Cover Me: The Best Self-Published Book Covers

book cover design for self published authorsBook Cover Design – How to Get a Book Cover Right

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 better covers

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.

Cover DesignsSelf-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.

Book Cover Field of FireField of Fire by James O. Born

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

Indie Book Cover Border Crossings

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

Click Date Repeat CoverClick Date Repeat by K.J. Farnham

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

Cover Design Earthquake DollThe Earthquake Doll by Candace Williams

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 Book Cover Design

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

how to wordpressHow to WordPress by Ciprian Gherghescu

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 

The Tau Ceti TransmutationThe Tau Ceti Transmutation by Alex P. Berg

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

spiralling out of controlSpiralling Out of Control by Michelle Dennis Evans

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

The ScribeThe Scribe by Elizabeth Hunter

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

The DeterminingThe Determining by Rebecca Grous

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.

Cover Designers

6 thoughts on “Cover Me: The Best Self-Published Book Covers

  1. Wow – these are fabulous covers! I’m thrilled that THE EARTHQUAKE DOLL’s cover is included among them. I just wish we’d had the name of the designer my publisher chose because he deserves recognition for his work. I think the simple rice-paper background with the Asian bench and my doll is spot-on! Thanks very much for sharing it with your readers.


  2. I couldn’t agree more that cover design shouldn’t be approached as a DIY project because it certainly isn’t one! If you want to not sell many copies then do that but if you want to sell a lot of copies just hire a professional to create a kickass cover based on your requirements. I really liked how you presented the covers that work and would have bought almost all of them just based on how intriguing their covers were. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Seth Godin’s Advice to Authors | readers+writers journal

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