Monday, December 24, 2012

Cover Design Calypso--Part I

By:  Kimberly Hitchens is the founder and owner of, an ebook production company that has produced books for over 750 authors and imprints.

T'was the Night Before Christmas....this week, co-blogger Marlyn Beebe is taking my usual Tuesday spot, as she wants to say something more "Christmas-y," and me, being the Scrooge that I am, (pre-ghosts), intend to rerun a post from my own website (, dealing with cover design.  I'll be back in two weeks on my regular Tuesday!  In the meantime, here is the original Cover Design Calypso, from April of 2011.  I've added some new bits at the end--and have a link to a little-known gem for those of you on a budget with regard to your cover design. 

Everything I ever needed to know about Book Cover Design, I learned in the frozen food aisle of the supermarket...

What makes a great book cover?

Is it color? Is it blurbs from famous authors? Is it just luck? I wish I knew.
Like pornography, I know a great book cover design when I see it, but I can't tell you why it is fantastic, particularly, other than WOW! What a great book cover . It's something that grabs me when I see it. Sadly, it's not like a Chinese from column A, one from column B, when it comes to cover design.

I do know, though, that I have learned a shocking lesson in this business. Being an avid reader, I of course always assumed that it was what was inside the covers that sold books. But I've learnt otherwise; great covers do sell books, even those with less-than-stellar stories inside of them. And in thinking about it, I realized that I already knew why these books were selling; it's something I learned years ago, when I was ill and had to cruise the aisles of the dreaded "TV Dinner" section of the supermarket. And here's the horrible truth:
People buy frozen dinners based not upon the actual content of the bag or box or TV-Dinner-Tray, but, rather, based upon which company has put the best picture on the cover of the box.
Let me say that again, in case you missed it: When you go to the supermarket frozen-food aisle, and get ready to try something you haven't had before, you will almost always buy the brand with the best-looking image of the food. The brand with the prettiest picture, in other words.

We humans are visual creatures. We're sight-hounds on two legs. This works on television; it works in movies; it works in advertising...and it works for book covers. So keep this in mind when you are preparing your next cover--think of crows, and bright, pretty things.

That was the end of the original post.  In the 20 months since I wrote it, there have been a ton of books through, and that fact is truer now than ever before--if you have very little money to spend, if you must, forgo the formatting (DIY) and pay for a great cover designer.  I've also learned this lesson:  a great cover is not a busy cover.  There are, in fact, no "great" busy covers.  As I said in my sequel to this post--the first post I ever made here at Crime Fiction Collective, authors frequently err on the side of attempting to tell the entire story on the cover, and end up with a muddled mess. 

Your book cover is not an IMAX screen.  Your saga should not roll across the cover as if it is.  The best and most glorious covers have one single, strong graphic element. Your color selections should be powerful and vivid.  The cover doesn't even necessarily have to do anything with your actual story--it simply needs to evoke a strong emotion, and a desire to OPEN IT and see what's inside. 

But I'm on a Budget!

Many authors are scraping by, and can't afford the $150-$200 (average price) for a custom-designed cover.  What to do?  One of the little-known trade secrets are "pre-made covers."  Yes, I said "pre-made."  Unlike used cars, someone else didn't use this before you; what  a pre-made cover represents is a cover designer that was bored, and made some up on a weekend!  His boredom is your gain--you can buy the cover, have the text changed to match your title, and your author name, and VOILA!  For as little as $30, you have a professionally-designed cover that does not look like the dog's breakfast.  Now, of course, you need to peruse these pre-made covers carefully; some places that offer them are, well, let's say you'd do better with a crayon.  But one such place does exist, that I've Pinned on Pinterest and even Tweeted about, and that's Go On Write, at  If you're pinching those pennies--and every publisher should--cruise on over there and check 'em out!  Save some shekels!


And to all the kind people who drop by and read me, from time to time....Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!--Hitch


  1. Thanks for another great, informative post, Hitch!

    About those pre-made covers -- what are the chances of others choosing the same cover? Or do the ones that people buy then disappear so no one else can take them?

    Thanks! And have a wonderful holiday!

  2. Great info, as usual. And Jodie, when you buy one of those covers, you own the design. I've seen some really nice work on those pre-made sales.

  3. Good to know, LJ! Thanks! And thanks to Hitch for telling us about them!

  4. Hey, Jodie, LJ:

    Yes, that's right. (About the premades). I saw one--I think it was called "illusion" that I would have really liked for a number of genres. I hope, holiday or no, that people do find this post eventually, so that they can grab one if they need it. I just read a perfectly good little fiction book--I recommended it on Goodreads--that is languishing because it has a CRAPPY cover. Such a shame! Called..."Sky Blue Orange." A nice little mystery, would appeal to fans of Carolyn Rose's, but I think it is doomed to obscurity as long as that cover is its public face. Merry Christmas, guys! --Hitch

  5. I love talking about covers… I'm shallow that way. Give me a great cover, some nifty eye-candy, and I'm gonna look closer. I checked out Sky Blue Orange, Hitch. It's a START, but man… I think you're right. The cover kind of sucks.

    I have family in town, more due here any minute, so I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas (or if you don't celebrate, a really nice day) and an awesome New Year.

    Our tree is laden this year because so many loved ones have come here! And my heart is happy.

  6. Enjoy your special time with family, Peg!

  7. Merry Christmas everyone! Great post. I agree a book can live or die by its cover. I was extremely happy with what the publisher did with my first novel just out in November. Even though it gives off a supernatural vibe (which it isn't) I've already heard how it's attracting attention. I actually got an interview when someone tripped over it online. The interviewer said she was looking for a book with a similar title, my book came up, and she was intrigued enough by the book cover to come check out my website!

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