Seven Ways to Jump Start Your Book Cover Design

It’s never too early to think about your book cover design. Even if you’ve got writer's block, at least you’ll feel like you're getting some work done. And you are! Here are eight ways to jump start your book cover design process, including resources for artwork and photography. When it’s time to hire a cover designer, you’ll be able to judge from their portfolio if they’re right for you, and you’ll also be ready for an educated and productive conversation with them.

1. Centralize and Organize

First, make a folder for saving ideas about your cover on your computer. Or, better yet, use a cloud-based repository like Google Drive, iCloud Drive, or DropBox. Invite your writing group or friends to add their ideas, too. You’ll eventually share this folder with your designer.

2. Use Amazon's Advanced Search

Use Amazon’s advanced search to study the book covers in your category. Identify color choices, typography, use of graphics versus photography, and other trends. Use keywords and the date field to narrow your search. You may also want to specify “paperback,” and “bestselling” to display the best of the best books, and “2015” to display recently-published books. Remember that it’s important to stand out yet fit in with the covers in your category, because your customer’s eye will skip over any book that doesn’t seem like the type of book they’re looking for.

Advanced Advanced Search for Book Authors

3. Start Pinning with Pinterest

Pinterest is a great tool for collecting images such as art, graphics, layout and typography ideas. You can keep your board private or make it a group board, sharing it with friends and fans. (Yep, this is a great social media strategy!) Because Pinterest is frequented by arty design types, there are also lots of boards focused on best book covers. You may even find your cover designer here.

Pinterest for Book Cover Design

4. Hit Tumblr

Like Pinterest, Tumblr is a visually-oriented social media site where you can post ideas and find artists and designers. If you already have a following on Tumbler, invite your followers. You may be surprised at the level of engagement. People love to help!

Tumblr for Book Cover Designers and Authors

5. Sketch it Out with Canva's Free Book Cover Maker

Search for Canva’s free book cover maker to create book covers as idea sketches for your designer. Canva offers a lot of premade templates in various genres to choose from with images and typography that work well together. Upload your own images, play with typography, and save the ideas for later, when you consult with a professional.

Canva Book Cover Templates

6. Discover DeviantArt

Do you have an idea for a sketch, illustration, or photography for your cover, but need someone to implement it? I often point authors to DeviantArt, a gathering place for artists, designers, and photographers of all kinds. Sort through the chaff by employing the search box to find elements you want. (Eyes, trees, road, concert, lake, romance…). Remember, these are artists and not professional cover designers, so before you buy anything or commission an artist, consult a pro.

Book Covers Illustrations DeviantArt

7. Employ an Etsy Artist

Etsy is a site for selling arts and crafts and a lot of illustrators sell their work here for very reasonable prices. You can also request a custom order from an artist you like. Here’s what I found when I searched for illustrators, in the category “childrens.”

You can begin the book design process at any time during your writing and self-publishing journey. In fact, it’s great to have the cover ready (or a version of it), on your website and social publishing sites.

How about you? Have you used any of these strategies or sites with success? How has your book cover evolved?

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Book Cover Artists on Etsy

Need more help?

I have created a bunch of courses to help authors figure out book cover design, editing, and marketing. The first step for all authors is the best seller book marketing course. It's the course I require authors to complete before we begin one-on-one consulting or group workshops. I created the course as a baseline and an affordable way for all authors to get a good start without having to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on book coaching and consulting fees.

Carla King

Carla King is a travel and technology writer turned author and self-publishing expert. She started self-publishing in 1995 and founded the Self-Pub Boot Camp series of educational books, workshops, and online courses in 2010. She runs the self-publishing and technology track at the San Francisco Writers Conference and a series of online courses at www.selfpubbootcampcourses.com.