Designing Book Covers

(This page features 28 book covers in seven layouts. Please be patient for it to load.)

One of the pleasures of being a self-publisher is that you have complete control over your book project. And no step is more fun or challenging than designing a book cover.

Whether you want to use a favorite photo, or have only a vague idea of what you want, we've encountered just about every book cover scenario you can think of.

What makes AuthorImprints different is the planning and book marketing discussion that takes place before beginning work on the design. (Note: you are welcome to provide us with a ready-made cover.)

Below are 28 book cover examples arranged by client goals. Every author-client makes the final decision, but every project begins by answering 10 questions.

One final piece of advice: keep in mind that what you like may not necessarily be what appeals to your reader. There are 2 ways to come to terms with this: 1) Study book covers in the category where your book will be sold. 2) Get the opinion of people who don’t know you. See #7, Tiebreak Voting.

Cover design planning in ten questions

  1. Do you have any artwork or images that can or should be used?
  2. Are there any color requirements?
  3. If the title or subtitle has not been finalized, will you consider optimizing it for Amazon’s search engine?
  4. Most clients have their own publishing imprints. Do you have a logo, or are we using text?
  5. Have you researched sales categories and genres for common cover characteristics?
  6. Is the book part of a series?
  7. How many words is the book? (This influences size and thickness.)
  8. Are there any blurbs, or do you expect any?
  9. Do you have an author photo?
  10. Is your description and author bio written?

Seven book cover scenarios

1. Use your art

AuthorImprints book covers-use your art

About the covers above: Using a special image is a common request. Ruth literally handed us a shoe box of images and sketches. The one we loved was an ink sketch on a piece of torn cardboard, complete with smudge marks. The result was a cover the captured who the author was and the theme of the book.

Jackson Day's “mom” was adamant that he be featured proud and boldly on the cover, and that we use this photo.

The only photo of Richard Lawrence's family was a faded, low resolution scan he sent us.

2. Open minded

AuthorImprints book covers-open minded

About the covers above: The key to coming up with an original cover that everyone loves is good planning. What do other books in the category look like? What metadata needs to be on the cover? How should it be arranged for maximum visual impact?

3. Series Books

AuthorImprints book covers-series covers

About the covers above: Wayne's Accounting for Non-Accountants (left) is a classic and published by Sourcebooks, a traditional publisher. They were unwilling to publish these 3 spin-offs, but had no problem if we copied elements of the cover for the self-published titles. We used the same image, layout, and fonts so that buyers of Accounting for Non-Accountants would know these other books were part of a series.

4. Adapting Covers

AuthorImprints book covers-adapting covers

About the covers above: Once you've invested in a cover it is simply good branding to use it in other ways. In the case of Jewels of Allah, the small cover on the right is actually a MiniBuk that is 3.5″ x 5″. We flipped the image so she is looking at the text, and obviously positioned her in a more interesting manner.

The cover of The Book Review Companion was rearranged for an audiobook sample, and a free download for readers of the book.

The Adventures of Wilhelm is one cute rat! Why not arrange the cover elements differently for a bookmark?

5. Reverted Rights

AuthorImprints book covers-reverted rights
About the covers above: The smaller covers on the bottom row are traditionally published books that the publishers no longer wished to publish. The rights reverted to the author and they wanted to keep the books available to their readers. In situations like this the author cannot use the publisher's cover. However, the reality is that tastes and styles change so this is often a good thing.

6. Change in Strategy

AuthorImprints book covers-change in strategy

About the covers above: Book #1 was released in 2014 with no plans for a follow-up. In 2016, the author decided to write book #2 and never considered it as a follow-on to book #1. In early 2018, the author decided to write a third book (#4 above). At this point we recommended re-branding these as a series to assist with cross-marketing. But what to do about the cover and subtitle for #2?

It is perfectly fine to change a cover, but changing a title or subtitle means assigning a new ISBN. Unfortunately, if you assign a new ISBN, all the reviews stay with the old book. With more than 80 reviews at the time, the author did not want to start over.

Instead we proposed #3 as a replacement cover. The official subtitle, at the bottom of #3, remains but we crossed out a word and added a replacement, and added a new “subtitle” under the title. This new “subtitle” is only visible on the cover but it helps connect the 3 books for readers browsing books online. We also added the “2” tab that indicates the second on a series and will add a “1” and “3” to the other books to further connect them visually.

7. Tiebreak Voting

AuthorImprints book covers-tiebreak voting

About the covers above: Movie, television and stage star Joyce Bulifant had 60 book cover submissions to our 99design contest for her cover. Working with Joyce and her PR team, we narrowed it down to the two you see here. The winner? The black and white cover on the right. We used PickFu and had the results in less than a day.

Please contact us today about your publishing project.