For better or worse, the way your book looks on the outside is just as important to your book’s sales as what’s on the inside. In the world of e-commerce, factors like paper quality and bindings no longer matter – cover art is key to getting attention, generating buzz and, ultimately, key to selling more books. We recently covered how to write a book description that attracts readers, but without the expertise of a publisher and a team of professional designers, how do you figure out what the cover of your book should look like? Read on for some tips on book cover design, as well as examples of self-published books that got their covers right, and how they did it. (And if you’re looking for an affordable book cover designer, see our directory here.)
5 Rules for Book Cover Design
- Consistency – The design should reflect the tone and themes of your book and each element should work with the other elements to create a consistent look.
- Keep it Simple – Complex designs using multiple colors and gradations can obscure the book’s title and make it hard for the reader to instantly recognize your book’s genre.
- Readable in Every Size – Make sure your cover design works well in small images as well as large, as online retailers may display a thumbnail of the cover in search results. Your cover should look as good at 100 x 150 pixels as it does at full size.
- Pay Attention to Inside – Interior formatting for e-Books is part art, part science and getting it right can make all the difference between whether your book looks polished or amateurish. Remember, readers can see a sample of the first few pages of your book on sites like Amazon, and no matter how well written those first few pages are, if they’re poorly formatted, readers will be turned off.
- Cover Design is NOT a DIY Project – Just because you CAN design your own book cover, doesn’t mean you SHOULD design your own book cover. You may know how to use programs like Photoshop, but unless you’re a professional designer, it’s best to hire someone to do it for you or use a book cover design template. For book cover design resources for all budgets, see our page devoted to book cover designers.
Self-Published Book Covers Gallery – Covers that Work
Below are some of our favorite book cover designs, with explanations of why they work. We hope you use them for inspiration for your own covers.
Why it Works: The graphic elements, though simple, immediately communicate the themes and genre. Heat, drama, tension, and a race against time are all here.
Cover by Damonza Designs
Border Crossings by Charles Novacek
Why it Works: Though there are three images here, they all work together to convey a sense of history, loss and mystery. This cover tells the beginnings of the story and makes the reader want to find out more.
Cover by Kimberly Glyder
Why it Works: The relatively spare design is attention-getting, while the crumpled paper effect and pastel colors convey a sense of whimsy. The use of multiple typefaces adds visual interest without detracting from the overall look. Readers can look at this cover and instantly get a sense that it is a lighthearted romantic comedy.
Cover by Okay Creations
Why it Works: The simple, symmetrical design, which is reminiscent of traditional Japanese design,combined with the Japanese bench in the photo give reader a feel for the book’s setting. The intriguing title is front and center here, with the cover photo lending a hand at piquing readers’ interest.
(The doll in the photograph belongs to the author, who lived in Japan as a child.)
Why Leadership Sucks by Miles Anthony Smith
Why it Works: The bold image matches the bold title of the book. One gold fish among a group of blue fish creatively communicates a message about standing out and thinking differently.
Cover by Moxie Studio
Why it Works: The cover, title and subtitle all work together to communicate one message; this is a book designed to teach you to use WordPress quickly and easily. The WordPress logo breaking through communicates to readers that this is a book that can finally help them get a handle on WordPress.
Cover by Digital Book Launch
Why it Works: The tongue-in-cheek homage to pulp fiction, combined with futuristic typography and space ship images tell readers that this is a sci-fi thriller laced with the darkness of pulp detective novels of the 1940’s and 50’s. The juxtaposition of retro with futuristic is intriguing and effective.
Cover by Damonza Designs
Why it Works: The close-up of a young girl immediately tells readers that this is a book about a young woman in turmoil. The graphic and typeface of the title add to the feeling of loss of control and crisis. This cover puts the main character front and center, inviting the reader to find out more.
Cover by DIY Book Covers
Why it Works: The use of an almost monochromatic color palette keeps this cover from being too busy, despite the fact that it uses several elements and tells a story. The typography on the main character’s back is an interesting design element, and his stance and the buildings in the background intrigue and entice the reader.
Cover by Damonza Designs
Why it Works: An exceptional book cover that communicates several feelings immediately The type and fractured design communicate sci-fi, movement, uncertainty and chaos, while the evocative expression on the woman’s face invites the reader to find out more.
Cover by Scarlett Rugers Book Design
For more information on the designers featured in this post and a listing of book cover design services, see our Directory of Cover Designers Page.