10 Book Cover Design Tips from a Cover Designer

Thank you, Ally, for inviting me to guest post today. Great to ‘chat’ with so many authors who are committed to producing great work!

Now that your book is professionally edited, it’s time to consider a book cover design. Out of money? I understand. If you have to choose between editing and cover design because you can only afford one, I will always recommend spending on editing first. Focus on the inside first. You can always change your cover later when you have some more dollars to invest.

So you’re going to design your own ebook cover. Google is your new best friend. Want to remove a background from a photo or change the color of someone’s eyes? There’s a tutorial for that. Lucky for us, at a high level, image editing programs basically all work the same way.

Printed covers are a bit of a different beast and require some basic knowledge of design for print in order to understand printing specifications. If you are new to design programs, I recommend starting with an ebook cover. Wait on the print version until you have developed basic knowledge and are ready to move on to another challenge or hire someone to build it for you.

Tip #1: Give yourself time and flexibility

If you have no previous design or image editing experience, you have to learn the basics. Be gentle with yourself—set a realistic deadline.

You may have the exact image you want in your head. Depending on what your vision is, you may or may not be able to recreate it. Allow yourself to be flexible. When working on covers for author clients (especially books in a series), I’ll explore many different options for visuals. If appropriate for your genre, text only covers can have lots of impact when done well. Look at the cover for Lena Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl.

Tip #2: Get some software

You don’t have to go out and buy Photoshop, although you can now get Photoshop for $9.99 a month from Adobe Creative Cloud.

GIMP is a free, open source image editing program that many designers use.

There is a plethora of online image editors available, both “software-as-a-service” and free. A search will yield lots of options to check out. I found Pixlr.com that took me about fifteen minutes (and most of that time was spent figuring out how to make text larger than 130 pts) to create the simple sample cover below. While I found it’s features limited, it did the trick. Another that’s still in beta, but looks very interesting, is drag- and drop-based Canva.

Make sure the software allows some basic functions:

  • creates documents from scratch in the size you specify (preferably in pixels)
  • allows working with layers
  • allows layer masking
  • allows image resizing
  • allows to save to high quality JPG file, as well as editable layered files of some sort that can be edited later

As with any software, read the terms of service and make sure you agree before seriously using it. None should claim ownership of the work you create with it.