How to design a book cover? (4 Steps)

Picture of Abdullah Bukhari
Abdullah Bukhari

Founder & Lead Designer at Book Cover Hub

design a book cover
What will you learn?

Explanation of the importance of a book cover

A well-written book is crucial for your success, but the proper presentation is equally important.

Regardless of its taste, an innovative candy would likely struggle to find buyers packaged in a worn and unappealing wrapper.

Even with captivating content, a well-written book may face similar challenges if not presented professionally.

Self-publishing has made it easy for everyone to write and publish a book. As a result, we see massive competition for sales. If you don’t stand out, it’s doubtful you will get any sales. This is where creating easy book covers come in. They can help you grab attention and make your book more appealing to potential readers.

Your book cover introduces you to your potential readers, and a well-designed cover gives you legitimacy as a serious author.

book cover fonts

Brief overview of the design process

A well-designed book cover serves the only purpose of getting the readers interested enough to pick up the book and read the blurb.

A great book cover is not about getting the aesthetics right but something that strategically aligns with what your readers expect, genre standards, and your book.

Key Points:

  1. Understand your ideal reader.
  2. Research successful covers in your genre.
  3. Identify your book’s unique selling point.


Design Strategy:

  1. Balance genre conventions with your book’s uniqueness.
  2. Don’t aim for just aesthetics, but strategic alignment.
  3. Consider reader expectations, genre standards, and your book’s essence.

Research and Planning

Every great design starts with doing your homework. You must understand what works with readers and what turns them off.

With thousands of books at their fingertips and limited browsing time, readers rely on covers for books to make quick decisions. They scan shelves or online listings, giving each cover just a few seconds of attention. This is why creating a strong first impression with your cover design is crucial.

If you can grab their attention in a few seconds, you win!

Researching the genre and target audience

Researching your target audience and genre properly is often the difference between a successful and unsuccessful book.

To start, grab a pen and paper and start defining your ideal reader.

What do they like or dislike, what are their hobbies and interests, where do they hang out, how old are they, where can you find them online, etc.? 

You must validate your ideas when you have written everything about them.

You can go to different forums and social media platforms, use Google Trends, and even ask people in person if your assumptions are valid. 

Once you are satisfied with your research, you must also cater to them in your design.

It will benefit you in your cover design, but once your book is complete as a product, you will know precisely who will like your book, where you should place it, and how you need to present it.

Now, we are going to learn how to understand the conventions of your book genre.

To get started with that, checking the best sellers is a great starting point. Remember to make notes of your observations.

See what type of book cover fonts are used, how images are used, and what art styles and color palettes are preferred.

You will start to observe that each genre has unique art styles and preferences for fonts.

For example, Mystery books look better with detailed illustrations and style-heavy titles than nonfiction books, which rely on more typography and simpler graphics.

Similarly, science fiction book covers favor futuristic sans-serif fonts and heavy image manipulation to build imaginary worlds.

Note down all your observations and use them as a compass when you sit to draw on the canvas.

Determining the key elements to include in the design

At this point, you are equipped with the knowledge of your ideal reader and the conventions of your genre. It’s time to brainstorm some ideas for your book cover.

You need to ask yourself, What are the key instances of your book? What is one thing my ideal reader will always relate to? What is the unique selling point of my book?

Do people put detailed scenes in my genre? Is one object from the story relatable enough to attract the attention of all my potential readers?

When you answer these questions, you will already have an idea of what plays a central role in your book and the key elements to include. You can fine-tune it further by adding some of your own questions.

Never clutter your design with too many elements. Instead, it is better to stick with one or two and let your readers decide if they want more of that.

Choosing the Right Design Elements

Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of how to design a book cover. We’ll break down the key elements – typography, color choices, and imagery – into 3 easy-to-understand sections to guide you through the design process.

Getting the design elements correct is as essential as getting the elements of your book cover right.

If you are wondering what’s the difference between book cover elements and design elements, here is a short explanation.

The elements of your book cover include things you will put on your book cover, e.g, Your title, subtitle, a spaceship, a unicorn, etc. Your design elements include what art style would be your spaceship, what font would be your title, etc.

Selecting the appropriate typography

book front cover design

Choosing the right font for your design is one of the critical choices you make. Each font has its personality and conveys a specific message to the reader. You must also understand that different font styles define different periods.

In the 1800s, decorated and serif fonts were trendy, whereas nowadays, text is optimized for small screens; as a result, sans-serif fonts are favored.

To make the correct font choice, you must understand what your genre demands and what your specific font says to its reader.

For example, ornate fonts with glyphs are preferred for fantasy, whereas self-help books rely more on more straightforward and bold fonts.

Script fonts are always a great choice when you have to represent something personalized or something that involves emotions. E.g., Poetry, Romance books, etc

Choosing the suitable color scheme

book cover colors

Why does the red flag mean danger and the white flag mean peace?

The colors don’t mean anything on their own, but we have associated meaning with them, which is accepted universally. Colors are deeply rooted within our psychology, and we use them to derive meaning daily.

You see a red light, you stop, you see a green light, you keep moving. The same goes for your book cover.

If you get the colors wrong, you lose a considerable portion of your sales because your reader could not instantly categorize it. Choosing the correct scheme for your book cover is the MOST IMPORTANT decision in your design process.

You can not tell a dark horror story and use a pink palette with happy shades to design the cover. Your colors should be able to say instantly what your readers can expect.

They introduce your book even before your reader reads the title.

A single color doesn't hold much significance when designing a book cover. It's the color pallet that matters most. The combined effect of colors is meaningful and helps represent your story.

 Your title should stand out, and you can use contrast or text effects to achieve that.

Incorporating relevant imagery & graphics

To choose the relevant imagery, you have to understand art styles. Some genres demand illustrations, and some genres require photo manipulation.

It’s further broken down into different illustration and photo editing styles as well. It is better to stick to your research and the observations you noted to understand what works best for your book genre.

Always check the licenses of images you are using. Using a copyrighted image in your book cover can result in serious legal action.

 If you are not an expert in photo manipulation, it's recommended to stick with using simple images. It's better to have a single image that looks good instead of a poorly designed image to achieve a better design.

Creating the Design

Once you have completed your research, you have taken all the decisions regarding colors, art styles, typography, and design elements. It’s time to sit down and start the actual design.
First, you need to get to choose a design tool. You can choose any tool that offers a decent number of editing options, especially options to work with layers.

A book cover is designed in layers, and a usual composition looks like a background at the bottom, design elements placed on the background, and text at the top.

Sketching out initial ideas

Regardless of whether you have chosen to work on a book illustration cover or photo editing, you need to start by playing around with the elements you have collected.

Try different placements, rearranging elements, applying different color filters, playing with hue/saturation, and different image effects until you come up with something decent enough to start with. You can also Get a 100% FREE sketch of your book cover design From Book Cover Hub.

Refining the design through multiple iterations

Once you have the initial draft, it’s time to get serious. You need to start playing around with advanced parts of the design. E.g., Lighting, shadows, highlights, etc.

Check to see if any part looks blurred or distorted, if any effect does not look natural, etc. Keep making changes until you are delighted and come up with something you love.

Leveraging Feedback for Improvement

I know it’s hard to put out something for criticism when you have put your heart and soul into creating something. Getting feedback from others is essential before you choose a particular book cover.

You can ask your friends and family, fellow authors, or social media and other forums to get reviews. Ensure you make all the necessary changes once you have collected enough feedback.

People are more likely to give their opinion on social media if presented with multiple options..

Finalizing the Design

If you are delighted with your design, incorporate feedback from others, and consider that you have put in your best effort, it’s time to finalize your book cover.

In order to achieve that, you must ensure your book cover meets the technical requirements for printing and uploading online.

Technical requirements to print a Book Cover

A book cover should be 300 dpi for printing. You should leave space for bleed on all four sides as well.

To calculate the correct size for the spine, you can use the KDP cover calculator for Amazon & Lulu Cover calculator to upload on Lulu.

Amazon also allows you to set a custom size for your book cover. It’s best to use book cover templates to ensure you place everything correctly and leave space for the bar code on the back cover.

For the ebook cover design, you don’t need to worry about technical requirements as it consists of only the front cover.

It is recommended to keep your ebook cover at least 72 dpi.

Choosing the suitable file format

The next part is to export your book cover in the correct file formats. You can export it as a JPEG to upload on social media and keep a copy for preview. To upload it on KDP, Lulu, etc.

You need to export the paperback/hardcover in PDF Format, whereas the e-book cover can be uploaded as a simple JPEG.

To keep your source file editable, please save it in an editable format such as .PSD or .AI.

Creating mockups to visualize the final product

book cover mockup

The final part is to put your book on a mockup. Mockups are an excellent way of showcasing your book to your readers.

It’s a 3D rendering of your book cover shaped like a book. Your book mockup not only enhances the look of your book but can also be used to create different social media posts.

You can use Adobe Photoshop or any online book mockup creator to create a book cover mockup.

Examples of successful book cover designs

Let’s analyze some book cover examples that are loved by readers worldwide. We are going to dissect their design elements and study each cover to find out what makes them successful.

1. The Harry potter series

harry potter book cover

The iconic book cover design for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone) masterfully utilizes its visual elements to appeal to its target audience and capture the essence of the story.

The central image of the Hogwarts Express, set against a starry night sky, effectively conveys themes of journey, adventure, and magic, while the bold red color scheme and simple text ensure readability and brand recognition.

This cover design not only successfully attracts young readers but also serves as a timeless symbol of the entire Harry Potter series.

2. Jaws

jaws book cover

The success of the “Jaws” paperback cover lies in its masterful simplicity. Featuring a stark contrast between a menacing white shark and a deep blue background, the design prioritizes visual impact.

The use of negative space and the shark’s posture evoke fear, while the bold, sans-serif typography in all caps reinforces the title’s urgency and aligns with the book’s suspenseful theme.

Limited to just two colors, the cover maintains a clean aesthetic, allowing the powerful imagery to take center stage.

This effective marriage of minimalist design and impactful visuals has cemented the cover’s status as an iconic and successful piece of book design

3. The Godfather

book by cover Godfather

The Godfather’s cover design achieves success through its simplicity and boldness. The stark black background and limited color palette allow the red title to command attention, while the large, clear font ensures easy readability.

This focus on essential elements, coupled with the symbolic use of red, effectively communicates the novel’s themes of power, danger, and intrigue, making it a visually strong and impactful design.

Partnering up with a professional book cover design service like Book Cover Hub can be a game changer for your book! By choosing our book cover design services, you gain access to our expertise, ensuring a visually captivating and genre-specific cover that saves you time and effort.

Our professional touch goes beyond aesthetics, establishing your brand identity, accurately representing your genre, and sparking emotional connections with readers. 

Final Thoughts

Creating a good book cover takes serious effort and time.

You need to start by researching other books in your genre, understanding what’s expected, and then using that knowledge to create your own cover.

Your book cover should be relevant and eye-catching and stand out from your competition.

Finally, your book cover should be free of technical errors, exported in correct file formats, and ready to be printed and uploaded on different platforms.

By combining the correct colors, typography, and art style, you can create a book cover that is ready to be loved by readers worldwide.

By following these steps and leveraging the valuable insights provided, you can create a powerful book cover that effectively stands out on shelves and online marketplaces, ultimately propelling your book towards success.

Share this article with a fellow author who needs to understand the importance of a good book cover design!

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Expert Answers to Your Questions about designing Book Covers

What is a book cover called?

A book cover is typically referred to as the outermost protective covering of a book. It is also commonly known as a dust jacket or a book jacket.

How to design a book cover?

Designing a book cover involves several steps. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Understand your target audience and genre.
  2. Research successful covers in your genre for inspiration.
  3. Identify your book's unique selling point.
  4. Balance genre conventions with your book's uniqueness.
  5. Focus on strategic alignment rather than just aesthetics.
  6. Consider typography, color choices, imagery, and overall composition.
  7. Create a design that grabs attention and reflects the essence of your book.

What is the difference between a book jacket and a book cover?

The terms "book jacket" and "book cover" are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference between the two:

  • Book Cover: Refers to the entire covering of a book, including the front, back, and spine. It is usually made of a sturdy material such as cardboard and protects the pages of the book.
  • Book Jacket: Specifically refers to a detachable outer covering of a hardcover book. It typically wraps around the book cover and can be removed or folded back. Book jackets often feature additional information, such as a synopsis, author bio, or reviews, and serve as a promotional tool for the book.
Picture of Abdullah Bukhari
Abdullah Bukhari

As our founder and lead designer, Abdullah plays a crucial role in ensuring the quality of any book cover design we deliver. He started designing covers as a freelancer in 2017 - netting a whopping $5 for his first book design! In 2023, Abdullah decided to ramp up from freelancing to owning and managing an Agency - BookCoverHub.

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