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