Read these 18 Cover Design Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Self Publishing tips and hundreds of other topics.
If you need help deciding on the right cover design for your self published book, the best place to start is in a bookstore. Look for other books in the genre that you intend to publish in and see what their covers look like. Your ideal cover design should fit in with the norms of the genre but should still stand out from the crowd. Another factor that will affect cover design is where you are planning to sell the book. If you are planning to sell your self published book in a bookstore then it will need to fit well with other books of that type - that means using similar kinds of illustrations and typefaces.
A blurb is essential for marketing your self-published book and a crucial part of the book cover design. The front cover blurb usually includes 10 to 12 words which highlight the main point of the book. For example, one self publishing guide says the blurb contains, "everything you need to know to write, publish, promote and sell your own book". This tells the reader what to expect when reading the book. If anyone well known has said something positive about the book, this is usually included in the front cover blurb as well.
Once a potential buyer has seen the cover, s/he will turn to the back cover, which is a chance for you to sell the book again. Non-fiction books often start with a couple of paragraphs saying what the book covers in general, followed by a more detailed contents list. Fictional books may use an excerpt of the novel, followed by a brief plot outline (without giving the ending away, of course). Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, the cover blurb is one of the best opportunities to get someone to buy your self-published book.
The cover of your book is a sales tool and much of the information you would use to market it will be on the back cover. Take this into account in your book design. Items to include are:
My book is bleeding! If you have an image that you want to print to the edge of the book, then that image "bleeds." This is often done on book cover designs. For the printer to be able to trim the books so that the image is at the edge, there must be some part of the image that gets trimmed off (or else you will have a white stripe of the paper showing). The amount that gets trimmed off is the "bleed," and printers require a minimum of 1/8" (¼" is preferable).
*If you want an image to bleed, be sure that you set up your files so that you have enough image to go beyond your trim. In other words, a 6 x 9" book cover that bleeds all 3 sides on the front will really be a minimum of 6-1/8 x 9-1/4."
Professional illustrators and graphic artists use drawing software such as Adobe Illustrator and Macromedia Freehand (which is now also owned by Adobe) for book cover design. These programs contain a variety of sophisticated drawing tools that you may find useful, however the learning curve is steep and they can be expensive, particularly if you are only going to use them a few times. There are other options for designing a book cover, such as:
All books contain title and author information on the front cover, as well as a short sales pitch of a few words. The front cover may also include an illustration or photograph that relates to the content of the book. With most books the back cover contains a more detailed sales pitch known as the "blurb."
An author's bio is also included, especially for non-fiction books. The author's bio is where you list your accomplishments, honors and writing credentials. This is usually accompanied by a photograph of the author. It is important to choose the photograph carefully so that it shows something of your personality.
Finally, the ISBN and price are printed on the back cover. If you are printing a hardcover book, with a dust jacket, the front and back flaps leave additional room for sales blurb. In this case, the front flap is likely to contain additional information about the content, with plaudits from reviewers where available, while the author's bio will move to the back flap. This leaves more space for an extended blurb on the back cover.
You can afford a great book cover! A basic book cover design from an experienced designer can cost as little as $200. However, the cost goes up as the complexity of the design goes up (and it also goes up with the designer's experience). Keep in mind that making the investment will pay off in the future.
*A bad book cover that does not entice buyers can be much more costly in the long run, so it pays to invest in a qualified, experience graphic artist for your book cover design.
Yes, you CAN judge a book by its cover! A great cover wrapping blank pages will sell better than a great literary work wrapped with an amateur-looking cover. Make sure your book cover design is the very best you can afford—and always use a professional designer. The book cover design can say a lot about a book's content and get more readers to look at and buy your book.
Whether you need a professional designer depends on what you plan to do with your self published book. If you are writing your life story and intend to give copies to friends and family, then you can probably do with out a cover designer. However, if you want your book to look professional and if you are planning to sell your book in bookstores or by mail order, then you need a professional design so that your book matches others in its genre. With recent advances in printing technology there is no need for a self published book to look amateurish. Getting a professional cover design will help to avoid that stigma.
The image formats most commonly used for printing are the Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) and the Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG). TIFF formats are generally preferred because they are lossless. That means that the image consists of all the pixels and resizing the image doesn't result in the loss of data. In contrast, JPEG loses data whenever it is resized. While this lost data is not visible to the naked eye, it can show up in printing. Whichever format you choose for your book cover design, it is essential to make sure that your cover images are of a high resolution, 300 dots per inch (DPI) or more. Low resolution images (at 76 or 92 DPI) are of insufficient quality for printing and will tend to look blurred or grainy.
Cover design is crucial because it is the first impression of your book. It is essential that your cover design fits in with books of the same genre, yet stands out enough to be noticed. This means there's a good chance that someone will look at your book. Cover design is your chance to sell your book to the reader. It is a sales and marketing tool and if it's feasible, it's a good idea to get your cover professionally designed.
Don't be spineless! The spine width is an important part of your book cover design. There's a simple formula which determines that book spine width:
Take your book design at face value. A professional designer is worth every penny. The next time you're in the bookstore, take the time to examine the book cover designs—ninety-nine out of every hundred of those book covers were likely professionally designed. If your book doesn't look good on the outside people will be a lot less likely to look at the inside. Normally, the first thing you notice about a person is his or her face. The cover is your book's face.
*If you are only planning on publishing a minimal number of books (for friends and family) paying for professional design is a waste of money.
When you get a book publishing quote, ask the printer if they can film laminate your cover. This makes the book look more professional, and it also protects your cover from scuffing and scratching during shipping.
*Film laminating helps make your book really stand out on the bookstore shelves. It is relatively inexpensive and is nice and durable if you plan on selling books.
Do your own research into the book cover design look you want before searching for possible book cover designers. The cover is the first thing that grabs a reader's attention, so the right design can help sell more copies of your book.
*It's helpful to seek out books already in print that you like (this helps the book cover designer get to know your style better and will help the cover process go more smoothly).
Make your cover shine! Your designer's computer is capable of doing things that only a decade ago were reserved for prepress film houses with millions of dollars worth of equipment. Today, in most cases, when your designer finishes your book cover design, it's ready for press. If you are running a one or two-color cover, your designer's laser proof should be enough. The printer will print the PMS (Pantone Matching System) colors that you specify on your order. With four-color professional book cover designs, things are a little different. Take heed in the following advice:
Don't count on an exact copy! Your computer monitor is isn't the best palette when deciding on colors. High quality commercial printing is done on offset presses using a four-color process called CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). These colors are used to create many different color shades seen in a full color printed book cover design. Because of this different color model and the wide variation in monitor technologies and calibration, the colors will not be exactly the same as those on your monitor.
*If you print a sample on your ink jet printer or laser color printer, there may be a little bit of a variation from the high quality produced from the offset lithographic presses.
*Color digital presses, while not as good as offset, have improved over time. Once a film lamination is put on the cover, it's exremely difficult to even tell the difference.
Many self publishing companies offer cover design services. However, it is worth noting that each additional service you take adds to the cost of self-publishing your book. Some self-publishers assign you a graphic artist to work with, who will prepare sample designs after talking with you. Others have pre-prepared cover design packages, where you can choose from a number of designs which you can customize slightly before adding text. These options are helpful for the new self publisher. Another option for cover design is to look for young artists or illustrators in your local area. A graphic artist will be able to create a unique cover design using a blend of drawings, photos and text, as appropriate. Once you have approved a design, you can get it electronically (as a TIFF or JPEG) so it can be included in your book.