Five Ways to Make Your Book Look Professional

5 Ways to Make Your Book Look Professional

As an editor with Writer’s Digest, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to judge more than my fair share of self-published book contests. The contests are always fun and inspiring, but they’re also instructive. 

Over the years, I’ve developed a checklist of five elements that make a book look professional, which may help sales and increase your chances of winning a contest:

  1. Clean cover. Covers sell books. While the manuscript is the most important element for long-term success of a book, most books never get read if they don’t have a great cover. As such, be sure that your book’s cover has a clean design. Find covers you like and make your cover rock just the same.
  2. Professional author photo. Avoid including family members and/or pets in your author photo. In fact, go to a professional photographer and explain that you need an author photo (not a glamour shot). A professional photo will make you — and your book — look more professional.
  3. Include book title and author name on spine. To some, this may seem like a no-brainer, but I constantly find self-published books (and even traditionally published books by small presses) that fail to include the most basic information on the spine. Why is this important? Because you want people to find your book when it’s facing spine-out. Even on a personal bookcase, an information-less spine can be hard to locate.
  4. Positive blurbs. There is debate over how much blurbs really help sell books, but I can tell you that for a self-published book to include one (or three — or more!) blurbs from respected sources, it says “this book is professional.” And that’s what you need to stand out from other titles. (Quick note on length: Try to limit all blurbs to 40 words or fewer — at least on the cover.)
  5. Impressive font. Whether it’s the font on the cover or the interior of the book, don’t overlook the importance of having a sturdy and consistent font throughout your book. It’s a small thing, but it’s the small things that make one book look professional and the other book not-so-much.

What measures have you taken to ensure your book looks professional?

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor for the Writer’s Digest Writing Community with a special focus on Writer’s Market, Poet’s Market,, and the upcoming Guide to Indie Publishing. He’s judged several self-published and traditionally published book contests over the years for Writer’s Digest and other organizations. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.