Designing your own book cover? Book covers are a complicated beast, but what’s true with t-shirts is true with book covers. When it comes to designing one, you probably have a good idea of what you want, but a not-so-good idea of how to go about getting it. Book covers seem hard to make on your own, but hiring a good designer can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
So, what’s a self-published author to do? Don’t fret.
Whether you’ve never made one before or you’re a fan of the tried and true book cover template, this guide will get you from idea to store shelves in no time.
Know Your Audience
Wrote a steamy beach romance? How about creating a cover with a tanned lifeguard… Maybe in an unbuttoned shirt?
Penned a biography of George Washington? A good bet is a cover with patriotic landmarks and the American flag.
Dreaming up an otherworldly fantasy? Try a picture of cute puppies. Everyone loves puppies.
See how that last one didn’t quite make sense?
Whether your book is a raunchy romance or a fantasy adventure, you need to choose images that connect with your story.
People like familiarity. Don’t copy, but do stick with something that draws in readers. Images help prepare them for the kind of book they’re about to read.
Not convinced of the power of images?
One author made a simple change to his cover design and saw a huge increase in book sales. With a little elbow grease, you can achieve the same success.
Here’s a handy list of questions to ask yourself when choosing your book’s look:
- What age group is this book for?
- What do other covers in my genre look like?
- How do I want readers to feel when they see my cover?
- Is there an important event or plot point I want to portray?
Use Your Resources
Hiring a photographer is pricey, and doing it yourself just doesn’t work. You don’t have access to the training, time, and equipment you need to do the job. You’ve got to create a cover, but you don’t want to break the bank to do it.
You’ve got to create a cover, but you don’t want to break the bank to do it. Luckily, there are many ways to do it.
Find your image
Thanks to the internet there are tons of quality, low-cost image services out there waiting for you.
And the good news? They’re all a quick internet search away.
Once you have your photos, you’ll need to do some editing to get them in tip top shape. There’s no need to go buy any fancy image editing software.
Not particularly tech savvy?
It might surprise you to learn that you can even design your entire cover in Microsoft Word.
You’ve chosen an image that suits your theme – well done! You’re one step closer to publishing.
Before you give your book the green light, let’s make sure it can handle the competition.
Take a stroll through your local book store’s Teen Romance section. Notice anything?
About now, you’re probably seeing a lot of covers with red objects on black backgrounds. Now, I know what you’re thinking.
“It worked for Stephanie Meyer. Why can’t it work for me?”
Because no matter how big of a Twilight fan you are, you’re not the author. You’re you, and your book should feel like it came from you, too.
Plus, it’s a little embarrassing when your cover looks exactly like everyone else’s.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the book cover world, it’s the fastest way to lose sales.
Readers will put your book back on the shelf when they realize it’s a copy cat.
Admire that author’s writing, their plot, or their themes – but keep your book cover original. You never know, you could come up with the next big cover idea.
Follow the Principles of Design
There’s a lot to know about the principles of graphic design. What’s true with shirts is also true with everything else; from tiny postage stamps to free business cards or (cheap t-shirts!) to massive billboards.
It can be overwhelming. I’ve distilled it down into the top three heaviest hitters in book cover design.
Fonts are as varied as book genres, and it’s important to look for a perfect fit.
Whether you’re going for whimsical or serious, funny or stoic, it’s crucial to pick a font that represents your book’s core theme.
Fonts need as much design as images do. Be sure to keep them well placed and well spaced. Believe it or not, the font you choose can evoke powerful emotions in the subconscious.
Did you know there’s even an entire psychology behind fonts? Take the time to choose the right font.
If you’ve ever been green with envy, felt yellow bellied or met a bonafide blue blood, then you know colors are just as linked to our feelings as images.
In fact, one study found that participants judged up to 90% of products based on color alone. That’s right, an enticing color can make all the difference.
I can’t stress this enough: let your work breathe. Don’t clutter the cover with minute details or too many characters.
Go with the main theme, one important event, or a major character, and leave space for those images to work their magic.
Write Your Blurb
You’ve finished the front of your book cover, but that doesn’t mean you’re done.
The spine and back cover need your attention too, and the blurb is a good place to start. The blurb is a short summary of your story located on the back cover of your novel.
With the average human attention span down to 8 seconds, (look, a butterfly!) you need to keep it short, sweet, and to the point.
Start with an enticing hook, and follow with some light description. Add a dash of mystery and you’ll have a book blurb worthy of its shelf space.
With these tips in hand, the only thing left to do is get started. What kind of book cover will you design? Let us know in the comments below.