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.

saving your ideas on Google DriveDropboxsaving your ideas on iCloud


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.

amazon advanced search



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 boards for book cover design ideas

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!

book cover designers and covers on tumblr

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

Use 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's free book cover maker

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 cover artists/art on deviantart.com

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.”

book cover artists and illustrators on etsy

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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  • iGO eBooks says:

    To ‘spine’ or not the ‘spine’ – whether it be nobler to just consider the front and back book cover design, or on bookshelves should we be giving emphasis to the book spine so as to stand out from the crowd!!???

    In an era of vast competition in selling books through bookshops/stores, we all know that one of the important key elements to a book is it’s cover and design. We together with a book cover designer will consider so many different elements to the overall exercise to include (but not exhaustive) – front cover, image(s); layout, trim size; boarders; type of font(s); font size(s); whether in title in bold, or italic; where to locate on the cover, top, centre, left/right-hand side; where the Author’s name should be; what size should ‘author’s name’ should be in proportion to the ‘title; and where this should be located; whether to add and reviews or renown person’s comments (to give the book more credence), or even a strap line that entices the potential reader and gives them a flavour of what the book is about. Then we move to the back cover of the book which again considers background; font(s)/size(s), content, e.g. synopsis of the book; biography, perhaps author’s photo, (oh and yes, the ISBN or space for the bar code); publishers’ logo and where to locate.

    We then come to the ‘book spine’…argh yes, that perhaps less important part of the book where we keep it simple, the corresponding background to front and back of the book; spacing between spine folds, book title; author’s name…full stop, job done – not exactly quantum physics – or is that enough?????

    We work so hard on this, spend a lot of money, and rightfully receive positive comment on how good it is – in the end the proof so in the selling, and if people buy our book(s) we are naturally pleased – job well done!!!

    Unless a brand name or a best seller at the time, the balance of probability is that our book(s) will not be laying on display with the front cover on view but sitting on a bookshelf where only the book’s ‘spine’ will be in sight. All that work and all the people see at the beginning is that ‘all important book spine’. There is however is a need to try other advantageous ways to get attention to our books so that potential readers/buyers pick up and look – and with the all important book spine also in mind. Contextually we realise just how important this is.

    Given this there is an increasing need to give added emphasis to the design and content of the spine so as to stand out and entice people to pick out/up. Thoughts, ideas, and tried and test ways in which this might be best achieved would make for a good discussion and learning curve – even if we are successful and think we are up there, there is likely still more to learn.

    I have some thoughts and ideas but am have sure that they are limited and that the overall experience of others out there will reveal some tried and tested ways of accomplishing effective ways.

    • Carla King says:

      Apologies for the late reply and, thank you, you make some excellent points. Indeed, because most books are sold via online retailers these days the book spine does not generally get the attention it once did. Those 3D book covers though, do allow for an attractive display.

  • […] They’ve got a lot of templates to choose from, and are adding more all the time. And they’re ready for upload to Amazon KDP, IngramSpark, and other distributors. Just add a cover! I think you should hire out book cover design, but if you want a quick one for beta readers or a sketch for a pro, try these tools. […]

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