Journey to Publication: Designing Your Book Cover

Photo by “My Life Through A Lens” on Unsplash

You have two choices here: do it yourself or hire a cover designer. If you’re an arty person, maybe you have a penchant for graphic design, then you’re a lucky old thing. If you’re like me, and don’t have an artistic bone in your body, then you may find that you’re starting from scratch. I chose to design the cover myself, for reasons I will explain later, but before we get to that, let’s quickly talk about hiring a cover designer, if that’s the path you choose to go down.

Hiring a Cover Designer

There are a few reasons you may choose to hire a cover designer for your book. If you have no experience, no ideas, and feel generally lost, hiring a cover designer might be the right thing for you.

  1. They can make a professional and eye-catching cover.
  2. It saves you time. They know the sizing, the formatting, and all the other fiddly stuff that comes with creating a book cover, meaning you don’t have to figure all that out.
  3. If they’re skilled, they know the market and can make your book stand out.

You can hire great cover designers through a lot of freelancing platforms. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Make sure you read through their information carefully so that you know exactly what to expect when working with them. Also, check their reviews. Always, always, always, read a freelancer’s reviews. They may ask for some ideas, some covers you like etc, so have something in mind before you contact them.

DIY Cover Design

Designing a book cover is a tricky business. We’ve all seen the shitty self-published covers that look like they’ve been made by a kid on Paint, this is the last thing you want to do, right? You want to show your book in the best light, and sometimes that involves passing the baton to somebody else. My plan was to have a go myself, get feedback, and then decide whether to pay a cover designer. This is what I did…

I Googled ‘How to design a book cover’ and these videos came up… (eBook) (paperback)

I needed somebody that was going to explain it to me like they were explaining it to a child. And that’s what this guy did. His name is Keith Wheeler and I think he’s a fabulous starting point for all things self-publishing. The videos are old, and they look a little like they’ve been filmed on a toaster, but he explains everything wonderfully. He spoke about using Canva to design the covers. This is something I felt fairly comfortable with as I use Canva a lot for work anyway. I had nothing to lose by giving it a try.

I did my research. I looked at the covers of authors in the same genre as me, particularly ones with fairly simple covers. I noted what I liked, what I didn’t, and went from there.

Start with the eBook cover.

You’ll either need to pay for the images you choose to use, or opt for royalty-free images. I love for royalty-free images. If you want to learn more about this topic, let me know and I’ll do a separate blog post on it. Essentially, you need images that are free to use without paying the original photographer or artist. Or, you need to pay them for the image. I used royalty-free images and I’m thrilled with the outcome.

I started with the eBook cover because that’s by far the most simple and, after a couple of hours, I had something I was ready to get feedback on. I posted what I had on the Self Publishing Support Group and asked for honest feedback. If you don’t have a thick skin, then doing this isn’t for you. You have to be able to look at the feedback critically and objectively, and also know that you will never please everybody.

After I received feedback, I changed what I had until I had something I was happy with. eBook cover = complete.

Then move on to the (far more complicated) paperback cover.

To create the paperback cover, you have to know how many pages your book will be, in order to know the thickness of the spine, which is why I suggest formatting the manuscript document first. In the video linked above, Keith talks you through how to do all this, so I won’t do it here.

This is also a super useful link…

Something I will say, take your time. Figuring out the bleeds, the borders and the images can be tricky.

You will be able to use your eBook cover as a jumping off point which is why I suggest making it first. Once they’re done, you can upload them onto your KDP profile to see how they look. At this point, you may want to make some tweaks and reupload. For your paperback, I highly recommend ordering author proofs so that you can see what the cover looks like in real life.

With that, we’ve come to the end of this series of blog posts about the self-publishing journey BEFORE I publish. I’ll do an update after so I can talk about all the things I’ve learned, what I’d do differently next time, and all that jazz. That’ll likely be a long one!

Thank you for your support, as always.  I love hearing from you so please do comment or get in touch with any questions or stories about your self-publishing experience.

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