Learn what makes a great book cover idea to set your book apart and make more sales

One of the worst elements in self-publishing is the cover. I say worst because the cover is so important to your book but has almost no relevance to the quality within.

You can write one the most spectacular books ever written and get rave reviews but will still make almost no sales if the cover isn’t interesting and persuasive.

Imagine how many more copies of the Bible might sell if it had a better cover ?

The fact is that people are scanning through dozens of books on Amazon. Scrolling through as fast as their mouse will go and are only looking at two things, the title and the cover.

crowdfunding ebook and fundraising ideasMy first book, released early in 2015, had miserable sales over the first three months. I was averaging less than $100 a month and working hard to promote it. I redesigned the cover, relaunched the book and saw sales almost triple immediately.

Almost three years later and the book still averages nearly $300 a month in sales and with almost no promotion on my part.

I recommend outsourcing your book cover if graphic design isn’t something you enjoy AND are really good at doing. I’ll guide you through creating a great cover idea for your book and the strategy I use to make sure my covers are fan favorites.

Finding Your Book Cover Idea

The first step in creating a great book cover is finding your concept, the message you want to send with your cover.

  • What’s your book’s purpose? What transformation are you trying to achieve?
  • What emotions do you want to evoke with your cover? Even non-fiction books can evoke emotions.
  • What’s your book’s genre?

For fiction novels, emotion plays a huge role and you want to tap into the theme of your story. For non-fiction books, can you tap into emotions like achievement or inspiration?

Remember, people don’t buy the information, they buy the transformation so tap into that with your book cover.

Put the answers to these questions into a list for your concept idea. This list will help you choose images, fonts and cover designs later.

I’ll show you how to get ideas from Amazon later but you’ll want to do a search through the genre or categories related to your book when trying to create a concept.

4 Tips for a Great Book Cover Ideas

I don’t know how they teach graphic design in school. My last art class was in 9th grade and I didn’t really like it that much. I know what I like in art and I know what book covers do well from almost three years of self-publishing.

You don’t have to be an artist to create a book cover design that will attract readers.

So what makes for a great book cover?

1) Minimalism is popular and for good reason. This is the idea that ‘less is more’, that your cover shouldn’t include too many graphics or too much text.

Two seems to be a magic number for book covers. Two colors and two fonts evoke just enough contrast but are not too confusing or too busy.

Minimalism also works for one very important reason. Potential readers aren’t going to see the 6×9 version of your cover, they are likely going to see a 67×100 thumbnail first when they browse through books. That’s about one inch by 1.5 inches and your cover needs to look good at that size.

2) Don’t be afraid to create your own images.

Stock images from sites like Depositphotos and Shutterstock can work but they are usually too generic and don’t evoke the kind of emotions or creativity you want.

One important idea for non-fiction authors is branding. If you are planning on working in a niche and want to build a brand around your work, consider using your own image somewhere on the cover. This kind of brand-building can lead to other income sources like sponsorships and speaking engagements.

book cover branding

Images need to be the right size for ebook format. The 6×9 cover format is the most widely used and means your cover will be around 1800×2700 pixels. This is a cover ratio of 1.5 to 1 but I’ve seen 1.6:1 used as well.

3) Don’t overlook the power of good fonts.

Fonts are the style of your text and can mean a big difference in your book cover. Using the generic fonts that come with Microsoft Word can make your book look ordinary.

Using two fonts seems to work best, one flashy font for the title and a simpler font for the author name and other text. Good choices for fonts include:

  • Bebas neue
  • Optimus princeps
  • Trajan pro
  • Garamond pandama
  • Lato
  • Open sans or Liberation sans

Don’t use more than one ‘flashy’ font because it will confuse your reader and make the cover look disorganized.

book cover color choice4) Choosing your cover color scheme

Two is the standard for number of colors but three will work as well. Most covers use complimentary colors, two colors opposite each other on the color wheel, for the right amount of contrast.

Orange and teal are popular as well as some of the blues. Whatever you do, avoid the red/green combination unless it’s a Christmas thriller.

Stealing a Perfect Book Cover Idea

Since I’ve never considered myself artistically-gifted, I’ve always deferred to other book covers for my ideas. This means going to Amazon and Pinterest to find great book cover ideas you can use in your own design.

In Pinterest, you can search for the topic and niche ideas related to your book. Look for what font and color combinations work best together and what emotions come up often in the images.

In Amazon, you can browse the categories most closely related to your book or the genre for fiction novels.

I like to create what’s called a ‘swipe’ file of all the best covers and then use it to brainstorm my own cover.

  1. Create a file folder called ‘book cover swipe file’
  2. Whenever you see a particularly interesting cover on Amazon or Pinterest, right-click and save the image in your swipe file

Putting all the really attractive covers together in a file like this, instead of spread among other covers on Amazon, helps to more easily see commonalities. You’ll be able to step back a little, let your eyes see many covers at once, and pick out common ideas used in the group.

Tools to Create Your Own Book Cover

I’ve always outsourced the actual cover creation of my books after that first disastrous attempt to do my own. It’s not as expensive as you might imagine, and you’ll make up for the costs many times over with higher sales.

There are tools available if you want to do the actual creation of your book cover. Everyone should have a part in generating the concepts and elements, i.e. images, fonts and colors, but not everyone will actually want to put it all together.

Canva is a free graphic design tool online you can use to make covers for a lot of different formats. I use the tool for the social media feature images for my blog posts. The free service is all most will need but you can get custom designs and graphics for a good price as well.

design tools for book covers

Adobe is the standard for many designers although there is a learning curve to get familiar with the software.

I’ve seen authors do their cover with Microsoft Word and other basic word processing software but it never comes out as professional-looking as it could with design software. Why use a steak knife when what you really need is a scalpel?

Whether you are creating the cover yourself or outsourcing it, the design must look good as a thumbnail. After you’ve got a mock-up of the idea, reduce the size to about 67×100 pixels and make sure you can read the title and that the cover still sends your message.

My Book Cover Strategy for Outsourcing

You don’t have to spend hundreds on a great book cover. In fact, I usually spend less than $100 to get multiple ideas and formats.

best book cover ideas for self publishingStart on Fiverr and hire several designers to create mock-up covers based on your cover ideas. Each mock-up will only cost $5 so you can get four or five created. There are other design sites like 99Designs but it usually means hiring designers for at least $25 for each test idea.

Pick three or four of these cover mock-ups and combine them in one side-by-side image. Upload this to Facebook and ask your friends to vote on which they like best. Ask them why they liked each and what they didn’t like about the others.

This is a great test for finding the fan favorite cover. I’ve used the test for five of my books and the winner in four of the tests ended up being the one I probably wouldn’t have picked on my own.

Not only will you get some great feedback for your cover but your network will feel like they have some buy-in in the process. That’s going to translate to more help when you go to launch your book.

Once you’ve picked which cover design you want to use, even if it takes a couple of tests, you can hire one designer to finish it. This is where you might consider using someone on 99Designs or paying a little extra to your favorite designer from Fiverr.

You’ll need several different formats and sizes of your cover to use in different promotions and places.

  • Amazon Kindle requires your cover be at least 1000 pixels wide but optimum is around 2500 pixels wide
  • Audible book covers must be no smaller than 2400×2400
  • You’ll want a flat image and a 3D image of your cover
  • Get multiple image sizes of your 3D format, i.e. a thumbnail and a few larger sizes
  • Get a multi-media image of the book including a 3D cover next to a box-set or a bundle of your series.
  • Get a 728×90 and 300×250 banner of the book and some ad copy to use in your sidebar

You’ll also want to make sure you get the source files for your book cover from the designer. This will make it easier to make changes or get new formats made in the future.

Creating a great book cover doesn’t have to mean hours spent learning graphic design or that you need to be an artist. Anyone can put together their own cover ideas and then get professional help creating their cover, even on a budget. Spending a little extra time and money on your book cover will pay off with consistent sales every month and will make you look like a professional author.

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