Three weeks ago, I began this series to define and explore some of the many important marketing mistakes I’ve made or seen made over my many years of experience in the self-publishing industry.  I say “important” because each of the missteps I’ve listed: Devolving into a self-centered campaigner,  confusing the sales message with the marketing campaign, and waiting till the book is done to start marketing–each of these things can tank your book sales singly and for a long time, and a combination of these mistakes will leave you struggling to recover years in the future.  The worst part is, they’re all incredibly easy to make, and making one or two is no bad reflection on you as a person and writer, but the inevitable consequence of those of us who do know choosing not to share that information.  After all, there are so many hundreds of thousands of blog posts, advice columns, and self-help books out there these days–it seems impossible to filter them all.

That’s why this series is here. These are the Big Ones, the Absolute Disasters, the mistakes you really must work to avoid when possible, and work to minimize if unavoidable. And what’s this week’s misstep, you may very well ask?

Designing your own book cover.

book covers

… or at the very least, designing your own book cover without seeking professional advice.

A book cover is a powerful thing.  It’s the first thing your readers see when they pull books off of the self at their local indie bookstore.  It’s the first thing they see when they Google your name and click on your Amazon author page.  It’s what distinguishes your book, on sight, from every other book on the market–and at the same time, a good cover will clue your readers in on the genre and atmosphere of your book.  It’s one of the most important puzzle pieces in your marketing plan, so crafting a good book cover just isn’t enough.  You need to craft a perfect book cover.

Hiring a graphic designer is worth it.  You’ll hear a lot of waffling on this subject in various corners of the internet, and allowing for the remote possibility that you may be a working graphic designer yourself, perhaps you yourself do have the skill to create something that will knock new readers flat with its beauty and efficacy.  In general, however–and the graphic designers amongst you can affirm this–the best artistic work is done by paid professionals on the clock, working as part of a responsive design team who can provide feedback as the design process is underway.  Graphic designers who have worked in the book industry for years are more than just paid consultants for your book cover: they have been around long enough to know the ins and outs of the big picture, and they are invaluable resources in positioning your book for success in both visual and contextual ways.

The other day, I was browsing the Goodreads giveaway page, and I noticed something.  Every book with a beautiful custom cover that displayed well at the size of a postage stamp had more than a thousand entries–a thousand people vying for copies of that book.  And every book with one of those tacky, generic-looking free template covers?  The numbers fell to somewhere between twenty and forty.  There are of course other mitigating factors (books published by traditional means will have a large-scale marketing campaign funneling more people on to Goodreads in the first place, for example), the trend was noticeable enough to be undeniable.  You want your book to grab people, even in competition with high-powered traditionally published works!

So find yourself a designer, or purchase a package from a hybrid self-publishing company that puts your book in the running for Most Beautiful Book on the Goodreads Giveaway Page.  You want your book to be that book.


book cover design

Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, 10:00 AM

9 thoughts on “Marketing Missteps Episode 4 : Designing your own book cover

    1. Thanks for turning us on to this website, Kari! You’re right that there are lots of options there. – Kelly S.

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