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5 Book Cover Design Tips for Self-Publishing Authors

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

If you’ve written a book, you’ve likely imagined what the cover might look like. While you may have a creative vision for your book design, learning about this process can help you choose an eye-catching cover that increases consumer interest in your book. In this post, I share five book cover design tips to consider when planning your book design.

5 book cover design tips for self-publishing authors

Whether you’re hiring a book cover designer or creating the cover yourself, here are five book cover design tips to consider:

1. Seek professional design help

While designing your own book cover might save you some money upfront, it will probably cost you sales in the long run. Unless you have experience in design, I strongly recommend hiring a professional book cover designer. These professionals can work with you to create an eye-catching cover that aligns with current design trends within the genre. During this collaboration, it’s important to be flexible. While you can explain what you want your cover to look like, ask your designer if they have any suggestions or different ideas. Consider showing them examples of book covers within your genre that you like to give them a better idea of your vision.

If you choose to create your own book cover, invest in an easy-to-use design platform like Canva Pro. The pro-version of this design platform gives you access to more fonts and design options than a free service. Here are some links to other design sites you might use to create your book cover:

2. Do your research

Whether you’re designing your cover or hiring a professional, I recommend perusing the covers of the current bestsellers in your book’s genre listed on Amazon. You might notice that many of the bestsellers within a genre have similar colors, fonts, or images. This consistency allows readers to know the book’s genre simply by glimpsing the cover. So when you plan your book’s cover, ensure it fits the genre that you’re writing in so potential readers can determine whether your book might interest them. When perusing book covers on Amazon, take note of:

  • the fonts, like Sarif or Sans Sarif

  • capital letters or sentence case

  • bold lettering vs. standard

  • colors (for example, many business authors use red and yellow)

  • images (author’s face on the cover, images of dollar signs, or a romantic couple)

For example, at the time of writing, most of the bestselling books in the crime thrillers category have titles in all capital letters, Sans Serif font, the title and author name spanning the entire book cover, and bright, bold, contrasting colors.

Below I'm sharing a snapshot of the bestseller category for crime thrillers so you can spot the similarities I've listed above:

Below I'm sharing an example of what can happen when you don't do this research:

If you're judging this book based on the look of its cover, you'd probably guess that it falls into the Crime Thriller category we've recently highlighted. But this one is actually a non-fiction book. While this book may be a fabulous resource for the intended audience, they’re likely to miss out on reading it simply because the cover looks more like that of a fiction book than a non-fiction book. If a book doesn't look like a book you'd like to read, it's easy to scroll past it on a site like Amazon.

3. Ask the audience

Getting feedback from the audience that’s likely to purchase your book is beneficial. Consider creating or getting a designer to create multiple design options for the cover (three or four). You can then create a poll on your social media page or send out a survey to your e-mail list to discover which cover your audience prefers. For example, if 70% of your audience prefers a certain cover, the choice is simple.

I've worked with authors in the past who had a personal favorite cover, but found their audience preferred a completely different cover. In these cases the authors needed to decide to go with the readers' favorite or their own. In my opinion, you should always side with the reader.

4. Don’t put your face on the front cover

Avoid putting your face on the cover of your book unless you’re a well-established figure in your field, such as a celebrity or a well-known industry expert. If you browse the memoir genre on Amazon, you won’t see many unknown faces on the covers. You want your reader to see themselves in your book, especially if it’s in the memoir or in self-help genres. A reader is more likely to have a personal experience with your book if you're not on its cover.

5. Make people want to open it

While the front cover of your book should take priority, creating a back cover that draws readers in and informs them what your book is about is essential. This is especially crucial for books that you intend to sell in stores or in-person at events, like conferences or reading events. If you’re self-publishing and doing print-on-demand through Amazon or Ingram Spark, the back cover design won’t impact sales.

When you create the back cover, I recommend providing enough information about the book to leave potential readers wanting more. Along with the book’s description, you might include notable endorsements.

Additional tips

Here are some additional tips to consider:

  • Keep series consistent: If you’re writing a fiction series, all the books within the series should have similar covers. While the photos and colors may differ, you might use the same font, layout, and template for each cover to ensure readers associate each book with the series.

  • Use your book cover for marketing materials: You can take inspiration from your book cover when creating marketing and branding materials. For example, you might use the same colors and fonts that are on your book cover for your author website.

  • When in doubt, ask for help: Whether it's help from a professional designer or help from your audience, don't be afraid to seek outside opinions. Your cover is the first impression reader have of your book, so asking for help can be a great way to ensure you're going in the right direction.

For better or worse, readers often judge a book by its cover. So take the measures to ensure your book has a quality and targeted cover. Ultimately, you want to keep your reader and buyer in mind and don’t cut costs with your cover, as it’s likely to impact sales negatively later on.

Whether you’re in the midst of the writing process or have already finished your book, now is the perfect time to consider a marketing strategy. To help you get started, I’m offering a FREE download of my guide, 10 Things You Need For A Successful Book Launch. This valuable resource is packed with expert tips and strategies to empower you to craft an effective book launch and connect with a larger audience of eager readers.

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