How To – Book Cover Design

I read an article the other day about self-publishing how-to, and one of the bullet points was having a beautiful cover. The article stated a very true fact: just because you’re self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to have a cover that screams “I made this in Paint.” I’m not joking when I say I’ve seen some that even scream “I made this in Photoshop”, and if a cover screams that it means the person failed miserably at photograph manipulation. I’ve had people say to me that I have an advantage when it comes to Photoshop because I’m a photographer. While the latter is true, the first is not. I’m a natural light photographer, so that means I don’t manipulate my photographs in Photoshop. Can I change a person’s eye color, smooth out some wrinkles and make a black and white only have a pop of color? Sure, but I can’t put someone else’s head on someone else’s body–which I’ve seen many people attempt to do. The key word here is attempt. It feels like so much of the time covers done by self-published authors are only that– a typical Word font and misplaced body parts. Let’s face it, just because you wrote the book doesn’t mean you can design its cover. If you have an eye for design, then sure, have at it–but be truthful with yourself as to whether or not it’s something you should be doing. If you’ve decided, it’s something you’d like to give a shot, and that’s why you’re here– welcome! Book cover design is pretty straight forward.

  1. Decide when in your process you’re going to create your cover. As odd as this may sound I usually create my covers before I even write the book. The cover helps set the tone for the novel and gives me the inspiration to keep going, so I can see the beauty in person as a paperback!
  2. Next, find your stock photograph. Honestly, to me, this is the hardest part. I know what I want and sometimes finding the right combination of search terms to find it can be a hassle. While there’s a ton of stock photography sites out there, I prefer Adobe Stock– all the photographs are the same price for all sizes. You’ll get a better deal here than say, iStock. I’ve found the same photographs from iStock that are “signature” (AKA wicked expensive) on Adobe Stock and saved myself upwards of fifty dollars.
  3. Download comps of your favorites and then start playing with fonts. A word on fonts — do not use whatever you have in Photoshop. Go out and find some unique fonts for free on a site like You’ll want to make sure they’re either public domain or 100% free. While this means someone might use that same font on another book cover, it won’t look like you just popped something in with paint.
  4. Pull all your covers together. What do I mean by this? So much of selling a novel is the brand of who you are. If you write in multiple genres like me, it’s important to have one element that makes a reader think “that’s so-and-so.” All of my covers have the same font for my name; no matter what genre it is–it has my name in the same font. Try to limit your font usage to 2 or 3 fonts. If you go with more than that, your fluidity will be lost.
  5. Give the cover some depth by adding layers to your fonts (shadows, glows, etc.).
  6. Step back and look at your cover. Does it look professional? Does it invoke the feeling you want? Lastly, once you think you’ve got it all done out, shrink it to thumbnail size. How does it look smaller? Do you lose words when it reduces in size? Perhaps change colors, or if you don’t mind your name getting a little blurred up, leave it as is– but never let the title be blurred.



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