Book Cover Design: Templates vs. Professional – Which one will get you the most book sales?

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My team has a combined 18 years’ experience designing book covers professionally. (This means they get paid to design book covers.) Suffice it to say, we’ve learned what it takes to stand out, what’s important in a cover design, and when templates may or may not be appropriate for an author.

Using Book Cover Templates
The key problem with using a template is that your book will have the same general feel as others on the market. Many templates are poorly designed to begin with, and if you don’t have an artistic eye, you won’t notice the little things that make a cover stand out on the virtual or physical bookshelf.

Templates use the same general layout, the same fonts, sometimes even the same artwork (or a limited selection of artwork) for every author who chooses that template. They do not have infinite capabilities, and depending on the length of your title, you may not even be able to read it. The other main issue with templates is that often the included graphics don’t make any sense with your book’s content. You may think a graphic looks great, but if it isn’t drawing someone in to the content inside – if it’s not related to the content – there will be a disconnect to the reader. And once you lose a reader, it’s hard to get them back.

Templates can be used well by people with an artistic and well-balanced eye who know what to do to make the templates appear more custom. But they are definitely not easy for an untrained author-turned-designer to use effectively.

Using a Professional Book Cover Designer
Professional book designers know several things. They know how to make a striking title stand out from 15 feet away, and they understand why that’s a necessity. They know what colors will make your book in your genre stand out amongst the crowd of other books similar to yours. They know how to combine graphics, pictures and other images in a way that’s pleasing to the eye and directs the viewer to the most important element on the cover. And they know what that element is. They also know what looks good in thumbnail format, how to make long titles easy to read and how to keep short titles from looking like they’re taking over the cover.

Usually a professional book designer actually took classes or went to school to know how to design (ie: they were taught by other professionals and have training). And always the designer uses a professional book design program like Adobe InDesign or Quark because the professional book designer understands you just can’t get the same results from Microsoft Publisher or Word. (Sidenote: Never ever ever ever! “design” a book cover in Microsoft Word. It’s a word processing program, not a design program! Rant over.)

And always, a professional book cover designer gets paid. For a reason. They know what it takes to make your book stand out from your competition. They know how to make you, a previously unknown author, appear more professional in search results on Amazon. They know what it takes for you to sell books, because ultimately, they know a book is judged by its cover.

The Ultimate Goal
Your ultimate goal is to sell books. Your other goals may be to generate leads and get new clients using your book as a marketing tool. If you want to maximize your results and sell more books or speak from the stage as a professional expert, thus bringing higher-end clients to you (ie: people you’d love to work with), then consider a professional book cover designer. They’re literally worth their weight in gold – and just as gold’s value keeps climbing, the more self-published “trash” thrown into the market, the more professionally-designed book covers will stand out, and the more your books will be sold instead of those of your competition.


  1. says

    I am self-publishing with Balboa Press (division of Hay House) and began to feel unsure of their design team. Thank God my husband is a graphic designer, and we are working on a gorgeous cover together to help my book, Crazy World, Peaceful Heart, stand out. Generic, templated covers offer no sense that what's inside is worth reading even if it might be great!

  2. Phil Simon says

    Turnkey covers look terrible. For people looking to save money on the publishing process, don't go there. A good cover designer is worth his/her weight in gold. End of story.

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