Despite the old idiom telling us not to, most people do judge books based on their covers. From Amazon.com to your local bookseller, having a great cover will help your book attract more attention, interest more readers and sell more copies.
Designing a great cover is one of the most important parts of marketing a book, but it’s one that’s all too frequently ignored by authors. A quick Google search for “How to design a book cover in MS Word” should tell you how little many otherwise great writers care about – or understand the importance of – book cover design.
In this blog post, we hope to change that. From eye-catching titles to color schemes and background images that attract the right kind of attention, read on to learn how to design a book cover that inspires readers to purchase your book.
Are you ready to publish your book? Whether you’re publishing online or printing and marketing your book independently, learn the basics of book marketing with Goodreads For Authors: Book Promotion and Marketing.
The biggest mistakes amateur book cover designers make
When you’ve finished the long, arduous task of writing and editing your own book, it’s time to start designing its cover. Many first-time authors also design their first book’s cover, and many make the same frequently occurring mistakes.
The first big mistake of book cover design is jumping into Adobe Photoshop without any formal design knowledge. Although it’s possible to place text and create a pretty background without any design knowledge, it’s very easy to spot an amateur cover.
Why? Because the composition – the position of the title relative to other elements of the cover – is wrong far more often than it’s right. Other novice mistakes include overusing filters, choosing cliché typefaces and creating a design that’s too ‘busy.’
The second big mistake of book cover design is ignoring inspiration. What is your book about? Are there other books on the market that cover similar topics or deal with similar themes? If so, they should be your sources of design inspiration.
There’s nothing bad about using another book’s cover design as the inspiration for your own – in fact, it’s standard practice among designers. Look up five to 10 books that are similar to yours on Amazon.com and see what their covers have in common.
Most of the time, it will be elements like text placement, typefaces, the color scheme and overall scale. By paying attention to design conventions, you’ll be able to create a book cover that stands out while still following the timeless rules of design.
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The importance of creating a mockup for your book cover design
Leaping into Photoshop without any idea of what you’re designing is a classic cover design mistake. Avoid it by starting out the old fashioned way – with a sketchpad, a pencil and a few creative ideas.
Once you’ve worked out the position of your heading, your subheading (if you have one – in today’s online publishing world, it’s worth having one) and your name, put together a few basic mockups of your cover design using a pencil and sketchpad.
Don’t worry about being neat and tidy – instead, get as messy as you want to while designing your sample covers. Try different ideas like photographic backgrounds, cartoons or comic-style illustrations, or plain text on a white background.
The more mockups you create, the more you’ll realize which ideas have value and which don’t. Once you’ve completed four or five mockups, hang them beside each other and step back to compare them against each other.
Most of the time, your favorite will stand out. If it doesn’t, ask your friends or family members for their feedback. Choose your favorite (or, if you can’t decide, whichever one your friends or family picked) and select it as your final mockup.
Before you go any further, it’s best to check for basic design errors now. Start with a long-distance look at your book. Stand back at least 10 feet and see if you can clearly read the book’s title and identify its subject. If you can, it’s suitable for a bookstore.
Many of the ‘rules’ of book cover design are the same as the timeless principles of classic graphic design. Marketing Graphic Design will guide you through the principles of graphic design that will make your cover ‘pop’ from any bookshelf.
Creating your book cover design using Adobe Illustrator
When your pen-and-pencil mockup is finished, you face a choice: you can either give your book design to a professional and – after parting with $100 to $10,000 – get an excellent looking, professionally designed cover that will help your book’s sales.
Alternatively, you can open Adobe Illustrator and create your own book cover using some basic graphic design techniques. Designing your book cover in Illustrator will save you hundreds of dollars, as well as giving your book a more personal feel.
While your pen-and-paper mockup should act as a basic reference for your cover’s layout and design, choosing typefaces is up to you. Typefaces have personality, and choosing the right font for your book cover is important for giving it the right feel.
Are you new to using Adobe Illustrator? Go from beginner to expert using the latest version of Adobe Illustrator and confidently design your book cover with our Adobe Illustrator CC: The Complete Guide course.
Marketing your book and maximizing your sales
A good book cover design is just one element of publishing success. From marketing your book through interviews and book tours to choosing the right digital format, a lot of hard work and effort goes into successfully launching a book.
Would you like more help with publishing and marketing your book? Read our blog posts on Kindle self publishing and the best techniques for promoting your book to learn how to make your first book a bestseller.