How to Design a Book Cover

covers

Most books evoke a feeling the instant you look at them. In the perfect scenario, the title whips up the intrigue, and the cover has gorgeous artwork. As you read the blurb and author bio, you become convinced that you must buy this book. 

The surefire elements to use in a book cover are the Main Character and the setting of your story. Most authors choose this scenario. Some book cover artists have a special gift of creating motion, but a static capture of your hero/heroine in his/her natural habitat works. The aim is to inform the customer about the following facts (within a few second’s decision time):

  • genre
  • mood
  • main character
  • setting and era
  • theme 
  • author

If you’re unsure about your book’s title, read my previous blog post about the matter: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/09/27/the-trouble-with-naming-your-book/

Look at other author’s choices. If you find a cover that matches all your hopes, find out who the artist is, and hire him/her. Collecting a set of all-time favorites helps you decide on the critical elements. If you hire a professional graphic designer, he will ask what kind of covers you like.

What you need to decide

It doesn’t matter at this point who will do the cover. Before any of the graphical work starts, you must make up your mind on several matters.

  1. Do you want to feature your main character or characters on the cover? If the answer is yes, you must know what the hero wears and how the heroine loves to braid her hair. What is the Main Character’s weapon of choice? Remember that nobody knows your sassy protagonist like you do. 
  2. Setting/ the background. Do you have an essential place in your book which could work as the backdrop of the cover? Decide on weather, time of day, geography…and so on.
  3. Do you have a color scheme or other preferences? Which matches your idea of a cover style: magical, sparkly, dark, futuristic, dystopian? Bright light or a sharp contrast?
  4. What are the themes of your book? Which genre? Do you want a traditional cover or something which will stand out among your numerous competitors?
  5. Do you have symbols that could make a different cover?
  6. What fonts do you like? What is your subtitle?
  7. Author bio: you need an introduction to the back cover. Why would people read a book by you? Who are you as a writer?
  8. Blurb!! This is important. Why would the readers love your book? Write the blurb for the ideal reader.
  9. Provide the artist a defining moment from your book. Do you want this moment portrayed on the cover?
  10.  If you adore some book cover, define what is so great about it? Fonts, image, design, style?

Symbols

Sometimes, you need to stand out among competitors, and that means choosing a different approach.

Symbols

A modern dystopian example of symbol usage is The Hunger Games trilogy. George Orwell’s 1984, a classic, has worn several famous book cover designs since the first edition in 1949. This evergreen dystopian has spawned famous words like “Orwellian.” The ever-watchful eye featured in many a cover of 1984 has become the icon of Big Brother.

Another dystopian example is Margaret Atwood’s The handmaid’s Tale. We all know what the red hood means. The books mentioned above (and their movie/tv-series adaptations) have become so famous that their imagery is part of our subconsciousness. If your story has a central theme or a potent symbol, why not use it. 

Doing It By Yourself

An e-book cover for Amazon is the easy part. But if you plan on publishing a paperback and a hardcover, not to mention an audiobook, you must know the exact dimensions! Printing a book with an error in the trim size becomes expensive. If your book comes out in several formats, I suggest you hire a professional designer.

Amazon KDP paperback templates: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201834230

You need to know in advance:

  • Operating system (Ios or Windows)
  • Trim size: the most common trim size for paperbacks in the US is 6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm), but you have several trim size options. If you’re unsure which size to pick, find books with content similar to yours to get an idea of what readers expect.
  • Language
  • Page count which affects the trim size
  • Remember to leave room for the barcode on the back

Choose a Cover Image

The easiest way to start is to choose a photo from an image bank, download it to Canva or some other graphic editor and start experimenting. If you’ve got excellent image manipulation skills up your sleeve, combine two or more images.

Each image bank embellishes available photos/illustrations with keywords. You can find the spitting image of your MC by listing physical descriptions. Reserve time for the search. The cover is your book’s face and one of the critical components of buyer decision making.

“This should go without saying, but your picture should match your genre. Could you imagine if Stephen King’s It had a cute puppy on the cover? The reader would surely be in for a surprise. Now, that example may seem a bit extreme. But there are too many authors out there who don’t get specific enough with their picture. And remember, your photo shouldn’t just fit your genre. It should also support your specific book.”

Source and more information: https://kindlepreneur.com/book-cover-ideas/

Image Banks

The services mentioned below rank their stock in different categories. You should always check the license of a particular image before you use it on a print product. Each company offers various pricing and payment methods. You can buy a single image or several each month.

IStock: https://www.istockphoto.com/

Shutterstock: https://www.shutterstock.com/

Getty Images: https://www.gettyimages.fi/

123RF: https://www.123rf.com/

Design Tools 

Canva https://www.canva.com/create/book-covers/

(Free and Pro versions have different characteristics.)

Adobe Photoshop: https://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop.html

Adobe Illustrator: https://www.adobe.com/products/illustrator.html

Adobe Spark: https://spark.adobe.com/make/book-cover-maker/

Font Choices

“Fonts are unquestionably one of the most important things that appear on a book cover – often being the “make or break” factor. The type of font you should use will largely depend on the genre that your book is written in. A recommendation that I made in my previous blog posts is to always look at the bestselling book covers within your genre.”

Source and more information: http://inspiredcoverdesigns.com/the-best-fonts-to-use-on-a-book-cover-by-genre/

Factors to consider:

  • Layout
  • Sentence structure
  • Direction
  • Color

“A study from an MIT psychologist found a direct link between a poor layout and negative emotions in readers.”

Source and more information: https://kindlepreneur.com/book-cover-typography-font/

Hiring a Professional Graphic Designer

Decide if you’ll settle for a premade cover. The process is easy, the artist replaces the Lorem Ipsum text with your author name and book title, bio, and blurb. But you won’t get a unique book cover.

Example: https://thebookcoverdesigner.com/

If you want the designer to make an exquisite cover, start by looking for professional illustrators and artists:

Fiverr

Reedsy: https://reedsy.com/#/freelancers

Choose category design.

Or Google for book cover designers. Ask other authors about experiences working with a particular artist.

How to Make Sure Your Readers Love The Cover?

Publish different versions of the final cover on social media and ask your followers to voice their opinion. Cover reveals work as pre-release marketing. You can even design a campaign or contest around the cover reveal.

If you need help, ask me. I also design book covers.


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