C J R Isely
How To Design Your Book Cover - Self Publishing Guide
You’ve written your masterpiece. It’s glorious! It’s all you’ve ever dreamed of! The editing process has begun, you’ve got your ARC (advanced reader copies) all set up, you’ve decided to self-publish through a platform such as KDP, and you’re ready to wow the reading community with your words.
There’s only one thing missing; that jaw-dropping book cover.
You scratch your head. You’ve always been a writer, not an illustrator, so you decide to look up the general cost of some book covers. You panic, breathe into a brown paperbag, and wonder if you’ve made the worlds biggest mistake. Will your first self-published novel be the reason you file bankruptcy?
Does this sound familiar? When I started the hunt for the perfect cover for Ranger of Kings, I went through something similar. I was googling ways to make a book cover, I tried canva, I tried sketching, painting, hours of losing sleep and staring at the wall trying to figure what I wanted to have on my book cover, let alone how it would come together without looking like an ‘indy book cover.’ I wanted it to look professional, because, like it or not, readers will judge your book on its cover.
Here are the things that I didn’t know before and had to learn the long way round that are now a live-saver as I design other books.
1) MAKE IT TO MARKET
First of all, you need to make sure the design you have in mind, if you have one, fits market. What does that mean? It means you need to go look up the best sellers in the genre you are aiming at, preferably on Amazon, and study what they have on their covers. You might notices that books that are fantasy have the main character on the cover, books about historical events have something that gleans to that timeframe, westerns have guns and horses, and so on and so on. This is huge information to have. Maybe you thought it would be great to put a dark and cryptic cover on your book that doesn’t fit the genre and, as much as you love it, it probably isn’t the right idea. If you pick a storm cloud and a graveyard to represent your romance, right off the bat, you will throw off and lose readers (or you will get horror readers who are very disappointed in your take on Romeo and Juliette not having any murderous zombies in it.)
2) HAVE YOUR DESIGN IN MIND
Now that you have looked at these books in your genre, take a step back and, even with stick figure art, try to sketch a design of what you want. Think of how it should look, what colors you want it to have, if it’s a series, does it work for the other books to follow with the same feel and theme. Once you have that general idea, you’ve got your ‘design’ just not your true cover.
3) SET YOUR BUDGET
Not fun but entirely vital. You have to know what you will spend on your cover art because no good artist is free. Maybe that guy at work offered to dry one on a postit for you for free but that isn’t going to cut it. If you won’t spend money for a good cover, why should someone spend money to buy your book?
I set my budget below $100 so don’t go thinking you have to spend an arm, a leg, and your first born child. Just set a budget aside, know what it is, and make sure you are ready to roll.
4) HAVE THE SPECS
You have to have this ahead of time so listen up! When you get ready to find a cover designer they will ask how many pages your book comes out to, they will ask the paper weight, they will ask the dimensions of the cover, your barcode if you bought an ISBN, and those numbers will need to be correct. The reasons for this is so that they can create your paperback binding to fit the exact spine of your novel. This means add your Author’s Notes, your dedication page, and the page where people can find your other works. Also know ahead of time: do you need the ebook size? The paperback? Hardcover? The audiobook cover?
5) FIND YOUR COVER DESIGNER
I used Fivver for this part, though there are horror stories from there that make people cringe. Overall, I loved how Ranger of Kings came together. I sent my concept to my designer and she pulled it off amazingly in my budget. Though I didn’t revise anything but the size to make it better fit within the KDP specs, I did pay extra for unlimited revisions and I would recommend you do the same, this way you can ask them to tweak little things about your book cover and make it fit exactly what you want.
6) SHOW IT OFF
You got it. Show off your new book to the world through social media, through ads on Amazon, and keep showing it off so that readers can see this cover that fits the best sellers in the genre they love and they will click it, want to read it, and want to share it with everyone they know.
Hopefully this has been of some help to you. Covers are something I love discussing and debating with authors, especially indy, in the constant debate between if the written word sells or the cover art. It really must be a combination.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips on cover design, so please drop them in the comments! Also, if you have questions or need assistance, I’m always here to help.
Happy publishing, Author!