How to Get a Book Cover for Your Self-Published Book

To get a book cover for your self-published book, you have two choices– You can do it yourself or hire somebody else to do it. This article aims to provide you with the information you need to get a great cover design no matter how you choose to go about it.

Book covers are important. It doesn’t matter how well-written or well-edited your book is if readers don’t get past the cover. Believe it or not, this is one instance where being totally unique or innovative can actually work against you. Readers are often creatures of habit. I like to read romance novels, particularly ones that are light as opposed to tragic. For that genre, I’m looking for a book cover that promises me a romance with a hot guy and a pretty girl (or maybe two hot guys and no girl) and a story that’s not going to bum me out. When I’m looking for a romance, I know the type of experience I want to have. If your book cover is totally wacky and diverges too much from what I’m used to, I’m not going to know that to expect. If I’m not sure it’s what I’m in the mood for, I just might pass on it.

One of the most important parts of developing a cover for your book is to check out books in your genre, either online or in bookstores, or both. Look at bestselling books to see what people are buying. Remember, you don’t want to diverge too much from other books in your genre.

If you’re like most authors, you have some sort of idea of what you have in mind for the cover of the book you’ve worked on for so long. Write down any ideas that you have for your dream cover. You can also do a google search of terms for any type of image that might fit your book. For instance, my book is LGBT equality-themed, so I might simply google the word “rainbows” to get some image ideas.

I do think it’s important that an author be happy with her cover. However, when designing a cover or commissioning a design from a professional, you must stop thinking like the author and start thinking like a publisher. It’s not just about how you feel about the book, it’s how potential readers will feel. What makes them want to buy a book that they may know nothing about? The great thing about being a self-publisher is that, for once, you as the author have the final say in your cover design. Seeing your book in e-print or finally holding your paperback book in your hands is a big deal. It’s a huge accomplishment no matter how you got there, and it should be a happy moment. I can’t imagine the disappointment that traditionally published authors must feel when they’re not happy with the cover that was chosen for them. Still, you must not let your emotions overwhelm you when you are making what is, in essence, a business decision. As a self-published author, you’re not just the writer. You’re also the publisher, printer, and promoter of a product. If you love your cover but it confuses or annoys everybody else, you’re in big trouble.

When hiring a designer, you should approach her with some basic ideas of what you want. Colors often really help set the scene. A thriller should have darker, foreboding colors. A lighthearted romance or chicklit type book should be much brighter. I hate depressing books, so when I’m at the library I find myself looking for bright colors. I’ve probably passed on some really good books over time because their cover colors looked too depressing!

The font used for the cover can also help readers to see right away what type of book you are selling. Be advised that using a font straight from word will make your book look self-published. Though there’s nothing wrong with being self-published, readers should not be able to tell the difference between a traditionally published book and an indie one. That goes for the writing quality as well as the cover!

You don’t want to cheap out when hiring a designer for your book cover, but you don’t have to spend a fortune either. I’ve heard warnings that you should hire a designer who specializes in book covers as opposed to a general graphic designer, but I’m not sure I totally agree with that advice. Though I understand that hiring a professional who designs lots of book covers might be better, I feel that if you do your homework on book covers and work closely with your designer, a talented graphic artist should be okay. You can either hire a designer who does this type of thing for a living or you can hire someone who does it for side work or even as a hobby. Just because you shell out a lot of money doesn’t necessarily mean the quality will be better. It should mean that, but life doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes a talented hobbyist will do just as good of a job as an expensive professional.

To find a designer, you can use crowdsourcing sites, such as 99 designs or Crowdspring. You can name price and project and designers will bid on your job. You can even get your money back if you’re not happy. The best way to get a good designer, though, is through word of mouth. Ask other authors about their book covers. Inquire if they were happy with their designer, and then be sure to check out the cover to see what you think. I found an absolutely incredible book cover designer by asking for recommendations from other writers on twitter. The guy’s price was unbelievable and I was thrilled with his work!

If you want to design your own cover, you’re a lot braver and smarter than me. Or maybe you’re just cheap.

Just kidding. From what I understand, it’s not really all that difficult to design your own cover. I’m still not about to try it. I am not what you would call technologically savvy. I simply cannot envision a future in which I design my own cover without it ending in a tearful temper tantrum and possible physical damage to my computer and other surroundings. I would seriously be a danger to myself and others if I attempted it. I have no patience with technology and zero confidence in my ability to understand it.
That being said, it may not be all that difficult for you. The rules for designing your own cover are pretty much the same as if you hired someone else to do it. Be sure that it doesn’t look amateurish. Whether you publish traditionally or you’re doing it yourself, there’s no excuse for sloppy or amateurish work.

If you do it yourself, you can use your publisher’s book cover software. It’s free, but it will have fewer options than other sources. You can also purchase book cover software, but it can get expensive. You can use a book cover template in Photoshop. Completely Novel has a cover creator that you can use for free. Some other do-it-yourself web-based photo editors include Gimp, Splashup, Photoshop Express, and Snipshot. Some image resources include Fotolia, Getty images, Image Base, Abstract Influence, and Free Pixels. Some free programs, like Myecovermaker give you an option to upgrade for a fee.

No matter who you choose to do your book cover designer, there are some things both you and your designer need to know:

Technical Info and Industry Jargon

** Images are made up of dots, known as dots per inch, or dpi. Image resolution for print is higher than for computers, meaning images for print need to be bigger. The standard dpi for print is 300dpi. The standard dpi for digital images, like for Amazon, Smashwords, etc. is 72dpi.

**You will not be able to take a 72dpi image and blow it up to a 300dpi image for print purposes. It will be blurry and distorted.

**Pixel, short for picture element, is a single point in a graphic image. On a color monitor, each pixel is composed of three dots of red, blue, and green that converge to look like one point.

**Resolution means the quality or sharpness of an image.

**CMYK refers to cyan magenta yellow and black. RGB refers to red green and blue. Check with your printer / online publisher to determine which one to use.

**You will need to check with each publishing outlet to determine the exact specifications for your cover. For example, Kindle Direct currently requires a minimum of 625 pixels on the shortest side and 1000 pixels on the longest. It recommends 1563 pixels on the shortest and 2500 on the longest for the best quality.

**Use high-quality images.

**You can use and alter stock images, but be sure your image is not used on any other book cover! Some image sources include istockphoto.com, Archive.org, Library of Congress image collection.

**Always check on the licensing of any image and be sure you are allowed to use it commercially.

General Design Info

**Design to sell.

**The cover should communicate right away what type of book it is.

**Avoid a cluttered look.

**Focus on the main theme of the book. Don’t try to tell the whole story.

**Font is critical and can drastically change the look of the cover.

**The title must be large enough to read on a “thumbnail” size. This is the size that will be used on most electronic media sources.

**For a print book, you will also need to design a spine and a back cover. The back cover should have a blurb/synopsis for fiction or a description for nonfiction. You can also include a short author biography and an author picture. Include any endorsements you might be able to get on the back cover. You will also need to save room on the back for the ISBN # and barcode.

Good luck and feel free to share your final cover with me! I would love to feature it on wannabe pride. You can email me at lindafausnet@gmail.com.

Ebook Covers – Does Yours Meet The Minimum Standards Of E-Retailers? 

10 Tips For Effective Book Covers

Book Cover Design – How To Make A Book Cover Great  [This  Has An Excellent Side By Side Comparison Of Covers Showing You What Works And What Doesn’t ]

Four Steps To Creating A Good Book Cover For Your Self-Published Book  

Book Publishing Advice – Cover Design

10 Ways To Create A Bad Book Cover

Print And Ebook Covers – A Matter Of Resolution

Mystery Of Book Cover Design And Layout 

All Roads Lead To..Finding Out Your Cover Photo Isn’t Unique? 

The Importance Of A Great Book Cover 

Ebook Cover Design And Optimum Size Specifications For Amazon, Kindle, Bn, Nook, Ibookstore, And Ipad Formats.  

Standard Size Of A Book And Understanding Image Size And Resolution.

How To Design A Book Cover In Photoshop 

Kindle Formatting – Requirements For The Kindle Book Cover 

Creating A Catalog/ Cover Image (Kindle Direct Publishing) 

How To Create A Cover Pdf For Your Book (Createspace) 

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**Readers:

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And Now a Word from Mackelmore…The Road to Self-Publishing

This article is part of my ongoing Wannabe Pride Self-Publishing blog series in preparation for publishing my novel, QUEEN HENRY, in July of 2014. Proceeds from this novel will go to the Harvey Milk Foundation.

 39 Weeks Until Publication

I’ve contacted as many LGBT activists and organizations as I could think of to try to get some endorsements for my book, and now I’m just waiting on their responses. I got this very nice response from “the Mackelmore Team”:

Mackelmore Response

The print may be too small here to read, but it says “Thank you so much for writing in to us. Your novel is great. It is a great lesson on acceptance and equality. The boys are away on tour right now, but I will set aside your work so they can read it.  – The Mackelmore Team”.

What a sweet response! I always figured, if nothing else, that I would get some interesting responses even if they were all “no”. I guess, technically, this was a “maybe”.

The next step for Queen Henry is the cover. I’ve already been in contact with a few designers, and it’s exciting to think about what the cover might look like! I’m also working on some articles on what I learn about cover design for WannabePride so that other authors can learn, too.

Happy Weekend, Everybody!

– Linda Fausnet