BooksFlyI have some bad news. People do judge your book by its cover.

Your cover is actually one of the most crucial pieces of your published book. After all, what does it matter if you wrote a revolutionary life-changing guide or the most gripping mystery if nobody opens the book to read it?

As an independent author, you likely want to have a strong say in your book cover––you may even want to put your creative skills to use and design it yourself. But with it getting easier than ever for people to publish, and with a dramatic increase in self-published authors, book shelves are getting muddled with sub-par covers. Self-published authors are giving their secret away with common mistakes that can be easily avoided.

Of course, as one of our partner authors you are not self-published. You are published. Period. And if you want to stand out from the pack, we've got a few tips to guide you toward a stellar cover.

1) Keep it Simple. Clutter is one of the most common mistakes new authors make in working on their book covers. Often, they are too close to the book to pick out what matters most. But simple reigns. Use one main element on your cover. Lean toward the symbolic over the literal. You don't need to put every image from your book on the cover. By going symbolic, it'll be easier to single out one element that conveys the feeling of the entire book.

2) Choose Strong Typography (fonts). You don't want boring, basic fonts that scream "Word Processor." (Yeah, remember those days?) The fonts you choose help set the tone for your cover. If you've written a historical book, then an old-fashioned font or strong script might be appropriate. But if you've written a how-to guide for business, then you want something strong and assertive. You also want the font used for your title, sub-title, and author name to stand out, no matter the size of the cover image.

And that leads us to our next tip...

3) Think small. As in small cover images. If your book follows the trend, and it likely will, then most of your sales will come from online venues––especially Amazon.com. And that means that your book cover needs to stand out even in thumbnail size.

Keeping a simple focus on your image and using a strong typography will go a long way in creating an attractive cover, even if it's tiny.

4) There's no such thing as small authors. Just small author names. And Anthony from Book Cover Cafe says it's his #1 tip in avoiding rookie mistakes. You want your book––and your name––to stand proud against any "best-selling," big name author. Remember tip #3. You also want people to be able to see your author name even in a small online image.

5) Imitation is the highest form of flattery. And it's good business. Look at other top books in your genre. What look and feel do they have? Readers of specific genres expect certain elements on the covers of the books they buy, even if the readers don't realize it. Different genres have different moods. Make sure the elements you choose help convey the right mood for your genre and your content.

Reviewing similar themed books will also help inspire you as you decide what you want for your own cover. Take pictures of what you like and what you don't like. Then review them and try to pick out the common elements in each category. Use that to guide you in making choices for your own cover.

6) DIY isn't always better. You're a writer. You might not be a designer. That's ok. Investing in some outside help to get a professional cover is one of the best investments you can make for the business of selling your book.

Too many leaders in the self-publishing industry are encouraging self-published writers to do it all themselves. But at Light Messages, we believe strongly that one of the biggest advantages of being a partner author is that you don't have to do it all yourself. Remember, you're not self-published. So don't punish yourself by over-extending. Focus on your strengths, and enlist help when you need it. You absolutely want to be involved in the cover design process, but you don't need to do it all alone. You've got a publisher––and a partner––to help you.

Now get out there and start judging some book covers. Then, get to work.

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