Book Cover Design: Your Ultimate Guide for Memorable Book Covers

Are you a Richard?

Richard put hours upon hours into writing a book he was proud of. He had it edited, spent the time to have others beta read it, and was SO happy with the results.

But…of all the many hours he spent on his book, on the proofing and even self-publishing it on Amazon, the cover design was not even a whole one of them.

And that’s where he failed.

And that’s what his low book sales were reflective of.

You see, Richard knew the contents of the book were important. What he failed to realize, however, is that people do, in fact, judge a book by its cover.

In reality, according to The Book Smuggler, 79% of people say book cover designs play a decisive role in their decision to purchase a book.

So, are you a Richard…or will you learn what it takes to design a book cover that will sell your book?

Here are our tips for how to design a book cover:

  1. Cost of book cover design
  2. How long it takes to design a book cover
  3. 7 steps to design your own book cover
  4. 7 steps to hire a professional book cover designer
  5. Starting your book today

NOTE: We cover everything in this blog post and much more about the writing, marketing, and publishing process in our VIP Self-Publishing Program. Learn more about it here

How much does it cost to design a book cover?

On average, you can expect to spend anywhere from $50 – $500 for a book cover design that’s professionally crafted.

There are always (worthwhile) expenses you incur when self-publishing your book. The total cost of your book cover design will vary based on a few key factors.

These rates of a book cover design depend on the following criteria:

  • cover designer’s experience
  • how intricate your book cover is
  • the time it takes to design
  • how many options you want to choose from
  • the cover designer’s expertise with cover design
  • the cover designer’s demand for work

What you want to remember is that your book’s cover is its very first impression to the world. Investing in this is above almost anything else (aside from book editing).

How long does it take to design a book cover?

The length of time it takes to design a good book cover can vary from a few hours when making it yourself to a few weeks if you choose to hire a cover designer.

Overall, we recommend our students allot roughly three weeks from initial touchpoint to self-publishing your book in order to ensure your cover is fully complete before launching your book.

However, please keep in mind that if you hire someone to design your book cover, they may not have availability right away. Meaning, reach out a few months before you want to launch your book in order to hire someone.

Design your own book cover

If you’re not quite ready to put your book in the hands of a professional designer, we have methods to help you design your own book cover.

#1 – Develop book cover ideas

We all typically have a thought about what we want our book covers to look like. Sometimes we even save images to our phone of covers we really like or want to emulate.

Your first step for designing your own book cover is compiling all these ideas into a single place.

You can find book cover ideas in all of these places:

  • Pinterest – sign on to Pinterest and look up “book covers” to get a ton of brilliant covers all in one place. This is also a great place to create a board specifically to save book covers for future reference.
  • Goodreads – There are so many books on Goodreads for you to look at as covers inspiration. You can even simply add these to your “to be read” list in order to save them for reference as well.
  • Google book cover ideas – Others have already done the work for you! Just go to Google and type in “book cover inspiration” and click on the “images” tab to be greeted with tons of great options you can save. Or you can check out helpful blog posts like this one on the 100 most creative book cover ideas.
  • Peruse Amazon in your book’s genre – This is by far the best method for coming up with book cover ideas. Simply go to your book’s genre by navigating to books > your genre > subgenre and look at the typical covers of bestselling books, like in the image below.
book cover design

#2 – Use free stock images for your book cover

Once you have an idea for your book, you may need to outsource the images by using free stock photo sites.

We highly recommend stock photos (if you can’t have professional ones taken) because they are readily available for use, unlike some you might find on Google and want to use.

Here are a few places you can get free photos for your book cover:

If you do want to up your game with stock photos, you can purchase licenses for the images (meaning oftentimes, you’re the only person who can use that image).

Here’s where you can find paid stock images:

#3 – Choose book cover fonts

Fonts matter! Depending on your genre, the style of your book, and even the vibe or voice you want to convey, your book cover fonts can make a major difference in how potential readers view your book.

For example, I used three different fonts to make up the covers in the images below. Depending on which font used, the title suddenly has a new meaning—and a new audience.

You have to make sure you’re using a font for your cover that coincides with its message, tone, and the audience you’re trying to reach.

#4 – Find the right book cover dimensions

You can’t design a book cover all willy nilly. The right book cover dimensions are crucial.

What are the proper book cover dimensions?

This is often your call and depends on your book formatting, but the most common paperback book dimensions are 6″ by 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm).

This doesn’t mean you have to use this size, but this is the most common size for a paperback book, and is Amazon’s default book dimension option if you publish through them.

Here are more book cover dimensions for the multiple platforms you may publish on:

Publishing PlatformFile FormatBook Cover Size (suggested)Cover Size Requirements
Amazon KDP
JPEG or TIFF- 2560 x 1600 pixels - Ratio of 1.6:1Between 1000 x 625 pixels AND 10000 x 10000 pixels. One side must be at least 1000 pixels long/wide.
Barnes & NobleJPG or PNG- Height and width of 1400 pixels minimum750 pixels minimum for height and width
Apple iBooksJPG or PNG- 1400 x 1873 px
- 1600 x 2400 px
1400 pixels wide as a minimum
Draft 2 DigitalJPEG- 1600 x 2400 pixelsTall rectangle of 1600 wide and 2400 pixels long
Kobo BooksJPG or PNG- 1600 x 2400 pixels1400 pixels wide as a minimum

#5 – Use free or paid cover design software

Now it’s time to put everything you’ve created and gathered together and design your actual book cover.

There are many different options to choose from, some of which don’t cost you additional money, while others do.

You don’t have to be an expert designer to create a great cover, but you do have to use certain methods to make it look like your book cover was designed by an expert (and we’ll cover professional book designs in a bit).

Using different design softwares, much like writing softwares, allows you to upload your work in a way that provides you with a clean finished results.

Here are our top free book cover designs softwares to use:

These are design softwares that are more advanced, and therefore not free:

#6 – Create 3 different cover options

Instead of creating one solid cover, make three very different cover options. You never know what your audience will find most appealing.

When you only make one cover, you’re limiting yourself to only one option, which might not be what’s best to maintain high book sales.

For that reason, we always recommend to our students to have at least three different book cover options available for them to narrow it down from.

#7 – Test your book cover options with an audience

You can’t possibly know what will resonate well with your audience. Sure, if you’ve done your book research on your specific genre, you’ll have a good idea, but that’s not always a sure thing.

We’re often too close to our books to accurately determine what’s best for it.

This is why we have someone else edit it. Fresh eyes can make a major difference on deciding what’s best.

We recommend joining a group (for our students, it’s our Mastermind Facebook group) or sending your cover options out to a group of people in order to get feedback.

Here’s an example of one of our students posting their cover for feedback in our group:

book cover design

Hire a professional book cover designer

Sometimes you just have to leave the professional work to, well, the professionals.

There are tons of advantages to using a professional book cover designer instead of doing it yourself:

  1. They can create custom designs, instead of using stock photos
  2. They have inside knowledge about the book cover world
  3. They will almost always make something of higher quality
  4. You can trust that your cover will be good for its genre

There are many ways you can go about hiring a cover designer, one of which we discuss in the video below, but following our steps for working with a professional will help you come away with the best book cover you can.

#1 – Put together book cover inspiration

Much like we discussed in the section on creating your own book cover, there are so many ways to find cover designs you like.

We mentioned perusing Pinterest, searching for book cover inspiration on Google, and even heading to your book’s genre on Amazon to find what covers are performing best.

The main difference when working with a professional designer is that you should compile these ideas somewhere you can share with them.

Ultimately, they will create a cover they know to be great for your book, but they also want to know your vision for the project as well.

#2 – Research popular book covers in your genre

We touched on this in the above section as well, but when looking for book cover ideas, spend some time to research what’s populat in your genere.

Your cover designer will likely have experience creating in your genre (if you chose one wisely, at least) and can help with this but giving them a starting point will help you get to the cover you’ve always wanted, faster.

#3 – Hire a book cover designer you like

Finding a cover designer can be tricky. Here are Self-Publishing School, we actually provide a Rolodex of talented book cover designers (as seen in the image below) in order to allow our students to cut down on expenses and time spent searching.

hire book cover designer

That being said, there are many methods for finding cover designers.

Here are the many places you can find book cover designers for hire:

Once you find a book cover designer you want to work with, the rest of this process continues.

#4 – Communicate your ideas about the book cover

Be as clear with your design as you can about what you want and expect for your book cover.

Remember, they’re not miracle workers, but if their experience is in line with what you’re looking for, be very upfront about what you want.

Share your book cover inspiration ideas with them in order to give them an idea of what to create for you.

Another thing they’ll ask is what your book is about. Give them the core elements, the style of it, and the tone you want it to have along with who your core audience is.

#5 – Ask for 1-3 options

At minimum, you should have 2 different cover options completed, though we highly recommend 3 in order to get a wider range of what you truly want.

This allows you to find the cover that BEST suits what you’re looking for.

Like in the example from our very own team member, Michael Lachance’s book, Land Your Dream Job, these cover design options should vary greatly from one another, and not just be different in their text or colors. Make this very clear to your designer—most offer 3-4 cover options within their packages already.

cover design

#6 – Test your book cover options with an audience

The above image is an example of getting feedback of your cover design. It’s always a good idea to run the final cover options through a feedback group in order to see what OTHER people resonate with.

Sometimes your target market will like a book cover that isn’t your favorite.

While it’s completely up to you which cover to go with, remember to keep your audience in mind. After all, your book is for them, not for you.

#7 – Finalize your cover options

The final step for your book cover design is to finalize it! Work with yoru designer to choose your favorite design, finalize the color and font options, and that’s it!

We recommend hosting a book cover reveal as a way to stir up more anticipation for your novel before your book launch as well!

Ready to start writing your bestselling book TODAY?

Book covers are just a single, albeit important, part of the book publishing process.

In order to do your book justice, check out our free training on how to write a bestselling book!

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Bella Rose Pope

Bella Rose Pope is the Content Creation Specialist here at Self-Publishing School. While she's not whipping up content here, she's creating her own Youtube videos, fiction writing tips blog posts, hanging out with her dog, and eating something with cheese!Give her a follow: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Youtube

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