Thursday, September 8

8 Cover Design Tips for Self-Publishers

Since good book covers help sell books, wouldn't it be great if a professional gave us newbies some tips? Joel Friedlander has done just that in his article, Top 8 Cover Design Tips for Self-Publishers.

He writes:
1. Establish a principal focus for the cover—Nothing is more important. Your book is about something, and the cover ought to reflect that one idea clearly.

One element that takes control, that commands the overwhelming majority of attention, of space, of emphasis on the cover. Don’t fall into the trap of loading up your cover with too many elements, 3 or 4 photos, illustrations, maps, “floating” ticket stubs.

You could think of your book cover like a billboard, trying to catch the attention of browsers as they speed by. Billboards usually have 6 words or less. You have to “get it” at 60 miles per hour, in 3 to 5 seconds.

A book cover ought to do the same thing. At a glance your prospect ought to know;

- the genre of your book,
- the general subject matter or focus, and
- some idea of the tone or “ambiance” of the book.

Is it a thriller? A software manual? A memoir of your time in Fiji? Your ideas on reform of the monetary system? Each of these books needs a cover that tells at a glance what the book is about.

2. Make everything count—If you are going to introduce a graphic element, make sure it helps you communicate with the reader.

3. Use the background—Avoid white backgrounds, which will disappear on retailer’s white screens. Use a color, a texture, or a background illustration instead.

4. Make your title large—Reduce your cover design on screen to the size of a thumbnail on Amazon and see if you can read it. Can you make out what it’s about? If not, simplify.

5. Use a font that’s easy to read—See above. There’s no sense using a font that’s unreadable when it’s radically reduced. Particularly watch out for script typefaces, the kind that look lacy and elegant at full size. They often disappear when small.

6. Find images that clarify—Try not to be too literal. Look for something that expresses the mood, historical period, or overall tone of the book; provide a context.

7. Stay with a few colors—If you don’t feel comfortable picking colors, look at some of the color palettes available online to get a selection of colors that will work well together.

8. Look at lots of great book covers—You may not be able to mimic all their techniques, but the best book covers are tremendous sources of inspiration and fresh ideas.
Excellent points! Read Joel's entire blog post here.

Also check out his more recent article, How to Reinvent a Book with a New Book Cover.

Good luck with those covers!


  1. Fantastic post Karen. The timing could not be better. Thank You.

  2. Thanks Jirka, I'm glad. I love Joel's bookcovers so when he gave away some of his hints/tips I was excited. (lol, yes that really is the sort of thing that excites me these days. *sigh* writers really are an odd bunch.)


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