design a book cover

How to Design a Book Cover

How to Design a Book Cover

This article will walk you through how to design a book cover for your self-published title. Intentionally designed covers attract more attention, in some cases up to 51% more.

As a self-publisher without the support of a publishing house, it’s crucial to have a well-designed cover to increase sales and appeal to customers. Whether you’re doing it yourself or working with a freelancer follow our guide on designing a polished, professional cover that will sell.

Read about doing it yourself, or skip ahead to working with a freelancer.

5 Best Practices for Designing a Book Cover Yourself

Even if you’re not a graphic designer, combining your DIY ethos and our few simple tips can help you create a cover that will stand out.

1. Research What’s Out There

It’s important that your cover gives your reader a clear idea of what genre your book is about while leaving them wanting more. [Click to tweet]

Don’t feel you need to reinvent the wheel. Start by researching other covers in your genre and determine what elements you want to incorporate in your own cover.

Are you drawn to certain fonts? What do you like about a certain cover element that stood out to you? If you’re struggling to finetune what it is about the covers that grab your interest, collect images or pictures of covers that you’re drawn too.

Think about what makes them interesting and what elements you’d like include in your own cover. All it takes to find inspiration is a quick trip to your local bookstore or a web search.

2. Use The Right Software

Once you have a few ideas of what you want your cover to look like it’s time to map it out.

If you don’t have access to adobe suite or other software of a similar caliber, and you’re not willing to learn your best bet is to hire the help of a professional (scroll down to Part 2). Otherwise it will be difficult to create a professional cover.

When creating your initial file, use our cover setup guide to setup your file with the correct bleed and spine width. Setting it up correctly the first time will save you from work later on and also provide a starting point for playing with type.

Often a blank canvas can be intimidating. Start by uploading any preliminary sketches or illustrations you have done as a starting point for composing your cover.

3. Simplicity is Key

Throughout the cover designing process remind yourself of one thing, keep it simple. Don’t use too many fonts, colors, or images.

A quick visit to the New York Times Best Seller List suggests that even the pros keep it simple, focusing their cover art on a strong focal point.

Before you begin working with different colors and fonts, nail down your layout. The Gutenberg Diagram below describes how the westernized reader reads left to right, top to bottom. Your cover should follow this hierarchy, with the main elements intersecting the diagonal path, likewise you should avoid placements that pull your eye in the opposite direction.


The rule of thirds is another layout guideline that can help you create an appealing cover. The central idea is that the main horizontal elements of your cover, like your title or image should cross your cover at the top or bottom third. See how the books below use a three part grid to divide their central focal point, title, and author information into a visually balanced grid.


Try combining diagonal preference and the rule of thirds to make a lasting impression on your reader.

Color is another powerful tool that has the power to inspire emotions in your reader. Red is an obvious choice for alluding to romance or danger, while yellow is a strong accent color or a good choice for evoking happiness.

Refer to the covers that inspire you to settle on a color scheme that works for your genre, and keep it simple by sticking to two or three colors. Remember to pick colors with printing in mind and work in CMYK so you don’t need to convert from RGB (don’t despair here’s our guide on converting from RGB to CMYK). Our CMYK suggested value guide has our favorite colors that are reliably reproduced when printed.

4. Avoid Common Pitfalls

The two biggest elements of your cover will be your visual focal point (a graphic or photo, if any) and font. It’s important to consider these two elements as one, as they work together on your cover to create one compelling visual scene.

If you’re simply going to plop text on top of an image you’re not doing it right. Think about how the text will interact within the space of your image. If the image you want to use is very busy, it is going to make the text difficult to read, or if your font is supremely pedestrian, for instance comic sans, readers might not take your book seriously.

Evaluating the elements of your cover both individually and collectively is key for a successful cover. For one, no matter what image or artwork you’re using it should be rendered perfectly, and never look stretched or pixelated.

Font is another extremely important design decision, that can easily indicate the sign of amateurish work. Tread lightly when using difficult to read cursive font and avoid gimmicky signs of software like drop shadows or outlined text.

Don’t rush your font decision. Consider the historical relationship of your font to your story. For instance Marcel, a font based on the love letters of Marcel Heuzé, a frenchman in a World War II labor camp characterizes a early 20th century love story in a way that Helvetica never could. Conversely, Helvetica or similar modern sans-serif choice would be a good option for a non-fiction book.

5. Special Add-Ons

Paired with a simple, clean design a few special add-ons can bring your design to life.

Subtle, spot gloss can help certain elements of your cover like your title, or central visual element really pop against a smooth matte background.

Design a clean, simple cover that will engage your reader. Don’t be afraid to mock up several covers and consult a friend who will give you honest feedback. Even if you choose to work with a freelancer or professional remember to critically evaluate how design choices might make an impact on your reader.

4 Key Considerations for Working with a Freelance Designer

Working with a freelancer is all about finding the right fit from project timelines to budget to creative point of view. Before deciding to work with a designer read part one of this article for design tips on creating your cover to lay the foundation for your design decisions.

1. How to Find a Freelancer

The gig economy has enabled creative teams to join forces like never before. It’s possible to find budget friendly cover designers charging under $100 dollars, to professionals who have designed covers for best-selling authors. No matter what option you decide is right for you, use our cover setup guide to determine your cover dimensions and prevent file issues later down the line.

2. Budget Friendly Options

Fiverr is one option that makes it possible to find a freelancer for as little as five dollars. Freelancers have a profile that features examples of their past work along with reviews from past clients. Several freelancers specialize directly in book cover design.

The beauty of working through a service like fiverr is that freelancers outline their working process directly on their profile, which makes it easy to quickly find someone that you’re interested in working with.

Another low cost option is 99designs which has a request for proposal model. You submit a bid with an outline of what you’re looking for at a specific pricing tier and select the winner from the designers that submit a bid.

The benefit of these options is that if you need to meet a tight deadline you can quickly be put in touch with a designer and any disputes are handled directly through the service.

It is also possible to buy a pre-made cover, which is a great option if you fall in love with something that perfectly encapsulates what you’re looking for. Premade covers from The Book Cover Designer are organized by genre, so you can easily find something that embodies your narrative.

3. Independent Freelancers and Professionals

Of course it’s also possible to work directly with an independent freelancer or professional book cover designer. With more experience, however comes a higher price tag ranging anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.

The price will vary based on the designers professional working experience, and any additional add ons like purchased stock images or font licensing fees, along with the cost of their time.

Typically, professional designers will have a website that showcases their work, maybe a few stipulations about working with them, and their contact information. When you initially reach out to a designer, be professional and upfront about what you’re looking for as well as your budget and any pertinent deadlines.

Crucial information like your title and blurb should be ready to go, as well as a few images of other covers that you’re interested in. If you don’t hear back within a week or two, it’s probably a sign that the freelancer is too busy or isn’t interested in working with you.

You can expect a professional to write up a contract that will outline their stipulations like the number of revisions they will do, their expected timeline, and any clauses like a kill fee (an additional fee if you back out).

Designers in high demand have more freedom to pick and choose the projects they want to work on which will influence their cost, as well as if they want to accept you as a client.

If you’re working with an experienced professional you can expect the tone of communication to be initiated and facilitated by the designer. For instance, Simon Avery of I Do Book Covers clearly outlines what you can expect when working with him as well as his pricing. Other award-winning designers like Jennifer Carrow are available for freelance, but is less upfront about what indie authors can expect.

An added bonus of working with specific freelancers or purchasing specific packages is that they can use your cover art to create graphics and social banners that can help boost your marketing efforts

4. The Importance of Budgets and Contracts

Before signing off work with a designer, make sure you know what you’re paying for. Do you need to buy rights to stock images? How many revisions will the designer do? Will you own the rights to the work?

Additionally, It’s important to be thorough and have a clear idea of the style of the designer you’re going to work with. If you’re writing a steampunk, intergalactic romance a minimalist designer may not be able to capture the fantastical flair you’re envisioning. Likewise, don’t forget to map out your budget, as most designers will ask for an upfront deposit.

If you’re working through a service like fiverr the minutia of your contract will be handled directly through the service. Conversely, if you’re working with an independent freelancer understanding your contract is of the utmost importance. Before signing be sure you agree with the deliverables your designers has outlined, likewise ask for a sample of the contract upfront to immediately determine if the relationship will work.

Understand if you will retain rights to the work or if the designer will license the work to you for a certain number of editions. If you want rights to the work the ownership clause should indicate that you will retain full rights of the cover.

Professionalism is a necessary part of successfully working with designer to create a cover you love. If you’re not comfortable with the contract your potential designer has presented or their communication style, it’s probably best to find another designer. That being said trust your designer to do their job, there is a reason that you were drawn to their work!

Creating a successful cover is a balance of developing your eye for design and knowing when it’s time to get help. A few smart choices will go a long way from font selection or finding a freelancer who is a great fit for your work. If you need help setting up your file or are debating between different specialty options feel free to contact us we’re here to help you create a product that your customers will love.

Our satisfaction pledge outlines our policy on creative decisions, ultimately your project’s words and images, and how they’re organized and prepared for production, are a matter of your own creative decisions.

With these tips in mind, you’re well on your way to designing a book cover that sells!