Let Them Judge: Mastering Book Cover Design

Daniella Alscher
Daniella Alscher  |  June 20, 2019

Writing a summary of one thousand pages is hard enough – how are you supposed to summarize those pages with no words at all?

We’ve been told not to judge books by their covers, but sometimes the cover itself is the selling point. Even the way that a black-and-white e-book shows a book’s cover can impact whether or not it’s purchased.

Book cover design 101

Finishing a book probably feels great (I wouldn’t know, but I can assume). You’ve told a story from beginning to end, started from page one, and gotten it edited and approved. It would be a shame if the way you presented that story didn’t do it justice.

How can you make sure that your book is the one that ends up in the reader’s hands over all of the other options next to it?

A great book cover design catches someone’s eye and pushes them to choose your book over another without even having to turn it over to read a summary. We’re going to teach you the ins-and-outs of book cover design by going over:

Book cover design dimensions
Book cover design inspiration
Book cover design elements

Book cover design dimensions

If you’re only designing for print, the sky’s the limit: pocket-sized books and books the size of your roof and everything in between. But if the book you’ve written is going to be available for purchase online, you’re going to want to control yourself.

Whether you’re a designer or you’re handing this project off to a graphic design service provider, make sure that you’re familiar with the restrictions that different online platforms for book selling have before you go looking for inspiration or choose a typeface. These restrictions are put into place so that when your cover is displayed online, no important elements of your cover are cropped out.

book cover dimension requirements

Finding book cover inspiration

You don’t have to start from scratch here. In fact, you probably shouldn’t.

Shop around your local Barnes & Noble or used bookstore – not for books, but for book covers. What sticks out to you will probably catch the eyes of your audience, too.

As you’re doing this, try to focus on the section that contains books from the same genre as yours. It’s often easy to spot tropes amongst book covers of the same genre. Take note.

book cover design similarities

As a designer or creative thinker, you might feel as though going along with what the rest of the world does with their book covers is too cliché. But think about the effect it would have on your audience if you designed the cover of your romance novel with a science fiction theme: your book could end up in the hands of the wrong audience. And you’ll be getting some weird reviews on Amazon.

Book cover design elements

Once you gather your inspiration and get a grasp on the dimensions, it’s time to choose your design software and put everything together.

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Here’s a quick checklist of the elements that should be on your cover before we get started:

Title
Author's name
Subtitle or quote
Imagerybook cover design layout examples

Typography

The typeface and font of your book cover doesn’t have to be a strict sans serif, but it should be legible. Again, remember the genre of your book. Why use Times New Roman when there’s an entire web font marketplace out there for you to browse through?

Find the best Web Font Marketplace software. Explore Now, Free →

If you’re having trouble coming up with some ideas for what fonts work for the genre of your book, fear not. We have some thoughts.

book cover design fonts

Remember that there are going to be several elements of your book cover that require typography. Not only should you be paying attention to the legibility and font choice, but make sure that if you choose more than one font that you have a basic understanding (at the very least) of font pairing.

TIP: Make sure that the title typography is readable in both the big and small versions of your final product if you’re planning on selling online. Readers will scroll past thumbnails with unreadable titles. Before you finish designing, scale it down to the size it will be when sold online and see if you or a friend can tell what the title says.

Color

The two or three colors of your book cover should be chosen based on the mood that your book portrays. You’ll notice, for example, that mystery novels use a lot of darker colors on their book cover designs. Read up on color psychology to get a better understanding of how colors impact and portray emotions so that you can take advantage in your design.

Additionally, complementary colors work well together for book cover designs because of their shocking appearance. If this color scheme works well for your genre, don’t be afraid to go bold.

Imagery

Like a lot of design nowadays, less is more on a book cover. Avoid using images that are too busy or distract from the main point that you’re trying to make with your cover. Additionally, use pictures with colors that contrast well with the color and weight of your typography to avoid illegibility. Cover images should cause an emotion in the viewer, and intrigue them to the point that they’ll pick up (or click on) your book.

If an image emits an emotion from you that aligns with your book’s genre, it could be the one. You can find images for your book cover within an abundance of stock photos by entering search terms that are in sync with your book’s genre and theme.

Stock photo websites contain libraries of images that can be used to enhance projects like presentations. Or book covers.

See the Highest-Rated Stock Photo Sites, Free →

A cover is worth 1,000 words

Sometimes, even more words than that. The importance of book cover design shouldn’t be overlooked unless you expect your book to be overlooked, too. Before a reader opens your book to the first page, your cover design is what they’re going to see. So, let them be the judge.

Want to design book covers for others? Learn more about becoming a freelance graphic designer

Daniella Alscher
Author

Daniella Alscher

Daniella Alscher is a Content Marketing Associate for G2. When she's not reading or writing, she's listening to murder podcasts or sitting on the couch. Or both.