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Ask the Book Doctor

By Bobbie Christmas

Ask the Book Doctor: About Book Covers and Free Feedback

Q: My book is being edited and will soon be ready to be printed. Being short on cash, how can I put a nice cover on it as cheaply as possible? I don’t expect it to be on a bestseller list, but I do want it to be more advanced than my first attempt.

A: You are wise to be concerned about the cover. The cover often is the only thing that sells a book. If the cover looks bad, few people will buy the book, no matter how well written the contents may be. As in editing, the cover is not a place where you want to scrimp.

If you don’t want the cover to look cheap, don’t be cheap. That is, pay someone, even if it is only a design student, to design a book cover properly and well. Don’t create your own artwork for it unless you’re an accomplished artist. Don’t use the artwork of one of your children unless the book is a children’s book.

Getting the front, back, and spine looking professional takes much more work and knowledge than most non-designers can imagine, plus the file must be compatible with the printer’s equipment. Unless you have a design program, know how to use it, and have studied design, I don’t recommend designing a book cover yourself. If you want the cover to look professional, hire a professional to do it.

Barring hiring a pro, you can use of the self-publishing companies that offer cover design as part of a printing package. You can check the Internet for such companies and see if they offer any covers that appeal to you at a price that is satisfactory, or you can surf the Web for cover designers and pick one with the best price. Through the miracle of the Internet your designer can be anywhere in the world and send the files to you electronically. Be sure to check out some of the lower priced book design companies in India, too.

Q: I have started to write a novel based on facts [that took place] in the 1865-1880 time frame [sic]. I have no experience writing anything, I just know I wish to write a story. Is there some where [sic] to send a few chapters to be read over to determine if there is hope in proceeding [with] it. [sic]

A: I am one of many editors who provide professional feedback for a fee, but if you want free feedback, join a critique group and get free feedback from peers, to see if fellow readers find the information captivating.

My strongest suggestion is to take a class or a course in creative writing before or while attempting to tackle writing a novel. Creative writing requires much more than simply owning a computer and knowing how to type, and novels require even more specialized knowledge, such as how to handle pace, point of view, dialogue, characterization, and plot, among other things. Any good creative writing teacher will also give you feedback on some of the writing, during the time you take a course.

Although I don’t believe emails have to be flawless, the errors in the one asking this question show me that the novel will need careful editing before it is ready to market.

If you want professional feedback, or if you do not want to take a class or join a critique circle, or if you can’t find anything suitable in your area, by all means go to my web site at click on “Editing Request Form,” and follow the prompts to learn now to submit work to me for a professional evaluation and/or editing.

–Bobbie Christmas, book doctor, author of Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions too. Send them to Read more “Ask the Book Doctor” questions and answers at



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