Like it or not, we’re drawn to attractive things.
We can’t ignore a beautiful sunset, an attractive person, or a gorgeous book cover.
This is convenient because a cover can help sell your book to a person who knows nothing about you or your writing.
At the same time, it means you can’t wing a cover and hope for the better. That’s why this article is here — to give your laconic advice on how to get a professional book cover design on a budget.
What’s the Difference Between an Ebook and Print Book Cover?
For an ebook cover design — you need only a front cover.
If you want a printed book, you should also invest in spine and back cover. These two elements are not as visible but as important. The back contains a blurb that helps to sell the book. And the spine is often the only thing a reader sees after they put a newly-bought book on the shelf.
With this in mind, it’s time to take a look at tips on how to design book covers.
Top Tips for Book Cover Design
Whether you decide to hire a professional book cover designer or do the job yourself, you need to prepare. The best covers are the result of thorough research, analysis, and creative effort.
So, here is what makes a good book cover design.
Determine whether the cover is a single or series entry
First, let’s peek into the future. Will you write sequels or prequels to the book in the future?
Maybe, you don’t plan it now, but if the manuscript sells well, you will try things out.
If so, you should account for it and lay the groundwork for series book cover design. Ensure that the cover will have recognizable elements that it will share with other books in the series.
- Ornaments used as a framing device for a cover
- Subtitle and the same typography
- Color scheme and style
- The same approach to composition
- The recognizable characters and world-building
Keep it in mind while conducting your research.
Research your target audience
You can’t market effectively without knowing your target audience.
So, if you want a book cover design that appeals to your readers, answer the following questions:
- What is the age of my target audience?
- What is their cultural background?
- What do they like and dislike?
- What are their values?
- How do they get information about literature?
- Where do they buy books?
Research the competition in the genre and find references
We believe there’s not such a thing as the competition among the authors.
Your peers are your partners and friends. They can share the word about your books and support you on the creative journey. Calling them competition is convenient though. It also adds a tint of a fun challenge to your creative efforts.
So, “stealing like an artist” from your competitors can help create a good book cover design.
Every genre and subgenre have their conventions and successful approaches to cover artistry. Research your niche and gather examples of the most successful covers. They will help to shape your vision.
Determine the core message of the cover
Now, you have an understanding of book cover design conventions in your genre. It’s time to determine what your cover will communicate to the reader.
The book art should convey three things:
You should be able to flash a cover at the reader after which they exclaim: “Aha, it’s a fantasy novel! Just what I want right now.”
A proper book cover provides an emotional charge. You need to know what your book art will communicate. For example, fear, tension, attraction, intimacy, the sense of wonder, solitude, or joy.
Finally, the imagery of the book cover design should hint at an intriguing story, interesting characters or world.
Come up with the book cover design concept that succeeds with all three. Remember to be clear before being clever. Simpler concepts are easier to execute, and they won’t confuse the audience.
To ease the process, create a moodboard with images that have the atmosphere you want to create.
Choose the style of the book cover
There are two main types of professional book cover design:
- A custom book cover design that is assembled from different stock images. Read our guide on where to find stock photos for book cover design if you’re into DIY.
Some genres that prefer custom covers are mystery, thriller, romance, nonfiction, horror.
- An illustrated book cover that is painted (digitally or otherwise) by an artist
Genres that prefer illustrated covers are fantasy, science fiction, children’s literature.
The first option is cheaper because it requires less time.
At the same time, illustrations are unique and eye-catchy. The hand-crafted artistry has a strong appeal in the modern age.
Book Cover Design Ideas
Now you have a solid foundation for the book cover design. It’s time for ideas and tips on how to execute them properly:
Imagery and composition in book cover design
To save you the headache of “how to organize the elements on the cover,” here are a few surefire approaches:
A center-placed character with a suitable background
Usually, the text goes at the bottom of the cover to not obstruct anything and create a nice focal point.
A cover divided into two parts horizontally
One part may contain the imagery, while the other — text. Or both parts contain imagery (character and landscape) while the text goes at the middle of the cover.
Focus on typography and some extra ornamentation.
In this case, the title and author’s name dominate the cover. The background exists to amplify the message of the typography.
One image is placed within the other. Usually, both are aligned to the center of the cover.
A center-aligned symbol and the text adobe and/or below it
Book cover design typography tips
Several essential rules of book cover typography:
- Pick typefaces carefully. Different fonts have different vibes and suit different genres.
- No more than two different fonts per cover
- Use color and texture to amplify the atmosphere or make the text pop more.
- Choose the font size that makes the title legible but doesn’t obstruct important elements.
The style of the text itself affects its mood
- Letters in bold show power;
- Slanted letters convey a sense of movement;
- Straight letters refer to stability;
- Fonts with fewer embellishments feel comforting and chic. Use them for the impression of elegance, strict confidence, or authority;
- Fonts with more ornaments speak creativity. Use them if your want the text to seem loud, expressive;
- Use broad or narrow letter spacing to communicate airiness or the anxiety of confined space;
The color in the book cover design
People have associations with colors, which you can use to your benefit.
Though said associations are often rooted in cultural background.
For example, in western countries, the color white symbolizes purity and goodness. At the same time, in some Asian countries, white is linked with mourning and death.
So approach color selection carefully.
Luckily, you’ve already researched your target audience and can choose suitable colors for the book’s art.
For example, in western cultures, some color associations are
- Red: passion, love, danger;
- Orange: energy, vitality, youth;
- Yellow: happiness, hope, but also deceit;
- Green: life, abundance, nature;
- Blue: calmness, responsibility, sadness;
- Purple: creativity, Royalty, wealth;
- Black: mystery, elegance, evil;
- Gray: conservatism, formality, wisdom.
If you struggle to find matching colors, use the color wheel. The hues on the opposite sides usually go together well.
The back and spine of the book cover design
The back of the book cover design has two tasks
- To look harmoniously with the front and the spine;
- To contain an easy-to-read blurb, author bio reviews, or other text.
Tips for the spine of the cover:
- The spine should fit with front and back;
- If your book is thin (50 pages or so), leave the spine blank. Otherwise, it would look bad;
- Leave some space above and below the text;
- If the book is thin, stick to fonts that don’t have ascenders and descenders that stick out ;
- Make sure the spine doesn’t break the visuals of the front or back unnaturally.
Is a book cover a good thumbnail?
After you’ve finished the cover, shrink it down to the size of a thumbnail.
- the image makes sense;
- the genre is clear;
- the typography suits the style;
- the cover draws attention.
If yes, you are good to go. If not, the cover needs some adjusting. Maybe the contrasts are not vivid enough or there are too many tiny details.
Professional book cover design is a complex process. Though don’t get discouraged. If you follow our process and keep in mind the tips, you’ll get an effective cover with minimum investments. Remember each decision you make should be well-thought and fit the style you aim for.
If you have any design questions to our book cover pros, ask in the comments below. We’ll get back to you with the answers as quickly as possible.