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How to Design a Book Cover: Guide

Modern book stores take large spaces and sometimes cover several floors. Nowadays, with increased access to the Internet and online content, the magic previously experienced in big libraries is largely gone, or at least, uncommon. Writers, as well as designers, need to do their best to catch a potential reader’s attention.

Who hasn’t heard the saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? None of us really wants to, but, in reality, we all decide if we pick up a book mainly based on the looks of the cover. Book cover design is a factor that may either grab the attention of your reader to allow them to explore your masterpiece, or it can sit on the shelf, hidden away, gathering dust.

Find Inspiration and Ideas

For a better understanding of your potential readers’ requests, you should probably start the long journey to your perfect cover from the analysis of the covers of the books in the same genre as yours. In other words, check out your competition. This can prevent you not only from accidental borrowing of ideas but also help you understand what is and isn’t popular among your target audience.

Your main inspiration in creating a really catching cover must be the title and the content of the book. The title and the cover design should harmonize and share the same idea.

Last year, The New York Times chose 12 best book covers. Here are some of them:

Underbug Book CoverThe Condition Of Secrecy Book CoverThe Pisces Book Cover

 

As you can see, each of the mentioned covers is tightly thematically connected with the title. None of them is too complicated to understand, yet each leaves space for guesses. Even without looking inside, the reader’s eye has already been caught.

Following your inspiration, you shouldn’t forget about the genre of the content. The cover of a fantasy story will never be anywhere close to the cover of a scientific book.

A Wing and a Prayer

Science Book CoverIf you are out of ideas, there is always the Internet to lend you a helping hand. Except for the standard Google search, there are also some interesting resources you might find particularly handy, like Pinterest or Tumblr.
Pinterest Book Cover Design
Tumblr Book Cover Design

Choose Your Book Cover Design Tools or Designer

Even if you have an excellent idea and a whole truck of inspiration, that’s not enough to design a good book cover. Let’s face the truth, not all of us are that talented. So, a very important decision to be made is: Will you manage to complete the cover design on your own or will you ask a professional to do it for you?

If you are in control, here we have a list of some useful tools that may help you:

  • BookCreative – Colourful samples, easy-to-follow tutorials and a great compilation of templates for non-designers. You may also choose Deluxe Package with some special additions.
  • Canva – With this free resource you are promised to create a book cover in only five minutes. There is a step-by-step manual right on the main page, so you won’t get lost.
  • BookWright – This site has a very rich history (10 years on the market, around 320,000 books), so you can definitely be sure in the quality and simplicity of all the free tools you find here.
  • GraphicSprings – Everything you need to do is click the “create my free book covers now” button on the main page of the site. And then let the magic begin.

Even if you are not in the mood to take risks and decide to hire a professional designer, it would be better if you try out one of the options mentioned above. That will help you see what you expect to see as the result and also make your cooperation with a designer easier and more productive.

Here are some platforms that will guide you through the market of freelance book covers designers:

  • DesignBro – Our designbro.com site only used top-level designers as a standard.
  • 99Designs – The site regularly creates a list of its best freelancers in different categories and there you may also find a fresh one of the best book cover designers.
  • Upwork – Large freelance platform where you can read the feedbacks about each candidate, look through some samples of his works and negotiate about the price.
  • Reedsy – It is said that all the best designers are already on this website. So, you may check if this statement is true.
  • DeviantArt – One of the largest online communities of artists where you can observe a really enormous gallery of works in all possible styles.

Figure out What the Design Needs to Emphasize

Remember that each book actually has two covers – the front and the back, connected by a spine. Therefore, you need to think not only about the “face” but also about the “nape”.

Clueless an Cleveland Book Cover

A Clockwork Orange Book Cover

As we said before, a good cover should highlight the main idea of your book. In any case, it shouldn’t lead the potential reader up the garden path, this will only make you lose your audience.

Before starting the design of the cover think about the title of the book, how the picture in the background can intensify it and what part of it should be emphasized.

Choose Graphics and Fonts

The font in which the reader will see the title of the book and the author’s name is as important as the background picture. You won’t see a single example of a cover with Times New Roman or Arial on it.

While choosing the right font don’t forget about the genre of your story and the target audience. Font Algerian probably won’t be a good choice for a children’s book, and Butterfly Kids will not be the most suitable one for a horror genre.

The Fight for Love Book CoverYellow Sky Emerald Sea Book Cover

Don’t be afraid to try different sizes and styles to emphasize the most important words in the title. Just make sure you don’t go over the top.

Rule number one is: the name of the writer shouldn’t be larger than the title. It is also recommendable to use different fonts for these two parts so they don’t get mixed up and become unreadable.

Decide on Your Cover Dimensions

 

If you’re not going to print your book and your plan is to present it to the readers only in the form of an eBook, then you’re lucky. Amazon has already calculated the perfect dimension for the book covers at 2,560 x 1,600 pixels. Of course, you are free to choose any ratio you want, but be prepared that it won’t look as attractive on the site.

Amazon Books

If you would like your readers to have a paper version, things become a bit more complicated. Various details need to be considered like the standard size of the book (it may differ for different genres), page count (to be sure about the size of the spine) as well as the back cover’s typesetting. The market should be researched and analysed with great care.

If the book printing sphere is completely unexplored by you, perhaps it’s a good idea to hire an experienced advisor – a professional designer.

Design Your Book Cover: Tips and Tricks

Designing a cover is not only about creativity. It’s also about knowing some psychological tricks and using them right. Here are some more tips that will definitely make your cover better.

  • Colors matter. The colors you use for the lettering and the color of the background picture must go well together. Moreover, they should create a mood that will match the content of the book. Black, for example, won’t resemble a romance. Green or yellow, on the other hand, won’t be best for a thriller.
  • Authors’ rights. Do not forget that all the pictures on the Internet have their owners. If you don’t want any problems with copyrights, you should think twice before using the first beautiful image from Google search as your book cover. It’s recommended to look for suitable photos on either special free websites (Flickr, Free Images, Pexels, etc.) or platforms where you can buy the photo that you want to use (Shutterstock, Depositphotos, etc.).
  • Book series. In case you are planning to publish series, it would be great if each book cover had some element that would be common for them all, such as a font, an image or a theme.

Harry Potter Book Cover

Test Your Design and Collect Feedbacks

Sometimes there’s more than one good option available. If you pinball between several great cover opportunities, you should test them out and let your readers choose the one that they would most likely want to buy.

As a possible test, you can use voting tools on social networks (like Facebook or Instagram). Additionally, you can ask those who vote to explain their choice in comments.

If you’re not a big social media fan, there are other platforms available. An example is PickFu. It’s a platform allowing you to create a form with two variants and offer your audience to choose the best one.

Unfortunately, nobody is immune to failures. The cover, that you’ve spent much time and effort on, can be absolutely ignored by the readers. In that case, you should most probably update the cover. Below you can see an example of two covers of the same book – before and after the update made by Derek Murphy.

True Colours Book Cover

The results show that the books, whose covers were updated by Murphy, doubled their sales.

If You Want to Hire a Professional Cover Designer

Previously we have already recommended you several platforms, where you can find a designer to hire. But just think about the time, that you are about to spend on searching! You will have to communicate with many different people, asking them the same questions. You will need to look through dozens of portfolios (not always that good, let’s be honest). And when you will finally be ready to make your decision there will always be a risk, that something may go wrong.

When you choose DesignBro you may be calm and sure, that your book cover – the face of your book, the first impression of your readers about the whole story – is in safe hands. Our team of the high-qualified designers will do their best for your cover to attract as many readers as possible.

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Written by Christiaan

Besides having grown up in the design Industry, Christiaan has advised some of the world's largest companies on their branding & packaging designs. Has been the resident judge for design awards, and has spoken at numerous global design & marketing events. Christiaan founded the London office of the award-winning Cartils agency, and has founded the DesignBro.com platform.

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