How To Design a Kindle Book Cover When You’re Not a Designer

I’m not a designer.  My husband is, (which is why he does most of my covers), but I’m not.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t design my own ebook covers once in a while (I have actually done a few that I have under another pen name).

So the question remains.  Can a non-designer make a decent looking book cover that doesn’t scream self-publisher?

Yes.  I think they can.  And here are my tips on doing so.

The Book’s Genre/Mood

The first step is to decide on the mood you are going for.  Usually the first place I start for this is browsing other books on Amazon that are in the same genre as you.  You’ll no doubt start to see a trend: illustrated cutesy covers for Chick Lit, full cover photos for most fiction, dark covers for horror, bold text and minimal images for non-fiction and so on.

Don’t try and be clever.  Stick with the same style of covers so you fit in.  Readers don’t care if your cover is cliched, they just want to know what it is at a glance.

Title Font

Have a look at the bestselling books again and see what style of font they use.  Serif?  San-Serif?  Script?  You’ll notice that non-fiction generally uses quite simple fonts, whereas romance novels will be more curly and romantic.

Don’t be too clever with fonts – simple is sometimes the best option.

Author Font

Your author font can either by the same font as your title (but a different colour and/or size) or a different font to contrast the two.  If you are using two different fonts make them quite different.  Don’t use two that a visually similar because then  you might as well have used the same font anyway.

Unless you are a well-known bestselling author that can sell books by your name, make your author name smaller than the book title.

Cover Image

Unless you have lots of money and can pay for your own photo shoot, you’ll probably be using stock photos for your books.  There is nothing wrong with that – I have stock photos on all my covers.

Yes, other people can use those images too – which can cause some covers to be visually similar but with a small budget you are going to have to live with that.

If you tweak the photo a bit often you can come up with a slightly different look which will make your cover unique.  And anyway, generally most readers don’t notice unless your cover is the same as one of the bestsellers.

Examples – Fiction

So let’s say you want to make a cover for your new paranormal romance.  First step is to go to Amazon and get some inspiration.  Here are some I chose at random:

Many of them use a girl on the cover.  It’s moody, with simple titles.  Ok, that seems easy enough.

I typed teenage girl garden into istockphoto and found this one that might work:

Let’s crop it to book size, flip it around so she’s facing the other way and add some text.  Here’s what I did within 20 minutes:

Well it’s probably not going to win any awards, but I think with a bit of extra time it could work well.  (I’d spend more time getting the title to look better if I was serious about it.)  And of course I’d definitely pay for it so it wouldn’t have the logo across it!  I made the title green to fit the style of the photo, upped the contrast a bit and faded some green into the bottom so that font was readable.

Examples – Non Fiction

I think non-fiction is even easier.  For a start you don’t even have to use an image – you can just use text.  Some of the best selling non-fiction books use text only.

But first, let’s start with some that do use images.  You see that a lot in cookbooks.

Here’s some inspiration photos:

Unless you are a well-known chef you probably want to avoid having your own photo on the cover, but there are plenty with just food on them.

Searching on istockphoto for biscuits I found this:

Yum.  Simple and could definitely be made into a cover.  And so here is what I did:

Not quite as strong as the first cover, but I only spent 10 minutes on this one.  If I was really going to use it, I’d tone down the white behind the title as it’s a bit too strong and perhaps make the title bigger too.

But what if you don’t want to use an image?

Sweet.  Even easier.  Many stock photo places have illustrations as well.

I typed clean house into istockphoto, ticked the checkbox for illustrations only and found one that looked nice.  I made this cover in 10 minutes using simple fonts and a simple illustration:

I actually really like simple covers and think they work really well for most non-fiction.  I have simple covers on all my non-fiction books.

So that’s it really.  My simple guide to making your own covers.  I hope it’s helped you design some great ones for your own projects.

Tracey :)

(I made up all of the titles and authors on this page, so apologies if anyone has that name or book title already)


  1. Bea says

    Thanks for the post. I have a few questions.

    What software did you use to do things like flip the photo of the girl around, and resize the picture to book size?

    Also, for illustrated covers, what resolution (DPI) works best for ebooks?

    • Tracey says

      I used Photoshop. But I really didn’t do that much that couldn’t be done in a free program. I’ve heard lots of good reports about GIMP which is a free image editing program.

      DPI is for print books, so you don’t need to worry about it for ebooks since they’ll be on screen only. The minimum that I make my covers is about 600×800 pixels. That’s so I only have to buy the small or xsmall size at istock (cheaper). If I was doing print versions though, then I’d have to buy the larger but I don’t do many print versions at the moment.

  2. Bea says

    Thanks, Tracey. Shows how much I still need to learn. I’m not doing print yet, either.

    Slowly, slowly.

  3. Bea says

    Is there any possibility that you’ll be doing a post regarding the ‘paperwork’ that non-U.S. citizens need to fill in with Amazon (their IRS stuff). It really confuses me, and I’m wondering if it’s necessary to do before we put up our books for publication on Kindle.

    I’m Canadian, and I’m having trouble finding the right info. If no such post is in your plans, could you point me in the right direction?

    My attempts keep taking me to the Canadian Gov’t. websites…so I have the feeling I’m not searching correctly.

    Any info would be greatly appreciated, and I’m sure there are other non-U.S. citizens who’d also appreciate some basic info.

    • Tracey says

      Cool idea Bea. I’ll write a post soon saying what I did to get a EIN number from the IRS. You don’t need to do this before you put your first book up – they will re-imburse for any tax withheld once they get the forms later when you get around to it.

      Tracey :)

  4. Bea says

    Thanks for the info, Tracey.

    I’m looking forward to the post, but I’ll be putting up my first short story today, thanks to you.

  5. John says

    Hi Tracey,

    Great information on this site. Just a query about the cover photograph. If you purchase an image from iStock do you also need to pay an additional fee for ‘Electronic Distribution’?

  6. David says


    Can you provide the standard size for book covers n how much space should one leave for the spine. I understand printers require some extra trim space.

    Is there a standard template for one to use?

    • Tracey says

      If you are talking print, then I use the template that’s provided by Createspace. Once you put in the book size you want (I usually choose 9″ x 6″) and how many pages, then they’ll give you a custom template to use which includes spine and trim space for your book. I bring this template into Photoshop (although any image editing program should work) and place my cover, back matter and spine in, and then save out as a print-ready PDF as required.
      Also, for print, your images need to be 300dpi, which is not the case for online only.

  7. M.M. Justus says

    Hi, I found this post while looking for information on how to pick art for a book cover. Do you have any more specific posts available about *how* to pick an image or an illustration for a book cover? That go into lots of detail? Do you know where I could find something like that?

    I can do enough of the technical to create a cover, but choosing the art is not how my brain works.


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