Novel Covers and Titles – Tips for the writer

Yes, you can tell a book by its cover, or at least that’s what the majority of readers do. Here are some thoughts for the cover and title of your novel


The cover of your novel is one of those critical points on your road to publication. Chances are strong that you’re not the one to design it. Unless you’re a trained graphic designer, don’t attempt to design your own cover. But don’t listen to me if you strongly believe you have the talent. Give it a try and show your work to others for opinions.

The whole purpose behind a good cover is to get a potential reader (and buyer) to pick up your book or to click the image online. Cover design costs range from less than a hundred dollars to thousands for an A-list designer. When you use a cover designer you first communicate all of your thoughts on the content of your book. I always write the back cover words before contacting a designer and submit that along with my thoughts.

The words on the back of your book are important, whether it’s a brief description of the book, or even better, some snippets from positive reviews. Think of the back cover as your selling space. I’ve seen some inexperienced self-published authors leave the back empty except for artwork. That is pure insanity. It’s your chance to get a person to open the book. Why would somebody open the book if the back cover is blank?

How much is a good cover designer work? This is an entirely subjective question. I have seen covers on self-published books that, in my subjective opinion, are far superior to covers you see on The New York Times bestseller list. I’ve used a professional designer for eleven novels and two non-fiction books. There are countless books and online courses devoted to book covers. Reading about this subject can be as annoying as listening to a wine connoisseur prattle on about a new vintage. “This Bordeaux has curious presumptions and subtle humorous undercurrents?” What?

My criteria for a well-done cover is that it shows an element of mystery, a design that will pique a browser’s curiosity.

Can you save money and get a well-done cover? Yes, and I suggest that you consider premade book covers. Take a look at, a somewhat clumsily named website but one that tells you exactly what you can expect. The company uses a small army of professional cover designers who get paid a percentage if you buy one of the templates. These premade designs include artwork only. You have to supply the title, subtitle if any, your name, of course, and the words for the back cover. Once you’ve bought it, the cover is retired and nobody else can use it. The prices range from $30 to a couple of hundred dollars.

Make sure that the person you’re buying the template from includes paperback spine and back cover, not just the front cover for an ebook. Some of the artists charge a few dollars extra to include a paperback-ready design, and it’s worth it because the design needs to be tweaked to fit your chosen paperback book size and number of pages. The beauty of using a service like this is that you can look for a cover that captures the essence of your novel, one that jumps out at you. I’ve used a professional designer for eleven novels and two non-fiction books at a cost of $250 for each cover. For my most recent book, Robot Depot, I used a premade template that cost $40. This, again, is entirely subjective, but I can’t see how the custom designed books at $250 are any better than the premade cover for $40.

I always circulate a few designs among friends and ask their opinion. This is “fair use,” so don’t worry about copyright infringement.


The title of a novel isn’t as important as the title of a nonfiction book, for reasons that should be obvious. A nonfiction book title needs to say something about what’s inside. My book on law for the layman is entitled Justice in America—How it Works, How it Fails. That summarizes what the book is about.

Compare that to the titles on some of my novels, or anybody’s novels for that matter: The GrayShip, The Thanksgiving Gang, A Scent of Revenge, A Time of Fear, The Shadows of Terror, Sideswiped, The Reformers, The Skies of Time, The Keepers of Time, A Reunion in Time, The President is Missing, and Robot Depot. I use those titles, not to explain what’s in the book, which they don’t, but to pique a reader’s interest. I hope I’ve piqued yours.

Just as in choosing a book cover, get opinions from other people about your title.

To your writing success.


About Russ

Russ Moran is an author, lawyer, and blogger. He writes on a wide variety of topics, including recreational themes such as boating, how-to articles, law and business. He is the author of Justice in America: How it Works - How it Fails, published in 2011. Kirkus Reviews calls the book: "A lively,brash,illuminating insider look at the law,by a compelling expert." Russ has recently finished The APT Principle: The Business Plan that you Carry in Your Head, It was published in June 2012. His blog is The Moran Report at Russ lives on Long Island with his wife Lynda. They have a five year old shih tzu that they are still trying to house train.
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