Book Cover Design 101


Author: “Make my cover look like a bestseller”

Designer: “ No problem how’s this?”

If only it was that easy.

How do you choose a book? This question has been poised numerous times and the most common answer is “by its cover”. The cover design of a book has always had an important role in it’s marketing, and choosing the design is a complex process. With a growing number of authors self – publishing, understanding the psychology behind this choice is crucial.

Unfortunately in traditional publishing an author’s opinion isn’t always listened to, especially if the vision for their book does not match the publishers marketing strategy. There have been cases of authors leaving publishing houses due to disagreements on the cover art. This rang true to me recently when another blogger recommended the book Selection by Keira Cass; I had previously dismissed this series solely because the cover art projected an image that was ‘girly’ and ‘prissy’. I have now read the book and feel the cover has done the book an injustice.

In the traditional publishing world, there are whole departments devoted to cover design. The publishing houses give a brief to a designer, which usually stipulates that the design should articulate the contents of the book. You’d think this was obvious, but a book might be more suited to a more conceptual design.

A self- published author can be left in a quandary as in how to approach this subject. Authors can emulate the process that the publishing house use, but the main thing is to take time and consider carefully, what you want, as it is your brand.

Some suggestion to get you thinking:


  1. What is the image/feel you wish to project? E.g. A “Literary” novel cover is often understated, serious and elegant, withy heavy weighted paper and considered fonts.
  2. Decide on your budget. Can you afford to hire a graphic artist? If you have a large budget then Chip Kidd is the designer you want, probably no.1 in book cover designs at the moment. Have a look at his gallery If you have a small budget approach some design schools and see if a students work catches your eye and negotiate with them.
  3. Look at current trends I personally do not like this. Remember when “Twilight” became a phenomenal success and every book following had a black cover with a single image.
  4. Do some market research, get a group of beta readers and have them read your book and give feed back on a selection of cover designs.
  5. Research psychology of colour and the emotions it creates.
  6. Research graphic/art techniques. For example the eye is drawn firstly to the top left hand corner of an image and then moves in a clockwise direction. This might affect your placement of images.
  7. Look up The Golden Mean/ Fibonacci Sequence used by artists for centuries. Many advertisers also use this technique.


If anyone has some suggestion on cover design please share.

8 thoughts on “Book Cover Design 101

  1. Lovely post – very informative. 🙂 I’m so very lucky to have a great friend who is absolutely AMAZING at graphic design who was willing to create the cover for my own book, but there was certainly quite a bit of thought that went into every element – the covers, the pictures, etc, etc, etc. These are wonderful tips!

  2. This is a really excellent summary of some of the concerns that authors should carry into looking for a book cover.

    I would add that typography is hugely important and the text should be part of the image rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. It’s also important to check any prospective cover at thumbnail size, because that is how most people will be seeing it until they click through to look closer.

    Thank you very much for sharing your thoughtful breakdown of cover technique! I’m a big fan of looking at some of the Elements of Design and I enjoy how you’ve carefully explained them here.

  3. As a reader rather than a writer, I so agree about not following current trends. Zillions of crime books over the last year or so have had a greyish cover usually with a woman walking away and looking backwards. They become indistinguishable and totally forgettable after a while…and they don’t jazz up a blog page so don’t stand out. My little ‘currently reading’ widget has had grey books so often recently that I bet nobody even looks at it any more! They probably think I never update it.

    • Yes totally agree, I stand at the book shelf and it all blurs together. This is what I like about Chip Kidd, he is one designer, but if you look at his gallery he has such variety in his designs.

  4. To me, the cover is just as important was what’s inside. I designed my own cover and once I was done I showed it around. I would ask if they would pick up the book. If they said no, then it’s back to the drawing board. Covers should reflect the emotions of the book. How the characters and the reader are going to feel through out it. But that’s just me. I don’t really like covers with people on them because what’s in my mind doesn’t always match what’s on the cover.

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