Davis Creative Publishing

Great Book Design Helps to Sell Your Book

I have a LOT of authors who hand me (or mail me) a copy of their DIY book and ask for my opinion. It can create a very awkward moment, especially if the book truly needs help. A poorly designed book will push potential readers away. They may not know why, but they are simply not attracted to that book.

I always share the analogy of baking a cake . . .

If your daughter is turning 16 and you decide to make the birthday cake for her party yourself, I can imagine one of two possible outcomes:

  1. She gives you a great big hug because it turns out EXACTLY like the photo she handed you — after all, you are a professional chef.
  2. She tearfully screams, runs away, and hides in her room because you can barely follow the instructions on the back of a cake mix.


The same reactions can happen when you decide to design your own book. Even if you decide to hire your “neighbor’s brother’s wife who happens to be a sign painter” to design your cover, you run the risk of bad book design. Book design has many idiosyncrasies and a high risk for printing errors due to a bad design on the cover as well as inside. Not all graphic designers are book designers.


  1. A too-tiny title on the front cover. You probably want your book to stand out on Amazon.com. If your title is too small, no one will be able to read it on the postage-sized stamp image as seen online.
  2. Overly-Verbose. Avoid the use of a too-wordy title or subtitle on your cover. Be succinct. Yes, I know you LOVE your words — you are a writer — but too many words do not serve to attract the attention of a potential reader.
  3. Cramped Covers. Don’t try to tell your whole story on the cover. Too much info or too-busy of a graphic will deflect potential readers.
  4. Fuzzy Photos or Stock Photos. No, you cannot enlarge a 72dpi photo taken with your phone to fit a 6×9” book cover. Use a professional camera or hire someone to take an original photo. Avoid the use of stock photography, if possible. Nothing worse than seeing your book come up on Amazon right next to a different author using the same cover photo purchased from a cheap royalty-free online source.
  5. Fonts Gone Wild. Don’t get too creative with your font selections — on the cover as well as inside the book. Granted, there are some very creative fonts available, but if you can’t read the words, no one will buy your book.
  6. Cramped Interiors. The readability of any book is determined first by font selection, then by spacing. Don’t try to save money by cramming lots of tiny words onto pages so you can use few-er pages. Keep your text legible, and your interior gutter and outside margins wide open and airy. The reader is less likely to grow tired of reading, AND more likely to read the entire book.
  7. Chapter Starts. Traditional publishing companies start chapters on the right-hand side of the gutter. Which leads to . . .
  8. Too Short of a Chapter. If you have short, 3-page chapters, you’ll end up with a lot of blank left-hand pages. Consider working with your editor to combine some of your chapters, making your book an “easier read.”
  9. No Running Heads. Running heads help the reader navigate your book; the chapter title reminds them of the topic at hand.
  10. No Page Numbers. Page numbers also help the reader keep track of where they are in a book. Book Clubs LOVE page numbers — to help them during discussions. Everyone wants his or her book to be chosen by a book club, right?

Having worked with over 800 authors, we know quite a bit about what makes for a good book design and how it can actually help sell your book.

If you want your book to emote an impression of excellence, give us a call, 888-598-0886.


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