The cover is the last stop in crafting your book. Edit the final draft of your manuscript before starting on the cover. The dimensions of the cover are determined by the number of pages, the paper color (white or cream), and the trim size of your book. Prematurely designing the cover may result in a redesign once the final draft is complete.
The best thing to do before designing your cover is to go to the library or on a site like Amazon and look at 10-50 books in your genre. Get an idea of the front, back, and spine of the book – the layout, pictures, fonts, and other elements included on each. Take note of how you feel about each cover. Does it make you want to read it? Despite warnings to the contrary, people DO judge a book by its cover. A poorly designed cover brands you as an amateur and will have a negative impact on sales. Make sure the design sufficiently reflects the work you put into writing the book.
The front cover includes your title, subtitle, and author’s name, along with any photos or graphics. The back cover can include a description of the book, book reviews, a headshot, your bio and credentials, your company logo (if related), and room for the barcode. If your finished book is more than 70 pages, also include spine text showing the main title and author’s last name. If the book is less than 70 pages, the spine text may not format correctly due to printing variations.
It is important to design your cover carefully to attract your target reader. First, choose the background design for your book. It may be a photo that sets a mood, an expectation, or creates anticipation or a background color or subtle design. The photo can fill the entire space or occupy a portion of it. If your book lends itself to graphics or illustrations, either might be substituted for a photo. In each case, professional quality is paramount to your design.
Look for photos oriented vertically or horizontally to fit the intended space on the cover. Choose an image that is large enough to fit the intended space without enlarging the image to prevent degrading its quality. Find a variety of stock photos and background graphics at stock photography sites like www.canstockphoto.com, www.istockphoto.com, and www.shutterstock.com.
Fonts chosen for book covers also have a great deal of power to convey the tone and content of your book. Love stories use fonts that are flowing and cursive, while titles on adventure books are bold or striking. Fonts vary in weight (boldness), spacing, and width of the letters themselves. There are thousands of fonts from which to choose. Experiment with fonts available in your graphics program, or find additional fonts on sites like Font Squirrel or Adobe Fonts. There can be more than one font on the cover, but use care when combining fonts. Many covers use one font for the title and another for the subtitle. Others vary the color, weight, and size or italicize the original font to create depth and interest while maintaining consistency and focus.
The words on your cover should be easily legible and not obscured by the photo or graphics. Create a center of focus that draws your eyes to it. Leave enough margin around the edges of the cover for words to remain intact should printing inconsistencies occur and for an overall clean design.
Most print-on-demand publishers offer templates for creating the cover. Templates are based on the trim size, the paper color, and the number of pages. Here is an example of a template from Kindle Direct Publishing for a 6”x9” book with 150 white pages. It highlights the space needed for the barcode, for bleed (the additional 1/8” of space around the outside edges to account for printing variations), and the safe space, which is the usable area for your design. Use the template for building a cover in your favorite graphic design program like Photoshop or InDesign.
If you are graphically challenged, outsourcing the task is the way to go. Check out Cover Kitchen for custom covers, or use a freelance site like fiverr.com. Of course, you can also engage a self-publishing services company like The Happy Self-Publisher to create a cover that sells your book. Think of the investment as a promotional tool for your book.
If you want to create a 3D cover, check out this video.
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