 2013 at 2:31am

    Great info here Jonathan! I’ve bookmarked a few of the designer’s wesites for future reference. :)

  • Marc says:
    November 6, 2013 at 10:45pm

    Hi Jonathon,

    Thank you for the article and emails. I’ve got a big problem with my book covers. Because I chose to have them in black and white, with a white border, this really causes problems when they are in list form on Amazon. I really like the covers; it’s just frustrating that Amazon zips the side and bottom off in list view so the covers look incomplete.
    Here they are:
    I’ve paid two designers to correct this, and they cannot. They use the sizing guidelines Amazon recommend, and I still get the problems shown.
    I mean, am I going to have to redesign them in colour? I suggested having a black border, but this would apparently compromise the images.
    When you look at Persona’s cover on the review page, it just looks unfinished:
    What are your thoughts? I appreciate your feedback,


    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      November 6, 2013 at 11:15pm

      One way to solve this is to do a piece of art for Amazon where you put your own fine black line around the outside of the image – where YOU think the edge should be. Hopefully Amazon should then trim around the outside of that.

  • Ranjit says:
    November 8, 2013 at 6:59am

    Hey Jonathan,

    I’d like to share my cover, too. Although the book’s not even formatted yet.
    >> Book cover
    The book’s set in Hindu cosmology.

    • November 12, 2013 at 2:39pm

      Wow that’s amazing. It blew me away – did you make that yourself? If you did, would you please please please look at mine (I have two favorites) and vote for your favorite (and maybe give some feedback)? Thank you so much, your cover looks absolutely amazing.

      This is the link to my covers:


  • November 12, 2013 at 2:36pm

    I read these tips and found them EXTREMELY helpful. (In a couple of days I will post a blog on a similar topic and I’ll certainly link back to this page).

    Following up on these tips I made myself two tentative cover designs, but I’m having difficulty deciding which one is best (they’re both still sketches, but I’d like to know which one to continue putting my energy in).

    Aa all of you that have read this blog are now experts, would you please have a look at the following link and vote on YOUR favorite option? Thanks!


  • February 28, 2014 at 6:05pm

    Thank you from the center of my artichoke heart. Choosing covers for a series is always interesting. You have given us lots of good information.

    • Jonathan Gunson says:
      February 28, 2014 at 10:52pm

      You’re welcome Judy. Your site has some hidden jewels. ‘Finding the heart of the story’… nice.