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How to Design a Book Cover

Updated on September 28, 2013

They say don’t judge a book by its cover. Forget about what they told you regarding the book cover. Unless you are Dan Brown or J. K Rowling, you will not be able to sell decent copies of your book, if it does not have a great cover.

For an indie publisher, a first time author, or an author who chooses to publish on CreateSpace, Kindle, Smashwords, Lulu, Barnes & Noble, and other platforms, spending huge money on the cover design may not be viable. If you are not hiring a professional book cover designer, you may want to do it yourself. You worked hard on the content, now it’s time to do some garnishing.

Book cover designed with art as the background image.
Book cover designed with art as the background image. | Source

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Great Book has a Great Cover

Your mother knows you have written a great book, but how does the world find if the book is worth reading. People buy a book when...

  1. They believe the author is worth reading.
  2. The author has a great profile.
  3. The author is a bestseller.
  4. They read and like the book review.
  5. There is a good word-of-mouth publicity.
  6. They know the author personally.
  7. The title and the subject are great.
  8. They read the blurbs and like it.
  9. They like the book cover.

If you are a new author, you can simply dismiss #1, #2 and #3. Unless the reviewer is your friend, your book will possibly never come under the reviewers’ eyes.

You can sell books through word-of-mouth publicity but for a new author, this is quite impossible because people want to read established authors.

Your friends will be interested in buying your books, however, how many books do you expect to push-sell, 200, 500, 1000? But surely not much.

Let us assume that your book has a great title and the subject. However, the title and the subject cannot garner readership if the author is unknown.

Blurbs are the part of book cover. If you can get encouraging words on your book with good cover design, you can surely lure the readers.

Now that the book has a good title and the subject, let’s focus on cover design.

Text based book cover design
Text based book cover design | Source

Types of Book Cover Design

Book cover means the front cover as well as the back cover. If your book is an ebook, it may not require back cover, however, for a print book, back cover is as important as the front cover.

Front cover includes title, subtitle, author’s name, quote from the book, and praise for the author and the book. In the case of new author, book cover may only include the title, subtitle, if any, and the author’s name. Book cover also contains background photo/art/illustrations; however, some book covers have plain background instead of background image.

Back cover includes excerpt from the book, blurbs, author’s introduction, author’s photo, publisher’s logo, and ISBN and Bar Code.

There are different kinds of book cover design; however, it can be broadly categorized into:

  • Photo based
  • Art/Diagram based
  • Text based

Some book covers also incorporate two or more aforementioned themes.

Photo based book cover design
Photo based book cover design | Source

How to Design a Book Cover

You can easily design a book cover, if you have knowledge and skills of image manipulation programs such as Photoshop, GIMP or Paint Shop.

Before you begin to work on your design, you must decide what kind of design you want. Is it photo based, art/diagram based, text based or the one that incorporates all themes?

Book cover design begins with the background. What kind of background you want on the cover? Do you want to use a photo, art/diagram or plain colors on the background? You have to choose the theme of the design according to the theme of your book.

If you are working with a photo, your photo should have good resolution. You can also blend or merge multiple photos and create a background image.

If you want text based cover, chose a nice background color or pattern that suits the theme of the book.

If you are designing a book cover with art/diagrams, get your illustrations ready before you do the actual designing. You can either draw directly on your photo-editing program, or scan your drawing and open the image on your program. You can also create pencil sketch from the photo by turning a photo into a cartoon. Remove noise and tint from your drawing.

Illustrations based book cover design
Illustrations based book cover design | Source

Play with the presets on your photo-editing program and add effects to your photo.

If your photo has a person on it, you may apply makeup to the photo and remove distractions, if any.

You can also change angles and perspective in the photo.

After you are ready with the background for the cover, choose a nice font and write text on the photo.

The text color should be in contrast to the dominant colors on the background.

Add styles and strokes to the text. Text on the background must be simple. Don’t overuse fancy font and styles.

Color theme on the back cover should match with the front cover. If you are using the same photo for your back cover, blur the photo so that blurbs can be visible.

Place author’s photo and other necessary information on the back cover.

If you are publishing a print book and it is thick, you must have an area for the spine between the front cover and back cover. Write author’s name and the book title on the spine.

A sample design for the back cover
A sample design for the back cover | Source

If you think, book cover design is not your cup of tea, you may commission the author to do it for you. You can contact the author by clicking fan mail tab on the profile page.

Book Cover Design Tips for the Beginners

Before you sit to design a cover for your book, you must have some photo editing skills.

Book cover themes should be compatible with the content of your book. You cannot have adult couple on the cover if your book is a children book with animal characters.

Color theme on the cover should match with the subject of the book. It does not make sense when you use dark color if your book’s title is “How to Love Yourself

Fancy fonts and styles are fine but don’t overdo it.

The book title must be readable even on thumbnail reproduction.

Don’t use too many bright colors on your text and the background.

Try to make your design simple.

Look at the book covers and get inspired. However, never copy the design.

© 2013 Vinaya Ghimire


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