Mark O'Neill

Designing your book cover

woman reading

They say you should never judge a book by its cover. But in reality, people do that all the time. As a self-publisher, if you mess up the cover, you may have just permanently lost a customer.

So designing your book cover is something you need to spend a lot of time focusing on. It’s also the biggest cost in bringing out a self-published book. But it’s an investment which will hopefully pay itself back in spades.

The book cover can make or break the project

In an ocean of published books (with hundreds more coming out every day), the cover is the first point of contact. It’s the thumbnail people see on Amazon. If it’s a good thumbnail, people will click on it. If it’s a terrible one, they’ll keep scrolling. So while you are busy finishing the first draft of your manuscript, you should also be planning the cover. The cover can literally make or break the entire project.

Go to Amazon’s book section and to the category you want to publish in. Look at your competitors’ book covers. Start taking notes on how their covers look – the images, the fonts, the colors. See what clearly works and what doesn’t. Read the reviews. Then you need to find your cover designer.

Unless you have a huge talent in graphic design (and access to Photoshop), I suggest you find an expert in it. I made the mistake of designing book covers myself and the results were cringingly bad.

This has taught me one golden rule – to stay in my lane and stick to what I’m good at. You’re the writer so stick to writing. Hire other people to do the other stuff. It’s all tax-deductible business expenses anyway. Get your accountant to deduct all these costs from your tax return. Just make sure your cover designer gives you a properly formatted invoice.

Where to find a book cover designer

Look for someone on places like Reedsy. Alternatively, ask other authors for recommendations. At this point, I would usually recommend my cover designer, as she is just simply amazing. But right now, she is not taking on any more clients.

What to remember when you find a possible book cover designer

When you find a possible cover designer, ask for previous examples of their work and read customer reviews before committing to anything. You are going to need an eBook cover, and if you intend to make a paperback version and hardback version, you will need a PDF cover with a spine and a back cover. The size of the spine will depend on the number of print pages. Your book formatting software will tell you how many pages the print version will be.

And always remember the golden rule – you get what you pay for. So again, don’t cheap out on the cover. That means staying away from Fiverr and Upwork. And for the love of God, don’t take Amazon’s suggestion and download the cover template to do it yourself. Please.

Look upon the covers as a long-term investment. Once you have the book cover, the design can be repurposed for merchandise (T-shirts, posters, mugs, stickers, etc.) There are lots of ways to maximise your investment and get the money back.

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