Perfect Book Covers: Professional advice for indie writers to design your own bo







Perfect Book Covers.

Professional Advice to design your book cover.



Pablo Daniel Rodriguez

London, October 2016


All rights reserved. Total or partial reproduction of this work, or its incorporation into a computer system, or transmission in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) is not permitted without prior written authorization from the copyright holders. Infringement of such rights may constitute an offence against intellectual property.








Given the nature of this book, examples of commercial book Covers currently on sale are included. I am not the owner or designer of those covers and I’ve only portrayed them for teaching purposes and in low resolution to avoid any unauthorized use. If you are the copyright holder of these designs and want to remove your cover from this book, please contact me at [email protected] and I’ll remove it immediately.



Why do you write?


I invite you to follow a little exercise. Think about your book. Try to understand the general idea and the emotions it conveys.

Only in four words. Okay; six words… No more than a sentence.

Got it?

Congratulations! You just created the basis for designing your perfect cover.


This book has a very simple goal. I’ll try, through simple tips, to give you the support you need so your book cover can reach several readers; even if you decide to design it by yourself or hire a professional.


My intention is to help authors who self-publish their works to improve the presentation quality of their books.


Information is power and this book gives you all the information you need to make your covers look professional so they sell more.



What you WILL and WON’T find in this book


Before we begin, I want to clarify what you WON’T find in this book:

p<>{color:#000;}. I won’t teach you how to use any software

p<>{color:#000;}. I won’t give you any magical formula so you can create your book cover in five minutes.

p<>{color:#000;}. You won’t find long academic explanations in this book.


What you WILL find in this book:


In this book, I’ve portrayed my twenty years of experience in applied graphic design. You’ll find simple techniques to understand what works and what doesn’t work when deciding to create a cover for your book.


A simple and direct language, so all the important information won’t be lost in lengthy explanations.


And last but not least, I’ll offer you applicable advice, which you can use to improve your sales.


The time you invest in reading this book (which I promise will be short) will result in tremendous progress in your career as a writer.


If you’re determined to design your own cover, or if you’re going to hire a professional to do it; the information contained in these pages will be of enormous value to achieve that desired goal.


Before you begin designing your cover, read the whole book.

The purpose of a cover: The packaging of your story


Your cover is the first contact you have with any potential reader. What do you want to tell them? What would you like them to know right away?

You have a great story, you’ve invested thousands of hours of preparation, reflection, writing and editing. Your story is very good, and you want to share the excitement you felt when writing it with a lot of people. You’re investing a great effort to promote your work, you spend a lot of time contacting potential readers, bloggers and critics. You’re taking this seriously.


Why would you think you can design a low quality cover for your book?


There are three key factors to get a potential reader to buy your book. The first one is the Cover, then the Synopsis and finally the Reviews and Recommendations you’ve acquired from your first readers, bloggers and critics.

In the “collective sub-conscious” or “current cultural trend” there are several factors that determine the interpretation of a message.

People “see” what they’re used to seeing.


If your book is digital, it’s essential for you to transmit assurance and professionalism to your potential reader, so he or she will decide to buy it. And don’t forget that you’ll be competing with thousands of other professional covers.


A “homemade”, unprofessional cover can discourage your potential reader, because usually people will also think that the book content will also be amateur.




Professional Tip No 1



Who will read your book?


Your ideal reader is the typical reader of content and stories like the ones you write. He is the stereotype of a very specific and particular demographic group. It is the ideal person within the market niche that you want to serve with your work. You have to know, understand and serve that person.

Write for that person, your goal is to connect with his mind, to speak to his emotions and ultimately change his life… Even by a little.

The time you invest in getting to know your ideal reader will be the best investment you’ll make. This is the purpose of your literary work.


Below, I present some of the basics that may help you identify your ideal reader. Be specific in your answers, don’t be vague or generalize.


p<>{color:#000;}. Define him in a single word if you can. (Adventurer, Entrepreneur, Traveller, Cook, etc.) “I write books for people who…”

p<>{color:#000;}. Do you write for men, women or both?

p<>{color:#000;}. Within what age range?

p<>{color:#000;}. How do they spend their money? What do they work in?

p<>{color:#000;}. Where do they live? (A country, region, city)

p<>{color:#000;}. What language do they speak?

p<>{color:#000;}. Do they read as a hobby or in search of information?

p<>{color:#000;}. What kind of film, series, or documentary films would they watch at the theatres and Netflix™?

p<>{color:#000;}. What expectations do they have in life? What are they looking for? What problems do they face?


Remember that your ideal reader isn’t necessarily like you.


You may find several types of ideal reader. Don’t get frustrated and continue writing your book with this audience in mind. Gradually your writing style will be clearly defined.


Take a sheet of paper and fearlessly write all the features you’ve found and any others you can think of about your ideal reader. Then, summarize it in a single paragraph. This paragraph will now be your writing guide and will serve your target audience. Don’t lose it and update it if necessary. The benefits of focusing on your ideal reader are incalculable.


Now that you know “who” your ideal reader is, work for that person with dedication and focus. Think about what they want, what they need, what emotions they want to achieve.


Grow fond of them, befriend your ideal reader and understand once and for all that you’re working for their benefit. The more meaning you give to their lives and the better you make them feel, the more rewards you’ll get as a writer and content creator. You’ll maximize your focus and you’ll be able to create increasingly interesting content for your potential fans.



Professional Tip No 2



Before even thinking about the cover, finish your book…


Before thinking about the packaging (cover), you first need to finish your work as a writer. Write, finish, and then you’ll have a “clean” head to devote all your attention to the other things you have to learn before your book becomes a Best Seller.


If you still haven’t finished your manuscript, here you’ll find five simple techniques that helped me a lot at first and which I still use.


5 tips to finish your book:



1. Write a synopsis. What is your book about?

Outline the main ideas and pivot points. Target all the information you need to continue the plot. Don’t make it longer than a page, so you’ll be able to re-read and re-plot your story or information at a glance.


2. From this summary or detailed synopsis, create a timeline. Here you’ll create the chapters and the internal sections within them. Define titles and subtitles, which will guide you in what you need to write in each section. Pay careful attention to where you’ll reveal your surprises or crucial information, to maintain tension and keep the attention of your readers.

Once you’ve created this template, be flexible, while you write and adapt it to allow your book to flow naturally.


3. Set a schedule. Personally, I like writing in the evening/night; because during the day I think about the ideas and when I’m writing I don’t think about what I need to do next. (Work, shopping, children)


4. Write at least 1000 words per day. Or a page. Or… set your own goals, stick to them and don’t change them.

Carry a notebook and a pen everywhere you go and have it close by when you go to sleep. If you suddenly get an idea about your next paragraph, the book’s structure, or on how to address that topic you’ve been stuck on for days, write it down immediately. Don’t wait! If you leave it for later you’ll forget it. Write whatever comes into your head and treasure it. Remember that at some point your books will begin to write themselves…


5. Don’t correct, just write. You’ll get a chance to return and make all those necessary changes.


Remember that an e-book is a living document that can be updated at any time, but if you decide to print a number of your books, you can’t change them once they’re printed. Correct once you’re done, and correct again. And then, when you’re sure that you have the best version you can accomplish, Publish it!

Choose a good title


A book’s title is an extension of the author’s work and should reflect the work’s content in a single sentence; the shorter, the better. This doesn’t mean you should specify any details, just suggest them.


Tips for a good Title:


1. Brainstorming.

2. Subconscious work: Carry a small notebook everywhere and write down anything that comes into your head.

3. A title should suggest symbols and emotions. Even in the case of an “info-product” you need to appeal to the reader’s emotions.

4. Don’t use proper names unless they suggest information or give depth to your calling.

5. Read your title out loud. It should sound natural and fluid. Be careful of phonetically complicated sentences or foreign words.

6. Don’t be afraid to change your title if you find a better one. But never change it after publishing; this can lead to serious complications, as your readers may think you’ve published a new book and find themselves buying the same work twice.


“I make a list of titles after finishing a novel or story.

Sometimes I write a hundred possibilities.

Then I begin to erase them. Sometimes I erase them all”

Ernest Hemingway




Creating a “Leitmotif” or “Hook Phrase”


I want to focus on another tool underused by new authors, but which no serious editor overlooks: “The Hook Phrase”.


Some call it “Leitmotiv” (from the German leiten, ‘to guide’, ‘direct’ and motiv, ‘reason’)



Unless you’re a well known author, which means that your name is your biggest “hook” (Dan Brown, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Isabel Allende, Jose Saramago, Jorge Luis Borges), you’re always advised to use a phrase that invites the reader to keep reading.


For NONFICTION BOOKS, this technique will help define the Subtitle, which is an integral part of the cover in all information pieces. A good subtitle is as essential as a good hook phrase.


Generally the “Hook Phrase” will be included in the book cover (and all promotions); and along with the title and the images it’ll be the main tool used to communicate you book’s values, it’ll also be a large deciding factor in your readers’ minds.


The technique is:


Without thinking about the plot, you need to find at least 3 statements and/or 3 questions, that indicate the problems your protagonist will face in the book. These can be loose statements, or unanswered questions. You can use these questions-claims directly or summarize them in a short sentence, which should never be more than two lines of text, that express the unknowns and key moments of your work. But beware!; don’t reveal anything about the plot.


There are many who detract from this technique in the world of digital publishing, because they state that the phrase is illegible on the screen when the book is in bookstores lists. The truth is that even though one can’t read the hook phrase at first glance on the screen; they can see that there’s more information. And if the images and book title have done a good job at planting the seed of intrigue in the reader’s mind, he’ll know that there’s more information just a click away… And voila! You’ve captured a potential reader for the four seconds needed for him to decide to buy your book.




Professional Tip No. 3




Style, Gender and Conventions

There are three (or four) “official” Literary Genres:


The Lyric: This includes songs, hymns, odes, elegies, eclogues, satires and romances.

The Epic: This includes epic tales, epic poems, short stories, novels and fables.

The Drama: This includes tragedy, comedy, melodrama, tragicomedy and farce.


As a fourth unofficial literary genre, we could refer to the Informative Teaching: which includes, for example, the biography, essay, chronic, philosophical treatises and oratory or speeches. We could include all kinds of journalistic writing, opinion and knowledge dissemination.


When literary genres run into bookselling channels, things get complicated, because each library tends to create categories and sub-categories to help the potential reader find the kind of book they are looking for.


Have you noticed that most of the covers within the same genre/category are very similar?



If you’re observant you’ll find patterns, for example on film posters. If you look carefully, action films tend to have a very different “aesthetic” form romantic films.


The same happens with a book. The important thing I that your potential audience will understand your message at first glance if you are able to access your potential reader’s “way of seeing things”.

It’s a great mistake to try to be creative or seem different to stand out.



Your book cover isn’t for you. It’s not your “baby”.


You need to design a book cover that will attract the reader and be very sincere. There’s nothing worse than deceiving the reader with a cover that offers something that the book doesn’t contain.


Your book cover is your first sales pitch.


You need to look like a Best-seller to draw your readers’ attention and get the opportunity of them reading your work.


You don’t want them to ask themselves questions as soon as they see your book cover:


What genre is it? In what time period is it set?

With that main picture, will it be romantic or erotic?


It has a picture of a forest, but the title doesn’t say anything

Is it a book about botany or the adventures of a brawny lumberjack?


Don’t try to surprise your reader with the cover. That’s not its function. People who see your cover won’t have the slightest idea of what your book is about or your style as a writer.


Element proportions


You need to distribute the elements that will make up your cover in a harmonious and coherent way, to give your potential reader an attractive and organized experience. If your cover is well planned, the potential reader will be swept away by the various elements in a journey that will introduce him squarely into the content of your book. Remember: the biggest things are usually interpreted as being closer and are the first thing one sees in a

graphic composition.






Find *Momo,] [[*is a collection of photographs that perfectly illustrates this example: Without having to read beyond the title and with the images it includes, we understand that this is about a dog’s journey, due to the main character or main element along with the yellow van in the background.]



Focal Point:


This is the first visual element the reader will see on your cover. It acts as a “scanning” starting point for your cover and must have the specific function of capturing attention.

Usually, the focal point is central or at the top centre, but there are several ways to guide the buyer’s eye to your focal point.

You need to look for an element that is well-balanced with the book title and which causes a clear emotion in your potential reader. This will catch their attention for long enough so they can pay attention to the other elements on the cover, and for them to want more information.

You’ll need to experience and above all look for the best combination of:

A) The type of font chosen for the title and author’s name.

B) The main image.


The focal point will be highlighted as the first visual element due to its size, colour contrast or brightness, perspective, etc…

When searching for the images that will make up your cover, have this concept in mind.










The cover of this best-selling novel by John Grisham, highlights a main visual element which isn’t necessarily the largest one, but which uses perspective to help guide our eyes towards the woman who runs on the lonely road.


Another essential concept when designing our covers is to understand how “visual scanning” works in most people.


The “Z” rule


The “Z” rule is based on the study of how we usually read a page. In our culture, we read form from left to right, to them move downwards to the left again, to finish at the bottom right. This movement has a “Z” shape and gives us the opportunity of distributing some key elements within our cover.

For example, we’re most likely to see the items in the top left corner of the cover first, so we need to use this section wisely. Even though it’s not advisable to place the title on top, you can include a significant section of the main image. If the author’s name is pretty well-known, use that section, or include a hook phrase or outstanding review. Leaving the more formal elements such as the publisher’s name as a footer. There is a caveat in applying this rule: Don’t lose sight of your design’s symmetry

Another best-seller, James Patterson, uses the concept of visual guiding in this great cover. His name and main texts have been shifted to the left, leaving an armed man running down a street in the background and finally the recommendations of other famous authors.




A concept that helps give a sense of stability or movement to your designs, is symmetry. There are basically two ways to use it, and this will depend on the feeling you want your reader to have. We say that a design is symmetrical when one draws a vertical and/or horizontal line, directly in the middle of it and all parts contain the same amount of visual information. Any design becomes asymmetric when it doesn’t have a balance between its “halves”.

A symmetrical design will give your message a sense of stability, while an asymmetric one will make your brain thing that “everything is moving”, an effect that with practice you can use to transmit action at a first glance.




Symmetrically balanced photography Shifted balance photography

(Bursa pixabay.com) (Morzaszum Pixabay.com)




Another technique that aids in highlighting the main elements is playing with perspective. There are countless variations, but as a concept visual perspective will place certain items first put before the reader’s eyes, creating the feeling that “everything” is targeted towards that point will play with the size of the other elements to create “sub-planes“or secondary planes, which will create the illusion that those other elements are moving away. This technique can create a 3D feeling for your potential reader, as if there were an entry to your book, or like something as coming out of the cover.


You need to play with the sizes and proportions to obtain the desired result.



Air and empty space:

Something I’d like to personally recommend you is to let your cover breathe.

This means allowing the elements to have some space between them, which will allow your prospective buyer to naturally jump from one to another. If a cover is too full of items and compressed, it’s be almost immediately rejected. You can use an overloaded font and balance it with an almost pastel soft background. There are numerous techniques, but if you’ve grasped the idea, you’ll immediately recognize what I’m talking about.


Light and Contrast

Shape perception results from lighting differences in the visual field, as well as of our ability of stereoscopic vision. Our eyes are about eight centimetres apart, which gives us a different perspective of every object we see, and gives us the information our brain needs to see in three dimensions.


If we put a white ball on a white background; and illuminate both ball and background equally, removing all the shadows: the ball will almost disappear. The visual field contrast is so small that perception of the shape is imperceptible.

However, if we place the light source in such a way that one side of the ball is lit while the opposite side receives less light; we’ll create a stark contrast. Our brain will have enough information to create a strong perception of the shape.



By playing with lighting, both in the images we choose, and in the fonts we use; we’ll create an illusion of depth and three-dimensional reality, which will enhance the visual experience of your book’s prospective buyer.



As I advised, don’t get obsessed with these concepts.

Only keep them in mind when working with your designs.

What kind of software do I need to use?


Generally, to create a cover you’ll need a program that allows you to create a JPG or GIF type image as well as generate a PDF file.

My recommendation is to look for an image processing program (even freeware if you want), that will allow you to work with layers and which has at least a basic retouching tool. (Blur, Clone, Buffer, etc.). With this program you’ll be able to create the visual part of your cover, and will be able to freely move and fuse elements. Though many of this image processing programs have a built-in text-inclusion function, I personally prefer the freedom of a vectorial text program to which I can import my “final photographic art” (which I created on the image processing software) and where “I can play” with the text as I like.


Use programs you feel comfortable with.


Remember that you’ll always need to transform your text to vectors (turn to curves) or pixels (export as image), because otherwise several printers will have problems when interpreting your font. If you export as a PDF you’ll have the option of “embedding” fonts, but I’ll say, from experience, that this doesn’t always work correctly; especially if you’ve included effects on your texts.



You need to keep the final effect you want to achieve in mind and find a way to achieve it with the program you choose. At least approximating a professional level.


There are some websites that allow you to create your cover directly from them (Amazon ™, Canva ™, Create Space ™, etc.), the bad thing about these covers is that they use an image, setup or photography; and don’t allow you to add visual elements and effects. (These will probably improve over time).




Professional Tip No. 4



Quickly scribble a simple sketch.


Usually my sketches are very primitive, schematic and ugly. I only want a visual aid that will help me when I start the hard process of looking for images and choose fonts.

A guide; a decision about what I want to do. A mind map. Otherwise I’d go crazy trying to piece together the abstract idea I have in my head during the design process.


Get that idea out of your head and put it on paper. Don’t be afraid, it can be an ugly sketch, but it will be the foundation of your cover.


1. First choose your book cover’s size. You can follow your printer’s specifications, if you’ve decided to self-publish; or of the digital service that will print your book on demand. Even if you’re designing and e-book cover, you’ll need to know the optimal size to make it look as best as it can in reading devices.


A good trick is to measure a book you have at home and compare it with the size of your future project, or even the ebook reader screen you use; and create a template with those measurements. Take a plain or gridded sheet of paper, and draw the box that will contain your design with these measures. You may have to do this several times, so if you’re using a computer program you can create and print a template there as often as you need to.


2. It’s important for you to have a well define title when sketching, as well as a subtitle if you’re going to use one, and the author name you’ll use. You’d be surprised at how many authors decide to change the way in which they place their name on the cover when they see the finished design.


3. You have to have a clear idea of the category in which you want to include your book when you put it on sale.


Now you need to do some personal research.


Open trustful book selling websites (Amazon ™, B & N ™, Casa del Libro ™, etc.) and look for the twenty best-selling books in the two main categories where you wish to include your book.

If you have time, tore some real bookstores in your city and look at the shelves and tables where the books in your category are exposed. Touching the covers and seeing how other professionals and printers work is quite an experience. There are true geniuses in cover creation!


[*Look for models for inspiration, but you should never copy the cover of another author! *]

I will repeat it: You should never plagiarize the cover of another author!


You need to look like the bestsellers of your category but while maintaining your originality and style. Your cover need to be unique, original and portray your own work, not someone else’s. Create your own cover.


Observing what others do will give you some ideas on how to “fit in your category” and that’s what we want at this time.


Design Tip:

Choose five covers from your category that catch your attention and resonate with the cover idea your book should have. Create a folder on your computer and keep them there, or print them out and save them for your following design steps.


4. Once you have an idea in mind (I assume you’ve read this book to the end before you start sketching), then the game begins. Draw your title with fonts that seem most appropriate, sketch the main images you have in your mind and which you’ll search for later. Look for the best positions for each element.

Erase and move things. If you’re not happy with the results, start again on a new sheet.


It doesn’t need to be a professional drawing, draw the people that will be on the cover even if they’re stick figures, but adds the details you’d like to see on the picture, create a provisional hook phrase, think about what word will stand out the most in your title and why.


5. Don’t fixate on an idea. If you have to go out and take a walk before continuing, do it. If you have to leave your design for tomorrow because you’re stuck, stop.

If you have to start sketching from the beginning, don’t be sorry, just start over.


He who designs, permeates his work with his own emotion.


Your final work will transmit the energy that vibrates from your soul at the moment of deign creation.

Make sure that your enthusiasm is quite high; work with joy and passion. Your potential reader will notice, I assure you, and I thank you.

Come on! Let’s draw!


Professional tip no.5




When you design a book cover, the saying you’ve heard many times makes a lot of sense:


“A picture is worth a thousand words”


What kind of image am I looking for?


You’re mainly looking for “Evocative Images”. You don’t need to be too specific or look for much detail.


As we’ve previously discussed in this book, the idea is to send a clear visual message to your potential reader so they’ll be interested in your work. We don’t want to go into detail. Imagine you’re trying to tell a stranger “what your book is about” in the time it takes an elevator to go from the ground floor to the fifth floor. You won’t go into much detail, you need to be direct and specific. The same happens with your book cover. You don’t need to delve into it, just suggest what the story is about. If you feel tempted to talk about a particular scene, don’t.

Find an image to tell your reader what kind of story or information they’ll find in your book:


“Ahh, it’s about murderers!”

“It’s a book about exercising to lose weight”

“It’s a romance set in the past”

“Sea and a black flag with a skull… A book about pirates”


You aren’t trying to get everyone who sees the cover to attempt to figure out what the book is about.


You’re targeting a specific audience. You’re looking for the reader who likes the kind of stories you tell, or who needs the information you have.


Once the visual information capture your potential reader’s attention, the title, subtitle and hook phrase, will do the rest.

Where to find images:

First of all: DON’T look for images on Google™.


Using search engines ins’t a good idea for two basic reasons:


1. These images almost always have a copyright, and you’re not allowed to use them without permission from the photographer. If you do, you’re exposing yourself to a possible copyright lawsuit. You wouldn’t like to be plagiarized; then don’t do that with your images.


2. The resolution is usually terrible. These are often very small images, based on web design standards, and can’t be used to create an acceptable design. If, however, the picture is of high quality, it’s almost always copyrighted or has been “stolen” to use it in wallpaper sites.



There are several web sites in which you can find photographs and even complete layouts, of high quality without having to pay a penny.

You only need to consider the type of licence and whether it’s suitable for commercial use. Even though your book is going to be distributed for free, my recommendation is for you to read the licences carefully when you find the perfect image, you never know if you’ll decide to sell your work in the future.


Here you’ll find a list of Stock images, which I occasionally use and where you’ll find free or fairly affordable images:

Free good quality images:






Paid excellent quality images:

fotolia.com Best value for money, with millions of images.

shutterstock.com This is another website of high quality and somewhat higher prices.


I’ve found that a 1900 × 1000 pixel image works well on book covers, but if you want to print a giant image or a 2 meter sign, using the same picture, you’ll need to buy the largest size possible.


Also consider that if you only want to use a part of the picture and enlarge it to make it fit on your cover, it may lose some resolution.


Once you choose your images, download them and enlarge them slowly on your computer screen. This will give you an idea of how much you can frame it without diminishing its quality.


Remember, if you found the perfect image for your cover on one of these websites, another person may have used the same picture.


Search the first 50 or 100 books in your category and check if anyone has used the same image for their cover. If you find that someone has already chosen that same image, don’t despair. Think:


“Can I use this in any other way?”


You can always use a significant section, give it a mirror effect, a colour layer or even combine multiple images to create your own original work.

Recommendation: if the end result of your design looks a lot like a cover that already exists, find another image and change your design.


Source: blackplume.wordpress.com

Using your own pictures:

If you’re a photography fan or enthusiast, you can try to use your own shots on your cover. But unless you’re a professional, I don’t advise you to try out a single perfect shot, because the results may be pretty poor and remember that you’re conveying your emotions to your potential reader.


It isn’t a good idea to put a red hood on your teenage daughter and take her to a nearby forest to try and hey the perfect shot for your cover. It just doesn’t work that way.


Although, if you get lots of pictures, it’s possible to get the elements you need to compose or layout a good cover image.


My advice is don’t waste too much time trying to do it all by yourself.



Anyway… If you already have a picture that “resonates” in your head and you tell yourself: “I have to use it, is perfect”, then I try. But don’t stick to your first result. Extract all the elements that call your attention from that picture (using design programs you can cut, paste, delete backgrounds or characters) and combine them with other images that convey the message you want to transmit.


Final tip on choosing your cover image:

It isn’t a good idea to include the drawing your nephew did with some much love on your cover. Unless he’s an amazing illustrator, you’ll only convey a sensation of low literary quality on your content.


You can, however, combine a good background with elements from a good drawing and if the font choice (the letters you use) is correct, you’ll achieve a very strong effect. Ask yourself:

“If by chance I see this book in a bookstore, Would I buy it with this cover?”

This is a good question to ask on social network surveys.

Composing a scene

Add people and scenes


Choosing cover pictures is like taking a picture with a good camera.

I’m not talking about taking “selfies” at a party with your friends. It’s more like a photographic tour where you visit a specific place with your camera (the mountains, the countryside, a vineyard, the city at night, a flying club, a workshop, a sewing workshop…)

You choose a scene based on the type of pictures you want to shoot and you spend a couple of hours finding a frame, the perfect light, the desired scenarios, characters and elements that will make up your photographic creation.


When looking for images for your book, you’ll have to use the same procedure.

You aren’t looking for literalness, you’re looking for spontaneity and evocative images, in which the elements, characters and light, play to tell you a wordless story.


This is the magic of photography and also the reason why your book continues to sell due to its cover. You open a door to silent emotion, to silent instinct and you sneak into your potential reader’s heart.

It’s absolutely magical.


If you add people, do it in a way that suggests attitudes or emotions.


It’s important to understand the effect the person’s attitude has.


If you put a woman’s face smiling seductively with a cherry on her lips, this won’t be the best image for a book on gender violence.

People and their actions or attitudes, highlight an enormous amount of information to your potential reader.


Be personal, and show what your work transmits through images

of people with similar attitudes.



How to set up a good scene

You’ll often find the different items you need for your cover in several different photos. First, create a specific folder for your project on your computer and save in it all the pictures you think you could include in your cover.


Based on the sketch you did in the previous section, start looking for images in the sites I recommended and within certain parameters. If you search in English, you’ll almost always find more variety.


Once you’ve chosen the images, you’ll only need to buy the ones you’ll use on your final design.



You’ll find that after seeing several images, some will “catch your attention” based on your design idea, but some will have elements that interest you and others will have others. If you can use the right software, at least basically, you’ll be able to combine different elements to create the message you’re looking for:

“This scenery is great, but this girl’s face could be the central item and if I use transparency I can add some mystery to the final layout…”


Free your creative side and don’t limit yourself with preconceived ideas.


Add a title with provisional typography.


It’s very important for you to consider that your photographic composition must has to “maintain” certain spaces where you can place your book’s title and all necessary texts.


A good idea is to temporarily add your work’s title and see how the rest of the design looks like. (Always based on your sketch). You still don’t need to choose the font, or work with the texts; but when you begin to create an image composition, it’ll help you define the word placement space to get an idea of the final frame of your images.


Three covers very expressive and you can not read, but I bet you understand that the story goes.

Chromatic Circle and Colour Psychology.


In our modern society, the colour associated with a certain type of product or service, has influenced our subconscious in such a way that we instinctively associate a logo to a feeling.


Here I present a very brief list of colours and the sensations they produce. It isn’t a strict canon and you’ll see that at times you can use a colour/emotion to draw attention on a very different message. Don’t obsess, just keep this “unconscious influence” in mind when designing.





Some statistics


p<>{color:#000;}. 84.7% of consumers cite colour as their primary cause for purchasing a product.

p<>{color:#000;}. Colour ads in magazines and newspapers are read 42% more than ads in black and white.

p<>{color:#000;}. Colour increases ad understanding by 73%

p<>{color:#000;}. 93% of people who buy a product, decide to buy due to visual appearance. Only 6% is due to texture and 1% de to sound or smell.


Then, is it important for your book cover?


Colour contrast and the Chromatic Circle.


In our case, we’re very interested in the possibility of making our cover stand out from the other covers on the shelf (real or virtual), something designers exploit almost daily.


The predominant colours of a picture convey different messages and emotions, combining them properly will send a powerful message to the potential reader’s subconscious.


The chromatic circle helps us identify images that match the colours we need, which when combined attract immediate attention, if we use them properly (according to its implicit emotion) these techniques will help us create covers that stand out from the rest.


But don’t obsess over these details, knowing them will be enough to give you an idea of whether your cover is transmitting what you want to convey, nothing more.




A good cover with a single photograph.


If you don’t feel comfortable or able to create a visual layout from several different images; you can always do an exhaustive search and find a single image that expresses the idea you have in mind.


Below we present an exercise I designed specifically for this book; selecting an image from the pixabay.com portal and turning it into a cover without more process ing than cropping it to the desired size.




Professional Tip No. 6



Font as an expressive element.


Fonts have always been used by designers and artists as an additional element for visual communication, even without adding meaning to the text used; only due to the aesthetic content of the form.


If you’re going to write a series of books, maintaining a consistent visual identity can be your greatest ally whenever your reader’s “eyes” find your new books.


Beyond the meaning of words.


When you use different fonts for your book cover, remember that the text isn’t speaking by itself. You convey subliminal messages with the font you use and it’s important to know what they are.


A basic recommendation:


When using typography, find a special font for your title and design something original and beautiful.


The author’s name can have as similar font, but with a different treatment; more linear and formal.


The rest of the text (hook phrase, reviews, or any other information) will use a neutral font, adapted to accompany the author’s name.


The idea is to use a maximum of TWO different fonts on the cover, with a third very similar one which is similar to the author’s name if you have no other option.


Remember that your design should always look CLEAN and ELEGANT. Never overcrowded or confusing.


Different kinds of font: How to recognize them?


There are literally thousands of different fonts. But these are grouped in less than a dozen categories and these are the ones that will help you understand the aesthetics and function of each different type of font family.



The most common font families.


A font family is a group of fonts or characters that share common design features. Like people, members of a font family (the letters that compose it) resemble each other, maintaining its own features and functions. Known as fonts (from the French “fondre”, to pour/cast), font families are key when creating visually appealing designs that are consistent with the message we attempt to convey.


For the purpose of this book, the best classification is the DIN 16518, a standard typeface group based on common features.

table=. =. |=.
p={color:#000;}. Sans Serif |=.
p={color:#000;}. Roman |=.
p={color:#000;}. Script |=.
p={color:#000;}. Effect | =. |=.
p={color:#000;}. Linear

Grotesque |=.
p={color:#000;}. Antique




Incise |=.
p={color:#000;}. Calligraphy


Cursive |=.
p={color:#000;}. Fantastic

Decorated |





Choosing Fonts and Effects


Why choose one font over another?


Throughout our lives, and especially during our formal and academic education, we’ve been exposed to different texts. Each of them has left a mark on our psyche; a mark that makes us remember the kind of texts we’re used to reading when we see certain fonts.


Thus, using a font over another will express, even before reading the text, the message that our book wants to convey.


Fonts can be aged, cut, smeared, overlapped, spread, stretched and have thousands of effects that will give the reader immediate information on your work’s content.


It’s extremely important to choose the right font for your cover because you don’t want to misinform your potential reader.


If your images aren’t clear, the title isn’t completely straightforward and the font is inadequate, the reader won’t be able to identify if they’re interested in your book.


Always try to make sure the fonts go in the same direction as your images, so they can reinforce your message clearly and elegantly.


Very ornate or extremely deformed fonts aren’t at all recommended; as they turn into another graphic element and won’t convey the message your title is attempting to convey.


Besides from choosing a type of font to use, pay careful attention to their separation and the symmetry you want to create. Often certain fonts go better with certain images and not with others. In this case you’ll need to find the one that suits your current design best.


If you’re looking for very striking and original, yet free, typefaces I leave a couple of recommendations from sites I visit regularly.





Don’t install hundreds of fonts on your operating system as this will slow it down.


What font size to use?


I’ll be categorical: visible and striking.

Too big will ruin it. Too small won’t be read.


Both cases will cause the prospective buyer to keep walking.


Use a large size for the title while respecting the surrounding space, so that the design can breathe.


The author’s name can be of the same size or even be the cover’s main text. Although I advise you to leave it in the background if you’re just starting.


Applying consistent effects to your text.




Always try to make your texts LEGIBLE. Choosing a perfect font won’t help if it’s over a background that makes it disappear completely. Proper use of contrast ensures that your title does its job.


It’s better to find clear image areas and use strong and complementary colours; or dark image areas and use a white or almost imperceptibly degraded text.


Beware of textures and patterns, they can ruin a good text. Although when well used they can diffuse the end of your title with the image creating a solid and dynamic base.


Remember that your title should stand out and look good, even in the small pre-visualization of internet portals


Remember that spaces between letters should not be equal for all of them and that you’ll find the perfect separation by playing with them.

It’s highly recommended to manually move the capitalization separation, as text editors use separation for long sentences, but in this case you want that part to stand out. Play with separation and you’ll find the right spacing.




Stretching a text: Never too much, nor too little.

Be careful with this tool, as it can easily end up ruining a headline. It is generally a good idea to deform the text a little if you use a common font, to give it some personality.



Shadows and Outlines:


When you decide to use a light colour in your texts and your image isn’t helping you, you have two classic options for creating a sense of cropping.

Applying shadows is the most common one. Many programs will allow you to add an unfocused shadow behind any text or element of your design. If you do this naturally and without going over, you can give it a sense of three very attractive dimensions.

If you don’t have this possibility in your program, you can create a secondary layer with black or dark grey text move it a bit down and to one side. This will create a focused and direct shadow, which can also help you add readability to your text.

A third option is to add a line on the edge of your text (most programs allow this) and thus highlight your texts over difficult or multicoloured backgrounds.


Remember: You’re trying to increase the READABILITY of your title, not only to make it beautiful!


Colour and Texture:


If you observe most bestsellers carefully, you’ll be able to see that they use a lot of contrast between its images and texts. Photographs and backgrounds are displayed and designed thinking about the final placement of the texts.

As a rule of thumb, we agree that the less colour a text mixes, the better. There are exceptions and you’ll see that some designers include textures in the main text, always attempting to add encoded information as images to help the reader capture information about what they’ll find in the book. If you don’t know what colour to use, don’t use any.

White on a dark background is the most used one, and it almost always works well. If you’re having problems placing texts over the images, you can create a section of a solid colour that is related to the colours of the image, which will serve as a box or support for your texts.

Different combined sizes and styles:


An effect often used by designers is to highlight certain parts of the title that contain a major significance, minimizing articles and links. The, In, On, etc., can be reduced, turned italic (slanted letters) or even be included within the main body of the text by playing with colour contrast. Play with the sizes and positions until you find a shocking and striking layout.


What font to choose based on my category.


Your main goal is to capture your potential reader’s attention and to clearly convey what your book is about. Trying to seem different just because won’t benefit you when capturing your potential reader’s attention.


It’s very important for you to analyse current market trends and especially for you to study your competitors’ covers in your category. Many of them will be established authors with large teams of advisers, designers and publicists; who have analysed the market and specific niche or category, creating the best suited cover for that kind of book.


When most of the covers of a same category use a similar font, it’s due to a reason.


Emotional associations to different typefaces.


In the chart below, from Crazy Egg Blog, you will find the emotions transmitted by different typefaces. To create your cover you need to take into account the instant emotion-information you’re trying to convey. This chart will help you design your cover in consistence with the associations your potential reader will do and to adapt it better to your category.

These points of views are subjective, and will adapt to your design’s context.





Professional Tip No. 7



When you’re thinking about designing a cover for a printed book, you must take two elements into account that often don’t end up working properly: The Spine and Back.


Pay attention and check what size it’ll be.


The Spine as we saw above, is the side of your book, which covers the page union. When a book is bound, the number of sheets it contains will determine the size of its spine as well as the area you have to design its content. You’ll have to resort to the publishing or printing company that is managing your printing to give you this area. It isn’t worth it to sit and layout a great spine if it’ll be cut in half due to your book’s measurements.


Two classic choices:


1. Your book has few pages, so the spine of the printed version is very narrow.


2. Your book has a lot of pages and you have sufficient space to work.


Why is it so important to take some time to design the spine?


When you’re not a best seller or well known author, you’ll be very lucky if bookshops place your book in a shelf with its cover to the front.

After the promotion period, which publishers set from a few weeks to a few months, your book will hopefully be put away on a shelf.


When your book is placed on a shelf, you can only see the spine, it’s extremely important to make it catchy to the eye.


Based on your work area, you’ll have to find a way to fit the whole idea of your cover into a tiny space.




Some recommendations.


With a narrow-spine book, the important thing is to capture the buyer’s attention by combining colours.


Don’t try to add small pictures or play with the images, because you’ll give a confusing message. You can extend the bottom of the cover to use it on your spine or select a solid colour that’ll contrasts with your title.


Make your title very readable and leave the author’s name on the background. Try to make the title as large as possible; some designers even cut a bit or the top and bottom to maintain readability, to give the impression that there’s more information hidden in the front of the book.


This is one of the many reasons why the choice of title is an important hook when capturing attention. If your title has a number, highlight it. (11 Reasons to… 9 Tips to… 3 Secrets) Lists and numbers always attract attention.




If your spine’s work area has more than two centimetres, you can begin to play with your cover elements.


Just like before, try to extend the cover’s background so it’ll create continuity and invite the buyer to keep looking.


If you’ve put any characters on the cover, it’ll be a good chance to include them on the spine.


Play with the title’s position using the same font, adjusting the position of the words so they form a single line of text.


You can also add the book publisher’s seal, it’s always good to show that people support you.


The author’s name will be in second or third place.


This layout will be a summary cover, so it won’t be good to overload it.


Don’t make up anything new, your spine has to be the natural continuation of your cover.

What matters is its readability and the message it’ll convey.

Elements for a selling back cover


The back is certainly the place for your second sales pitch. If you manage to get anyone to pick up your book off the shelf and hold it in his hands, you’ve managed to struck a cord with the reader, and now they want to confirm whether the book contents are what they’re looking for.


The back text should be a suggestive synopsis of the book, which invites your potential reader to read inside to learn more.


The back isn’t a place to talk about yourself.


Some authors write a whole new chapter as back cover information; or even include a complete biography with bibliography…


I have bad news: If they want to know more about you as an author or person, they’ll look for information on the Internet.


If a back text is too long, it will make the reader scan the content and can make them discard your book for being a “bore”.


Personally, I think that a text should be short, with no more than two hundred and fifty words. Straight to the point.


Think that you want to get your reader interested in the contents of the book and not to give much detail on your character’s names and situations.


A bookstore isn’t a place to read, it’s a place to buy.


If you can’t tell what your book is about and add some intrigue in 250 words… You’re doing it wrong.



A very useful technique:


Use the technique of statements and questions. This technique is simple: Create five affirmative sentences about your book’s plot or content and make three questions that will get the potential reader interested in finding out the answers. For example:



“He went in search of his destiny and met his death”

“He trusted in the wrong person and that was his mistake”


“What does the Sacred mountain hide?”

“What secret has this lost town kept for so long?”


For a technical, information or self-help book, statements will be straight to the point and questions will target the problem you solve with your book:


“Lose 3 kilos in two weeks with the plink plink Method…”

“Get one more hour a day with these simple tricks”

“Did you know you can work from home and live the life you dream?”


Creating your own statements and questions will help you structure your text.


Use these combined techniques and your back text will be irresistible.


Your back cover design.


Just as we stated that your spine should be a continuation of your cover, we apply the same theory to this section. The essential thing is that it looks like a natural continuation of your cover and at the same time make sure the image contains enough space so that the text is displayed with good contrast.


Use the same font you used with your “hook phrase”, and don’t make it much larger. You can add the title in a smaller size at the top, but remember that the back cover information or synopsis shouldn’t be written in an ornate or “frill” font. You want to be readable and straightforward. Remember not to overload the design, leave some “air” around your items and guide your reader’s eye based on the most important information to help them decide to buy your book.


249 Words 231 Words



Other back cover items

This is also a place where you can include some other important elements.


The ISBN bar code (or ASIN if you’re using Amazon for example) must be located in an area established by your distributer, which is usually in the lower right corner of your back cover.


On the left, close to the ISBN, you can add some contact information like your Facebook fan page, and your own website or blog if you have one. There are codes called QR, which are direct links to your online information and which are very popular as they can be read with your mobile phone, allowing access to information without having to typing cumbersome addresses.

It’s also important to add the name of your publisher, if you have one.

[Now that you’ve read this book, you know what you want from your cover.
If you still don’t want to do it by yourself, let me offering you my services:]


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Page 56

Perfect Book Covers: Professional advice for indie writers to design your own bo

Seven tips for indie writers to design your book cover as a professional. My intention is to help authors who self-publish their works to improve the presentation quality of their books. Information is power and this book gives you all the information you need to make your covers look professional so they sell more. I invite you to follow a little exercise. Think about your book. Try to understand the general idea and the emotions it conveys. Only in four words. Okay; six words... No more than a sentence, please. Got it? Congratulations! You just created the basis for designing your perfect cover. This book has a very simple goal. I'll try, through simple tips, to give you the support you need so your book cover can reach several readers; even if you decide to design it by yourself or hire a professional.

  • Author: Pablo Daniel Rodriguez Sanchez
  • Published: 2016-11-01 12:35:48
  • Words: 9720
Perfect Book Covers: Professional advice for indie writers to design your own bo Perfect Book Covers: Professional advice for indie writers to design your own bo