The book cover is the fifth installment in the series on book promotion. So far, the series includes Getting noticed, Getting book reviews, Book trailers, and Word of mouth.
In spite of the adage, most people do judge a book by its cover. Admit it: it’s the book cover that first catches your eye when scanning bookstore shelves or shopping on line. It’s what causes you to pick up the book, read the synopsis, and look inside. A well-designed book cover intrigues the imagination, reveals a bit of the story, and begs for attention.
Designing an attractive book cover requires thought and skill. While a traditionally published author may not have much control over the cover design, having thought out the basics will allow the writer to provide input and be a basis for approving the proffered design. On the other hand, indies are entirely responsible for the design of their cover, whether they hire an artist or do it themselves. I think this is an advantage for the indie author. After spending months of writing and perfecting the book, the indie author can then design the perfect book cover, one that reflects the mood and tone of the book.
If you are creating a book (as opposed to an e-book), the first thing to do is to determine the size of the book. I chose a size that would fit in a USPS Priority Mail box. This might be a consideration for those planning on mailing, especially overseas. A larger size might be better for a coffee table book while a smaller one might be better for a children’s book. The size affects the front and back cover and the spine. Pick a size that will create a spine large enough to accommodate the title and your name—you want both visible when stacked vertically on a shelf.
If yours is an e-book, you still need to create a image of the front cover. Follow the same book cover basics as a traditional book.
Look at books in your genre. Go to a book store or library and check the books for color, font style, imagery, and layout. Is there a pattern among the books? If so, decide if you want your book cover to blend in with the style or if you want it to stand apart from the others. If you are writing a series, select a design that can be easily modified for future books while retaining the series identity.
Select colors that convey the feel of the book or that blends well with the imagery. Since I used a photo that I had taken, I selected colors that complemented the photo. An Amazon search for zombie and mystery books reveals lots of black and red; inspirational books have pastel colors; romance books do not seem to have a predominate color scheme; and primary colors work well for children and humorous books. To make the text stand out from the background, use contrasting light and dark colors. Limit the number of colors on the book cover to three or four coordinated hues. Select the predominant color to reflect the book’s general theme or mood, and then use the others as accent or for text.
Use the font size, style, and the layout of the characters to enhance the book’s message and attract readers. Size the book title to be 10 to 15% of the cover and make your author’s name as large as possible. Remember that these should be visible when the image is thumbnail size. Also, since many e-readers are black and white, look at the picture in black in white to see if the font displays as you would like it to.
Proofread the text, for spelling and grammar. You don’t want typos on the cover.
If you do not have your own photo, you can use an a creative commons (CC) image (one that does not have copyright restrictions). A good source for these is Flicker. When searching for photos on Flickr, make sure to check the three CC boxes in the advance search: • Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content • Find content to use commercially • Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon. (Note: always verify if there are limitations to your using the photo.) Another good source for photos is iStockphoto. You buy the right to use these images per a license agreement, so check that out before you purchase it.
Once you have your image and have decided on the book cover basics, it is easy to use the book design templates offered by indie publishes such as Createspace or Lulu to produce a great looking book with a properly sized spine, well laid out back cover matter and author’s picture, and barcode. Try various templates until you are happy with the book cover.
If you decide to create your own cover, use good graphic software. If you don’t have CorelDraw, Adobe Illustrator, or Corel, check out the 35 Free Graphics Programs.
If you don’t want to deal with designing your own book cover, you can hire an artist or graphic designer to do that for you. Having decided on the book cover basics will help you communicate your concepts and make it easier for the artist to create the eye-catching cover you want. When hiring an artist, be sure to get a contract that spells out everything, including who has the rights to the drawing and possible spin-offs.
Once you have the book cover designed, ask for feedback. I posted two possible covers on Facebook and asked my followers to select their favorite one. Ask writers and trusted friends for their opinion. Make adjustments as needed.
Determine if the design will also work on promotional materials and spin-offs. Can you reduce the cover cleanly for use on business cards, bookmarks, and thank-you notes. Can it be enlarged without graininess for a poster? Can you use it on a cup? Can you make a toy out of a child’s book cover character?
Book cover basics
- Size: Pick the best size to showcase your title, name, and graphic.
- Genre: Check out books in your genre to see if there are typical patterns or color choices.
- Series: Select a book cover design that you can easily adapt for additional books.
- Color: Limit the color selection to three or four complementary colors.
- Font: Choose a font that is easy to read from 8 to 10 feet away and when shrunk to a thumbnail for the Internet.
- Proofread the text.
- Artwork: Choose a photo or create an illustration.
- Assemble the book cover: Use a template or software to create the front, back, spine.
- Feedback: Ask people what they think of the cover.
Designing a good cover is as important as developing a good story. Take your time. Get help, if needed.
I designed my book cover using a Createspace template. The only thing I would change is the color and size of the author’s name on the front cover—it is too faint. How did you produce your book cover? What tricks would you like to share? Please comment.