Self-Publishing: Things You Can Learn from Kindle Cover Disasters

3rd April 2015
4 min read
13th October 2020

The Guardian recently picked up on a blog called Kindle Cover Disasters – check it out here.

Cover disasters

Now, there is something a bit sinister about the blog highlighting authors who have, for one reason or another, missed the mark with their cover. The truth is that most authors do not come from design backgrounds. They may have no experience of marketing, or understand the importance of the visual sell. They may have self-published for personal rather than commercial reasons, or they may have been given very bad design advice. 

Why is a cover so important?

  • The average person’s attention span is about eight seconds (shorter than a goldfish); you need to hook that fish straight away.
  • Readers will judge a book by its cover, but more importantly, the booksellers and merchandisers that choose which titles to put in promotions do too. Think about it, would you want a book with a shoddy cover on the main table at the front of your bookstore?
  • If something looks really cheap, people won’t be prepared to pay very much for it.
  • A badly executed cover sends a message to the reader that your work is badly executed, and that you haven’t bothered to make an effort.
  • It’s the cornerstone of your author brand and will be your visual message wherever you are promoting yourself. It should be used in your social media profiles, bookmarks, events posters, business cards, etc., so take time to get it right.

Learn from their mistakes and make sure your cover actually sells your book. Here are three tips:

  1. Make sure your image is clear and easy to interpret at thumbnail size. Regardless of the format of your work, most readers will be looking for their next read online, whether they are browsing GoodReads for recommendations or skimming the Amazon charts to make a purchase. Your work needs to stand out against strong competition.

    Would these designs stand out if you were quickly scrolling through a subject or chart on Amazon? At thumbnail size, can you read the title or author?
    Here’s an example of a cover we recently did that is very clear and easy to see at thumbnail size:
  2. At a glance, a cover should tell you which section of a bookshop it should be shelved in. Although this lady has had a nice professional shot taken, this concept only really works for biography – for fiction, you need to give a flavour of your book.

    You need to quickly convey to a reader what they can expect from your book. Crime thriller covers normally do this really well. Here’s one of our covers:
  3. Do not use amateur photography. Buy your images from a reputable online image library. However, there are cases, such as family biographies, where it is necessary to use an old photo on the cover. That is fine, but you will need to work with a designer who can get the image looking as good as possible and work it into the overall design. This is particularly important if you are creating a paperback or hardback edition, as you will want to ensure that the quality is good enough to print out. Some authors do go to the trouble of sourcing a high resolution image, but they do a really bad cut and paste job.

    Here is an example of what one of our designers did with a professional image we bought from an image library:


Some things to think about when coming up with the concept for your cover:



  • Don’t try to tell the story or exactly recreate a scene from the book on the cover; this will always be too complicated to work. When in doubt, keep it simple.
  • Do your research. Spend some time in your local bookshop and on Amazon. Go through all the covers for the chart in which you would like your work to feature. Really analyse any style trends or similarities. See what works and what doesn’t.
  • Work with a professional who knows how to create an image that is not only attractive, but also commercial.

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