How to Design a Book Cover: 11 Steps

How to Design a Book Cover: 11 Essential Steps for a Bestseller Cover Design

How to Design a Book Cover: 11 Essential Steps for a Bestseller Cover Design

The cover of your book is more than just a way to protect the pages inside. When people say they’re going to judge a book by the cover, it’s right here. The cover is the first thing anyone looks at before they pick the book up.

Your cover is your handshake with new readers. It is how you tell them what your book is about or how they will probably feel when they read your book, so remember to keep it attractive and unique for it pull potential readers towards it.

Think about how you react to books. There are editions of Frankenstein that are nothing more than the title of the book embossed on a leather binding. I agree it looks all right. It’s elegant and classic in its own way for an old book. Then some copies show the monster surrounded by townsfolk brandishing torches.

Now, which one would you pick up? Remember, most people already know what Frankenstein is about. But if you had the choice between picking up a book entitled Nemesis with just the word on a red background, how would you feel? If you saw that same title with a red background that looked as though shots were fired through the cover, would you pick it up instead? Is the cover telling you that this is a fast-paced book with real danger? Yup.

So how do you create a professional book cover design that will reach out and grab readers?

Define Your Genre 

What are you writing about? Is it a non-fiction about the benefits of organic fruit? Is it the kind of mystery you want to curl up with on a cold winter’s day? Is it a romance aimed at teenage girls? Is it a coffee table book on the different types of flowers from around the world? Each of these books has its own name: Nonfiction diet, Cozy Mystery and Young Adult Romance, Coffee Table book, respectively. The design changes for fiction and non-fiction book covers.

If you aren’t very sure, start out with your audience. First, decide whether you are writing for adults or children, and later determine if it’s fiction or nonfiction. Once you have selected those essential elements, go to your local bookstore and browse the section you play to write about.

Look at the other books in the same section and decide if your book would be shelved in that store. 

Explore Other Books In The Genre

Once you know what genre your book fits into, look at other recent titles in that genre. Different genres have different looks at different times. Just like the latest trend in fashion, book covers have trends too. For example, in the early 2000s, most children’s fantasy novels had covers with soft earth tones.

They often featured the main character in dire straits. Why? Two words. Harry Potter! They were building on a look similar to Harry Potter that made it so famous!  The hope was that readers who enjoyed that series might turn to a book that echoed the palette and tone. 

In a similar way, you can look through the book store and see which books are clearly romances. Most romance books covers have the female protagonist’s arms around the male protagonist. Noticed? My point is, look at the same genre you’re going to create on different websites like Amazon, Goodreads, Pinterest, etc.

Don’t just look at it lightly, try to make a note of the similar patterns you see and know the trend.

Find Your Ratio.

Book cover dimension is vital when you think of designing a cover. When we talk about ratio of covers, it means the ratio between the width and height of the cover. For digital books, your final cover ratio is determined by the platform you have chosen. The spine for print books depends on the page count and paper density.

Here is the list that makes it easier for you

Amazon Kindle: On the longest side, a minimum of 1000 pixels is a must. The ideal height/width ratio of 1.6. 

Apple: at least 1,400 pixels wide.

Barnes & Noble: minimum height of between 1,200 to 2,000 pixels.

Smashwords: at least 1,400 pixels wide.

That might seem really confusing, but just remember to shoot for 1500px wide. 

Choose Your Design Tool.

There are lots of different tools you can use to build your cover design. One of the most popular is Adobe. This program lets you pick up elements from pictures and use a wide range of tools to tint and change the look. If you can’t afford the program, consider free programs such as PicMonkey or Gimp.

Word also has a tool that lets you build images with a few modifications. All you got to do is spend a bomb to buy software or hunt for free software, google “how to make a book,” learn the basics and spend weeks to make just one.

Choose Your Images.

You can take pictures yourself, especially if you are a professional photographer. But there are lots of images online that you can also use. Services such as Fotolia, Shutterstock and even Getty Images have millions of pictures for you to choose from.

Many have photos and digital artwork. Most charge by the image, keeping costs relatively low. There are also free sites such as Wikimedia Commons and Unsplash offer free pictures. Before you make a final selection, check the licenses of any image you want to use to make sure it can be used for commercial purpose. Some require that you note the photographer while others don’t.

Some pictures can’t be used for commercial ventures while others offer that option. It all depends on the photographer.

Build your cover 

This is where photo editing software comes in so handy after studying how the software works. You may have just written a beautiful romance about a farmer finding his soul mate in a city girl. So you might want to find a way to blend an image of New York with a cornfield and a couple.

You can cut and combine each of the images to make a lovely composite that will bring real interest to your book.  Remember to use high-resolution pictures and the right website. After all, the first impression matters.

Add Your Text 

In addition to the image you want on your cover, you will need to make sure you have the title for your book. It has to be large and must look prominent on your cover. The placement of your title is very important.

Most titles begin in the top third of the cover. Be sure to choose a font that goes with the feeling of your book. For example, you would not want a dripping ghoulish font for a contemporary romance, right?

In most cases, the author’s name is much smaller than the title. In some instances such as Rowling, Patterson or Sparks, the name of the author is as big, or even more significant than the title since they’re super popular around the world. When you’re as famous as them and have sold ten or twelve New

York Times Bestsellers readers prefer the author than the book.

You can add a subtitle too if you want, that doesn’t have to as big as the title but must be prominent also.

Here are few pointers:

  • Don’t use just one font. Try to use different fonts for your title, subtitle, author name and tagline. Don’t use more than 2- 3 different fonts.
  • Keep a short name. The author name must not be bigger than the title unless you’re really famous.
  • Don’t act stupid. Readers know the difference between the author name and the book name. Don’t feel compelled to write “written by” or “a novel by”


There are various types of illustrators out there. If you do really want to have an illustration done for the cover of your book, you need to fix a certain budget and hunt for illustrators for weeks and see how they are and pick one.

Find an illustrator who knows understands what you want.

Format and Save Your Cover

Finally, format your cover to fit the publishing program you are using. Make sure that you save the design in RGB colour mode and with whatever extension your platform requires. Usually, that means saving your work as a JPEG. But check with your platform. 

Test Your Designs

Now that you have two designs and don’t know which one to pick for your cover, you can test it thanks to Facebook’s advertising run! You can get two sets of people from your target audience and expose them to an ad. While one part of the audience sees an ad with your first cover, the rest will view an ad with your second cover. The ad that gets more clicks it the winner.

Get A Professional

Above all,   is the best way to get a cover done. A graphic designer can bring more skills than just Photoshop to the table. Creating a book cover is not that simple from what you have read above so why not leave it to a professional? They’re fluent in the language of design, know what goes with what and are also expert in the world of color.

A proper professional will listen to your ideas, understand what you want incorporate it into a marvelous cover.

Cover design is crucial when it comes to publishing your book. It is one of the major factors that help authors to sell more books. There are more factors that will help you design an amazing cover. Have a look at our article on tips for cover design for more beneficial ideas. We hope this article shed light on how to design a book cover for aspiring authors.

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