“You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover” is a true statement, but it’s also kind of dumb.

We all judge books by the covers. Why? Because we have too many options.

There were three million books published in 2010. How does your book get noticed in this glut of options? One way is with a great cover.

Today I get to share the cover of my new book Do Over for the first time. (It’s available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.)

Do Over Cover 2

I think the Portfolio/Penguin team did an awesome job with it! So how did we get there?


Whether you’re self publishing an ebook or going the traditional route with a publisher, there are a lot of ways you can design a great cover. I think a perfect place to start is by asking these five questions:

1. Will it stand out?
One of the first questions they used to ask in publishing when it comes to book covers is, “Will it stand out if I’m in a busy, loud airport and I’m walking by quickly on the way to my flight?” Now, the question has been tweaked a little since your book will also by on a virtual shelf. The cover needs to stand out in a postage size format shown in an amazon listing of books. If your cover fades in instead of standing out, it’s time to start over. That’s one of the reasons I really liked the vibrancy of the yellow for the Do Over cover.

2. Does it reflect the heart of the book?
Sometimes people think a “Do Over” is negative. It feels like you’ve messed up and need to crawl out of some Eeyore shaped hole. But Do Over is a wildly optimistic book. It’s about seeing each day in your career as a fresh opportunity. It’s about intentionally building the career you’ve always wanted with the four things every amazing career has in common. After spending 16 years in the halls of corporate America and the trenches of dream chasing, this book represents a fun explosion of practical possibility. The cover needed to create that feeling and I think it does. Sometimes you see books that feel very different from the content inside. The cover design is brave and bold while the content is quiet and afraid. You have to make sure the cover is an extension of the content not a new conversation altogether.

3. Is the design subtle and bold?
When you design a cover, it’s tempting to try really blunt metaphors and we certainly played around with those at first. We thought, “What represents a Do Over?” and then we came up with a lot of designs based on erasers. For some books, an eraser worked but when we tried it on this one, it felt too obvious. Pasting the word “Do Over” on an eraser was an easy solution but it didn’t have the subtly that great design often has. There weren’t any layers to that metaphor. After exploring a lot of images like that, what we all ended up liking about the typography in the word “Do Over” was that there was movement there. In a kind of MC Escher way it showed motion. It still had a bold visual but the typography told a subtle story about never getting stuck.

4. Did we explore a lot of options?
Maybe some people have “love at first sight” when it comes to cover designs. The artist creates one comp, the entire team falls in love with it and the whole process takes 15 minutes. I guess that happens, but that’s certainly not something I’ve ever experienced. We went through more than 50 different designs. I’m not talking about 50 rough sketches or napkin concepts. I’m talking about 50 deliberate, hard fought comps. The challenge is that as an author, toward the end of the process, there’s a part of you that wants it to be done. It’s very tempting to pick a design you kind of like just to get the whole thing finished. Fight that with everything you’ve got. You need to find something you love, not just like. You didn’t half write the book, don’t half design the cover.

5. Were you brave during the process?
Not everyone is going to like your cover. Or your blog. Or your business. Or your anything. That’s life. Don’t worry about that. Worry instead about taking the coward’s way when it is offered (and it is always offered.) Bravery is a choice, not a feeling. Choose it every day. Be brave with the design!

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I’m not sure how other authors pick a book cover, but that’s the process I’ve gone through with all five books I’ve written. I’m excited about the Do Over cover and hope if you publish a book you’ll be just as excited about your cover.

Quick question:
What’s a book cover you really loved?