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How to Design a Cover for a Book

The first impression that a potential reader has of a book is the cover design. An attractive design makes a book become visually enticing. The opposite is also true. A poor design can cause an interested reader to leave the book on the shelf.

This means it is vitally important for an author to know how to design a cover for a book. Even if the author is going to hire someone to do the graphic design or has a publisher doing the work on their behalf, understanding the elements of an enticing book cover can turn a good book into a great one.

Step #1: Create a Mother Board

The issue which trips up many book cover designers is that the starting canvas is too blank. That’s why the first step is to put down all of your ideas in a meaningful way. The most useful organizational method tends to be some form of a mother board.

By listing your ideas for your cover, you can begin to draw visual elements together. You can take scenes from your book, inspiration from real life, or download images that you like from other book covers. Then you can add them to your board to determine if the image is able to accurately reflect the message of your book.

You can also use this board to explore common themes, find colors that you like, or embrace patterns that can enhance the other images you may wish to include.

Step #2: Explore Your Genre

Another problem that authors face with their book cover is the idea that it is just a picture. It is much more than that. It’s your marketing package. The visuals of your cover will communicate to the reader the type of book they are about to pick up. For this reason, it is important to explore the other books which are within your genre.

This is an important step for two reasons.

You want to have a book cover that offers some common elements that other book covers have within your genre.
You will be able to differentiate your cover from the others without compromising the integrity of your message.

Even if you don’t plan on doing any of the design work of a book cover, most cover designers are going to speak with you about what your ideas for the cover will be. By exploring your genre and knowing the message you want to relay to the reader, you’ll be able to come up with an interesting, different, but still similar cover to enjoy.

Step #3: Get Great Images

You need high quality images to create a high quality cover. Low-res images might offer sentimental value for a cover, but they may alter the overall perception that a reader has for your book.

Be careful about using stock photos. Make sure they have the appropriate commercial license or a creative commons license so you can use it without a threat of future litigation.

High quality images also tend to be easier to manipulate in design software, giving you additional customization options if you need them. Your resolution will likely need to be higher than what can actually display on your computer screen. You may even wish to consider having a vector image used for your cover.

Step #4: Remember the Cover Is More Than Just the Front

A book cover might entice readers from the front, but it also wraps around the spine of the book to a back cover as well. Make sure that the message from the front cover extends to the back for a consistent experience should the reader pick the book up.

Different formats may also be available for your cover. You might need three different images for the front, back, and spine. You might also be able to use one image that wraps around the entire book. You may be able to increase or reduce quality or size for a unique look as well.

If you’re publishing an e-book, you may also wish to design a specific thumbnail version of your book cover to extend the book’s message to readers who prefer this format.

Are You Ready to Design Your Book Cover?

A book cover may be as simple as a photograph with a text tile. It may also be a professionally designed graphic that was created from scratch. Between these two extremes is where most covers wind up. By following the steps in this guide, you’ll be able to create a cover that speaks the right message about your book to every potential reader.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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