10 Tips for Effective Book Covers

Remember: Most people in book publishing believe that a cover is a book’s No. 1 marketing tool.

1.     The title should be big and easy to read. This is more important than ever. (Many people will first encounter your cover on a screen, not on a shelf.) This is such a well-worn cliche of cover design that I have a designer friend with a Facebook photo album called “Make the Title Bigger.”

2.     Don’t forget to review a thumbnail image of the cover. Is the cover compelling at a small size? More people are buying books on a Kindle or mobile device, so you want the cover to read clearly no matter where it appears. You should also anticipate what the cover looks like in grayscale.

3.     Do not use any of the following fonts (anywhere!): Comic Sans or Papyrus. These fonts are only acceptable if you are writing a humor book, or intentionally attempting to create a design that publishing professionals will laugh at.

4.     No font explosions! (And avoid special styling.) Usually, a cover should not use more than 2 fonts. Avoid the temptation to put words in caps, italics caps, outlined caps, etc. Do not “shape” the type either.

5.     Do not use your own artwork, or your children’s artwork, on the cover. There are a few rare exceptions to this, but let’s assume you are NOT one of them. It’s almost always a terrible idea.

6.     Do not use cheap clip art on your cover. I’m talking about the stuff that comes free with Microsoft Word or other cheap layout programs. Quality stock photography is OK. (stock photo is one reliable source for quality images.) 

7.     Do not stick an image inside a box on the cover. I call this the “T-shirt” design. It looks extremely amateurish.

8.     Avoid gradients. It’s especially game-over if you have a cover with a rainbow gradient.

9.     Avoid garish color combinations. Sometimes such covers are meant to catch people’s attention. Usually, it just makes your book look freakish.

10.   Finally: Don’t design your own cover. The only people who should consider designing their own covers are professional graphic designers—and even then, it’s not advisable.

Tips for Self-Publishing a Book

Technology has made it easy for authors wondering how to self-publish a book. Self-publishing offers a cost-effective way to share your book with the masses and make a bit of money off of your writing. Whether you are hoping to self-publish a print book or electronic version, here are eight tips on how to self-publish a book.

Get Your Book Edited

Professional editing is a must. No book is perfect, but editorial assistance can help you get a lot closer. There are a lot of different kinds of edits, so be sure you know which you need before you hire an editor. Developmental editors check your book for flow and consistency. They suggest revisions when something about the language doesn’t seem right. Copyeditors correct spelling mistakes and adjust grammar. Editors are necessary in the self-publishing process.

Consider Your Book Cover Design Carefully

Your book cover design is an important tool for marketing your book to readers. With great print quality and a good cover design, no one will be able to tell your self-published book from one that’s published by a major traditional publisher. It’s good to educate yourself on what makes a good book cover design, but if you aren’t a designer by trade, it’s also best to hire a professional.

Find a Good Book Distributor

Distributors vary widely in price and services. print on demand services like IngramSpark are some of the most cost-effective methods of distribution for self-publishing a book. Instead of paying to have hundreds of copies printed at once, your book is only printed when it’s ordered. In addition, IngramSpark’s distribution reach to online retailers and physical retailers is unmatched.

Be Realistic

The self-publishing revolution has made it so that anyone with a story can publish a book, which resulted in a flood of content on top of all of the books published by traditional publishers each year, which is to say, you most likely won’t sell millions of copies or be a New York Times bestseller, but there are plenty of realistic author goals you can achieve, so be thoughtful about what goals you set for yourself and your book and then put steps in place to achieve them. Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes dedication and business savvy.

Purchase an ISBN

An ISBN provides important data about your book to booksellers and labels you as the publisher. You need an ISBN if you want to sell your book. Also, be weary of self-publishing platforms that offer “free” ISBNs. purchasing your own ISBN ensures that you have full control over it.

Look Out for Overly Expensive Services

There are a lot of self-publishing scams out there that will “publish” your book and never do a thing with it. There are also a lot of publishers that offer “turn-key” services. Be sure you do your research and utilize recommendations from trusted industry publications, self-publishing association, and your fellow authors.

Market Your Book

If you aren’t a major public figure, it’s unrealistic to think you can publish your book and the world will just stumble upon it. Making sure your book metadata is as good as it can be is one way for people to discover your book organically online, but you still have to promote your book in order for it to succeed. You can do this via guerrilla marketing efforts, book review, book publicity, social media advertising, and so much more. Be sure to plan your book promotion and get a handle on your book marketing strategy before you publish your book for the best results.

Make Friends

Yes, writing tends to be a solitary activity, but rubbing elbows with other authors and professionals in the writing community can have some big perks. They may be willing to give you endorsements for your book or help get the word out. You’ll also want to make friends with the booksellers at your local independent bookstore and the librarians in your local library. These people are very influential when it comes to recommending your book to readers and helping you grow your audience. Book people are the best people, and it never hurts to know as many as possible.

Book Design Quick Tips for Self-Publishers

Recently I was asked to contribute an introduction to print book design for a publication that will be out soon. I decided to address the piece to an author who was thinking about self-publishing, but wondering whether it’s worth doing a print book. Here’s my response:

If you want to sell books at events or give them away to reviewers or to friends and family, you’ll want to use print books. And many people prefer reading print books, even people who own laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

So there’s a big role for print books to play in your publishing plans.

But as a new self-publisher, you may not know how to get your book ready for printing.

Print books haven’t changed much in 500 years and they are far more complex than ebooks when it comes to preparing your book files.

With ebooks, you’re just converting your file from one format into another, then adding some cover art.

But with print books you have to know how they will be printed, who will be printing them, and that specific printer,s requirement It’s good also if you’ve designed a lot of books before, so you know how the image on your screen will translate into paper and ink.

And if you’re thinking about marketing your print books, they will need to look even better. After all, they’ll be competing with books from big publishers, where all the books are designed and produced by professionals.

Now I’m not going to pretend that I can give you an education in book design and production in this article. But what I can do is give you a big head start on your journey to creating a good-looking, reader-friendly, market-oriented print book.

And point out a few things to avoid so you don’t look like a complete newbie. That would be good, right?

Okay, let’s dive in and start at the beginning.

Newbie Mistakes to Avoid

One thing you probably don’t want to happen is have your book “look” self-published.

Honestly, it doesn’t cost any more to print a book that’s properly put together and intelligently designed than it is to print a book that ignores book publishing conventions and looks like an amateur production.

In fact, I’ve got an idea of exactly what would help you get that book, and I’ll tell you more about that in a minute.

No matter what you plan to do with your books, they will be more likely to succeed if they avoid the most common mistakes new self-publishers typically make.

Here are some to watch out for.

Getting your pages switched around—remember that all the right-hand pages in your book, starting with page 1, are odd numbers. All the left-hand pages are even numbers.

Make sure your blank pages are blank—a blank page doesn’t need a running head, a page number, or “this page intentionally left blank” on is. In printed books, blank pages are just that—blank.

No blanks on the right—your book should never have a blank page on a right-hand page.

Forgetting the front matter—you want to include at least a title page and a copyright page, and probably a contents page before you start the text of the book.

Tiny page margins—trying to save money by printing fewer pages rarely produces a book people actually want to read. Leave enough space on the outside for the reader to hold the book, and on the inside (or “gutter”) so that it doesn’t swallow your text.

Not capitalizing properly—titles, subtitles, chapter titles and subheads should all be title case, not sentence case. In other words, all words except short prepositions are capitalized.

 Avoiding full justification—you don’t really want your book to have “rag right” typesetting, where the right margin is ragged. You want your book to be fully justified, which means that your page of type is a rectangle with all the lines (except the last line in a paragraph) extend from the left margin all the way to the right margin.

If you’re curious about any of these tips, have a look at some of your own books.

You’ll discover that these are rules or conventions of book publishing. Virtually all books produced by professionals will follow these rules and conventions unless the designer has a good reason not to.

By watching out for newbie mistakes, you’ll make your book look a lot better, and your readers will thank you for it.

Picking Fonts for Your Book

One of the big decisions you’ll need to make when it comes time to get your book ready for printing is: What fonts will you use?

What fonts you have available might depend on the software you’ve installed on your PC, and what fonts came along with the program. Or you might have purchased or downloaded fonts from one of the many font sites online.

In any case, here are some guidelines that will help you choose typefaces for your book.

 Readability—this is the most important quality for your text font, the one that most or all of your book will be set in. Many designers feel that the most reliably readable are fonts based on old-style typefaces like Garamond, Bembo, or Caslon. More modern versions include Minion, Adobe Garamond, and Sabon.

Contrast—you’ll want a different typeface to use for chapter titles or part titles, and for subheads in nonfiction books. Combining a text typeface with a san serif display face can add drama and subtle allusions to a specific era or style.

 Legality—fonts are intellectual property, just like your book manuscript. Make sure you have the rights to use the fonts in a book by checking out the licensing agreement, if possible. Most fonts that ship with software are licensed for commercial use, and there are reliable sites where you can download free, commercial use fonts online.

 Appropriateness—you’ll want a text font for your text, and a display font for your title and perhaps for interior display use. For an academic treatise, you don’t want your chapter titles in Comic Sans, do you? That wouldn’t be appropriate. If you can’t decide, have a look at other, similar books and try to do what they did.

Researching Book Interiors

As many other authors have discovered, there are great guides to how your book should look right nearby. Start taking a critical look at some of the books on your own bookshelf:

 How do they treat the various elements of book design, like the chapter opening pages, the running heads (or running feet, if they appear at the bottom of the pages), the page numbers?

 What do you notice about the typefaces these books use to convey the author’s ideas? Is a separate font used for the chapter titles or part titles?

 How are titles, epigraphs (those are the quotations often found at the beginning of a chapter), and subheads aligned? How are the spaced compared to other elements on the page?

What are the margins like, are they symmetrical? Are the outside margins larger than the inside margins? How close does the type come to the edge of the page?

If there are illustrations, charts, tables, figures, graphs or other graphics, do they have captions or explanations of some kind? Are they numbered or referenced to the text somehow?

This is one of the fastest ways to educate yourself about how books are put together and what might work for your own book.

Concentrate on books that have been successful in your own genre or category, that will help keep you focused on finding a style that will work for you.

A few hours absorbing these seemingly minute details will give you a grounding in book design as it affects your kind of books. Make notes on the elements you like the best, you’ll use them later on.

You also want to make sure your book is put together properly, that’s really important.

What Will Help

Okay, I promised to tell you about something that would help.

I’ve been working for years on ways for new self-publishers to produce better books. A lot of the over 900 articles on this blog are a testament to that effort.

But guess what? I’ve had a breakthrough, and I’m almost ready to share it with you.

In about a week I’m going to open the door to a new way for DIY authors to create industry-standard, great-looking books. I’ve seen too many of the other kind of books, and it’s time to do something about it.

I’m really excited about this, there’s nothing else like it anywhere. Inexpensive, simple to use, effective.

So stay tuned, I know you wouldn’t want to miss it.

Book Cover Design Tips For Independent Authors

We live in a world where we’re overwhelmed with media, all of which is jockeying to get our attention – and our dollars. When it comes to online bookstores, we scroll through a limitless jungle, given snippets of text, book summaries, and star ratings; it’s tiresome and time-consuming. Yet somehow, we do come to rest on a title now and again. Why? Is it the 4.5-star rating by beckyreadabook25? Probably not.

I’m willing to bet it has far more to do with an awesome cover and a snappy title. That’s what’s going to stand out in the crowd, to convince folks to linger a little longer, to scroll a little slower. The same is true in a physical bookstore. What draws you to a book and makes you pick it up? The title? The cover? Typography on the spine? Colors? Probably all of the above.

An effective cover design grabs our attention and prepares us for what we might find within the book. But a good book cover doesn’t equate to being crazy or loud. You don’t have to yell at people to get their attention; there’s enough of that happening already. It just needs to be clear, well done, and compelling. In this article we’ll give you some tips that will help you navigate the process, and better equip you to design (or have designed for you) a superior cover.

Book cover design considerations

DISCLAIMER: There are exceptions to every rule. There are amazing designers doing creative things that break one, or every, rule listed below. This advice is meant to guide those of you who haven’t spent many, many years (or more) studying the finer points of graphic design. You’ve spent your time, instead, writing or studying the topic you’re writing about, and now you want to produce a cover that’s as exciting and relevant as the pages inside. Here’s how.

To hire or not to hire? That is the question.

Hiring a graphic designer

There are many factors that go into this decision, but the biggest one is likely your budget.

If you have the budget, hire a designer (unless you’re a designer writing a book about design). A professional designer has the tools, knowledge, experience, and resources to make the process run smoothly and produce a result you’ll be thrilled with. Even if you have a clear vision of how you want the cover to look or feel, an experienced designer will be able to realize that goal much more effectively and efficiently.

Choosing a designer
Do your research and pick a designer based on his or her portfolio, NOT because they are related to you or are willing to work cheaply. Really look at his previous work; if you like what you see and it feels like his style will fit with your ideas, then he’s probably going to be a good match. The important thing is to trust in the designer that you’ve chosen, and know that he has the same goals as you; to make a great looking cover for a great product.

Working within your budget
Determine ahead of time what your budget is, and ask for a quote. Or spitball a figure at your chosen designer and see if there’s any way for them to work within that budget. It never hurts to ask!

Setting expectations
Professionals will have a contract, or will spell out in their estimate what the expectations are for both parties. Typically, a designer will provide you with a set number of concept sketches to choose between, then a set number of revisions within that chosen direction. After a certain amount of back and forth, you’ll arrive at the solution together.

Can you DIY (design it yourself)?

Note: These guidelines will come in handy even if you decide to hire a professional designer (which is highly recommended), as it will give you a foundation for informed input and feedback, and will hopefully make it easier for you to talk about your ideas with the designer.

What programs or tools will you need?
There are countless apps, programs, and tools available. Do some research and see which you like best. (Professionals will most likely be using the Adobe Creative Suite, which is not cheap.)

If your book cover needs to be printed, confirm from your publisher what file type they’ll need. At the very least your chosen design tool needs to be able to save at a high enough resolution (300 ppi is safe), and in the correct file type as required by the book printer.

Generating a book cover concept

When you opt to hire a designer, the concept will be developed by the conversations you have with the designer regarding your book. You’ll be asked to think and talk about your work in a way you haven’t before (which is a good thing).

Tone and emotion
You want to make the feeling of the cover fit the overall feeling of the book. This is a high-level goal, and might seem a bit vague, but by following some of the other strategies in this article, you’ll be better able to capture the vibe of your book with your book cover.

Extract something simple in terms of imagery
One approach to creating a memorable book cover is to visually highlight a single element from your book — an important place, an object, etc. — something significant that can be utilized in a simple manner. When designing things yourself, minimalism can be your best friend.

Decide on a visual approach
Do you want your cover to have an illustration, photographic, typographic, or graphic appearance? Look at covers that you like – and that are compatible with the tone, genre and content of your work – and determine what the common elements are among those covers. Are they bold and simple? Is it just an interesting use of typography? Is it the intense photo that captivates you? Keep breaking it down until you have an idea for your book cover that utilizes the same approach you responded to in other covers.

Stream of conscious brainstorm
Sit down and start writing about your writing. Keep it simple and just jot down words and images that come to mind. Once you have twenty or thirty words, see what images and interesting correlations you can make that might be turned into a cover element.

The book cover design: guiding principles

There are general guidelines that a good designer will understand when creating a design – and it’s good for you to know them so you can articulate these from the outset.

Hierarchy of Information
Some elements are more important than others. This should be reflected in the design through use of scale.

If you’re a new author, it’s a safe bet that no one knows who you are (yet), so designing a cover that suggests otherwise is not going to engage an audience (unless your name is Noodle Poodle or Gutter Crotch).

You want to grab people with the title of the book; entice them with the emotion and narrative the title alludes to, and then let them know who you are. Make your title the largest and clearest part of your cover design. If your name is as big, or bigger, than the title, you’re doing it wrong (that goes for you too, Gutter Crotch).

Another way to say this is: if everything is the same size, nothing is important. Don’t make the various elements of your design compete for eye-attention, use size and scale so the elements complement one another..

Avoiding clutter
If there’s too much competing information and imagery on the page, it just becomes visual white noise; there is no focus and it’s hard to discern what’s important or relevant (similar to what we discussed above when considering your hierarchy of information.)

Examples of too much clutter include:

· too many colors

· too many images or components within an image

· more than 2 fonts (more on that in typography)

· quotes competing with title or author

· drop shadows

· outlines on multiple things

· excessive gradients

Typographic considerations
Decorative fonts, such as scripts, are difficult to read (particularly in small sizes) and should be avoided. AND THEY DEFINITELY SHOULD NOT BE USED IN ALL CAPS.

A general rule of thumb in typography is to only use two fonts in a single design – one serif and one sans serif – and they should have some kind of visual harmony or relationship.

That being said, you can choose fonts that have a variety of weights and italic options to give you some spice while maintaining unity.

Size matters
You should know the size of the finished product before you start designing. That might sound like common sense, but plenty of amateurs make the mistake of designing first, only to discover that what they’ve come up with won’t work within the dimensions they later select for their printed book.

Also, it’s important to remember that your cover will initially be viewed as a thumbnail by many (most?) people. Make sure the cover is compelling and clear even when reduced to the size of a postage stamp. This is a universal design rule that applies to book covers, event posters, corporate logos, etc.

When in doubt… KISS
You know, Keep It Simple Stupid. There’s not much more to say. Strip it to the basics. Make your book cover about the title and who you are. A cover won’t be able to convey everything about you and your book, but it should say one or two things in a striking way.

Print and Digital (eBook) considerations

The final book cover design document for printing needs to be created at a higher resolution than the version for your eBook cover. You can always “save down” to a smaller file size, but it does not work the other way – you can’t take a web-ready 72 ppi file and expand it for print. So as a rule of thumb, set files up at 300 ppi. Even if you’re only planning an eBook at first, you may want to print in the future, so always plan for printing. Better safe than sorry!

Pixels vs. vector
Digital files are read in one of two ways: raster (pixel based images), or vector (based on points and lines). Vector is infinitely scalable with no loss of quality; raster is not. If you’re working in pixels (i.e. Photoshop), make sure NOT to take an image that’s smaller than you need and attempt to blow it up. It will look like trash. Get a file that is 300 ppi at the size it will appear in print (at least).

Consistent visual branding

Cross-branding and reinforcement of your product is important. Here’s a few things to think about in terms of branding:

Is the book part of a series? If so, maintain visual consistency (use the same fonts, similar photographic imagery, illustrations, typography, etc.).

Do you have an online presence? Integrate design elements from your website, press, social media marketing, advertising, etc. into your design – and vice versa. Now that the book cover design is established, use the same aesthetic and elements to promote your writing on various platforms, including your Facebook author page, your website, print and banner ads, posters, or the side of a bus. Keep the look consistent to build familiarity, excitement, and interest for your awesome book. Of course, all the above rules for design still apply!