A couple of years ago, Martin Lake’s book sales were dismal. As a self-published author, he was selling just 15 books per month.
Well, Martin didn’t just accept those sales and move on. He changed his book cover design for the first book in his three-part series…and his sales of all three books tripled!
Two months later, he changed the covers of the second and third books to match the first in quality, and his sales doubled again.
He didn't change his writing, or even his marketing plan…he simply changed his book cover design.
How did Martin improve his cover to triple then double his sales?
Well, that’s exactly what we are going to cover below. And don’t worry, whether you’re design talented or a design n0t-s0-inclined, I've got the steps that will work for you.
In this article you will learn:
The five steps to creating an awesome book cover design
Great places to find your book cover ideas and inspiration
Dimension requirements your ebook cover design must follow to sell online
The best tools, tricks, and tutorials to create your book cover art yourself
Who to ask for help if you need a professional book cover design artist
How to decide which cover potential customers like best
First things first: Creating your book cover should come after you’ve picked the right book title. If you haven’t yet picked your book title, tackle that before you start designing your cover because your title and cover should be symbiotic and in sync.
Once you’ve determined your title, you can move on to designing your book cover.
Step 1. Find Book Cover Ideas
Your book cover should send a clear message. In general, nonfiction speaks to the brain while fiction speaks to the heart. Novel book covers do great when they send an emotional message congruent with the story, while nonfiction book covers that are witty and intriguing sell well. Since you’ve selected your title, you should have a clear idea of what message you want your book cover to send.
Stick to Your Genre Expectations
When you browse the Amazon bestsellers in your genre, you should notice patterns in color schemes, fonts, layouts, and images. You’ll want your cover to stand out by looking awesome, yet ensure it naturally fits into your genre.
If you go against what readers of your genre expect to see, your book will end up in front of the wrong readers (and not sell). Once it’s in front of the right readers, with a great cover, title, blurb, and reviews, it should get a lot more sales.
Shop For Your Cover On Amazon
As you shop on Amazon, keep your eye out for any book covers that stick out or that you find appealing. Although, you may not need a book cover for that particular genre or topic, it can be very helpful to look at the book covers you like and find inspiration.
When you find a book cover image you like on Amazon, just right-click and save the image as a file on your desktop. I personally have a file on my desk that is filled with covers I saw when shopping or doing research that I loved for one reason or another.
Find Inspiration on Pinterest
One place that’s awesome for finding book cover ideas is Pinterest. You can browse boards and pins, then save the ones you like to your profile to refer to later. There are plenty of book cover boards you can browse to see which covers you’re drawn to and serve as inspiration for your book's content, message, and genre.
(Psst! Did you know Kindlepereneur is on Pinterest? We have an entire board just for book cover design tactics, and here’s my good friend, K.M. Weiland’s place for storing book covers she loves, like the ones below)
Step 2. Choose Your Book Cover Design Tools or Designer
Decide if you are going to tackle this project yourself or hire a professional cover designer to do it for you. This is a super important step.
Podcast Episode – Case Study of Reviving a Dead Book With a New Book Cover Designer
Below are some of my favorite design software, book cover design templates, and places to find book cover designers. Please note that I am an affiliate for some of these tools and services, which helps to cover the costs of running this site.
If You Want To Design A Cover Yourself
DIY Book Covers – This is my personal favorite. You can design your own cover with Free templates and tutorials based on the principles that work for bestselling books from the go-to book cover design guy himself, Derek Murphy. It's a tool, a guide and a template system all in one.
Canva – a Free design tool you can use with tons of book cover templates for just about anything you’d want to design, including book covers for each genre. Very easy to use, but very limited in what you can create. View a tutorial here.
Adobe – If you have Photoshop or InDesign software already, you can learn how to use it to create book covers. Super advanced, but it does allow for much better designs. View the Photoshop tutorial and InDesign Tutorial.
Vexels – a newer design tool that is really ramping up their book cover design. Vexels offers print-ready book cover designs and patterns, perfect for Kindle Direct Publishing and self-publishing.
Placeit – This site is slightly different as it is better for mockups than strictly book covers. You can make professional mockups to use in marketing materials or your website.
If You Want To Hire A Professional Cover Designer
Ebook Launch – Professional quality book covers at an affordable price. This is my preferred designer and the one that I use for all of my books.
Jeff Brown Graphics– Jeff Brown is a book cover illustrator and designer, specializing in sci-fi and fantasy. He has worked on over 500 book covers and has over 15,000 hours of professional experience as an illustrator. Jeff has worked on covers for bestselling authors such as Steven Erikson, Michael Anderle, Ken Lozito, B.V. Larson, Glynn Stewart, Lindsay Buroker, Nick Webb, Dennis Taylor, and Craig Martelle. His process is very collaborative and he likes to start with a video call brainstorming session when possible. He is always taking on new clients.
Reedsy – A marketplace for vetted book designers with high accomplishments in the industry. You're sure to find a cover designer or interior designer with experience in your genre here.
Damonza – Professional cover design team with hundreds of books under their belt. Also offers a 5% discount with the use of this code: KINDLE5
100 Covers – A very affordable option for those who need a legit cover.
99 Designs– You create a design contest by telling them what you're looking for, and you'll get lots of options in return. At the end of the week, you get to pick your favorite design. If you don't like any of the designs at the end, you get your money back. You can even get design help for other parts of your author brand here too, like logos and business cards.
Deviant Art – Is an online community where artists post their work. There, you can find an artist with your kind of style and contact them for creating the job.
Author Packages – Affordable custom ebook and print cover designs available as well as formatting and proofreading service.
MIBL Art – High quality yet affordable cover designs with fast turnaround. They offer ebook and print cover designs along with other author materials, such as bookmarks and author logos.
Just a note: If you are using a designer, it is best if you've completed Step 1 above because this will help give your designer direction. You'll have a much better chance of success and happiness with the results if you clearly communicate what you're looking for. Here's an article I wrote about how to get the most out of a Fiverr Book cover designer – although I don't recommend Fiverr, I do believe the concepts from this article can be applied to your working with any designer.
Step 3. Select Your eBook Cover Dimensions
Before you start designing your book cover, you need to make sure that the dimensions of your book meet the market's requirements. Then, you need to choose the right width to height ratio so that your book looks like it fits.
Book Cover Dimension Requirements
Each market has different requirements and recommendations for book covers. Here's a handy chart with the basic dimensions and file requirements for the most popular self-publishing book sites:
Amazon is pretty flexible about your book cover size ratio. They only ask that one side is at least 1000px long. This allows you to make your cover width/ratio different. This is very noticeable when searching the Amazon results.
Amazon recommends that your book cover height to width dimensions be a ratio of 1.6:1. So what does that look like compared to a different ratio when customers scroll the results for a book search?
So, choose the right ratio for your book and make sure it looks great…because this is what the shopper is going to see.
PS: I personally use a 1.5:1 ration on my book covers by setting my cover dimensions to 1500 px height and 1000 px width. I feel as though it's the right combo. However, if you're creating a textbook or something that should look “thick,” then you might want to use a 1.3:1 ratio. See how the ratio can augment perception?
Step 4. Design Your Book Cover: Tips and Tricks
Designing your cover is part art, part science/psychology. Here are a couple of book cover design tips and tricks to think about and use when you go about actually designing it.
Select a Good Cover Font
Sometimes people really only focus on the cover image, but the font and title design should definitely not be overlooked. I’ll even go so far as to say you should treat your title like a logo, and you should create one that stands out and is memorable. It's so important, we have an entire post dedicated to book cover typography. Plus, there are certain fonts that are perfect for each genre, and there are fonts you should never use on your cover.
Here's a little more on fonts & typography that might help to spark something.
Use Colors to Draw Attention
The 2-3 cover colors you choose should help create the mood and message you’re trying to send. Complimentary colors (across from each other on the color wheel) tend to work well together, as do analogous colors (next to each other on the color wheel) of combined dark and light tints. Many Blockbuster movie posters feature a blue and orange design, or black, white, and red one, because these colors work well together. (I guess I was onto something when I created the blue & orange Kindlepreneur logo.)
Choose the Right Picture
Contrary to what many people think, simple is better. Make sure your cover is not too busy or a mix of too many colors. The cover image should cause an emotional reaction when people look at it, such as suspense, lust, or intrigue.
For example, a bloody camp hatchet on a stump could really set the tone for a wilderness survival/slasher book.
If you're looking for images to use on your cover, you can find just about anything you want on either free or paid sites. Here are a few:
Use Free Book Cover Images
The photos on these sites are free for you to use and alter as long as you give the artist credit. If you use an image for your cover art, check the attribution guidelines to see if there is are specific locations (such as back cover or title page) where artist credit should be given.
If you’re an author of a series, choose some element of the covers to keep the same, such as a theme, image, or font, to strengthen your branding as an author. Here’s an example from Ted Dekker’sThe Circle series (one of my favorite series of all time btw):
SUPER IMPORTANT ADVANCED TIP: Don’t forget to look at the small version of your final book cover product. When designing your book cover, you absolutely must look at your design in the size Amazon (and other sites if you're using them) will show your customer when they are shopping. Your ebook has to make an impact at a thumbnail size. Most importantly, customers should be intrigued and be able to tell what type of book it is at a glance.
One common mistake that people make is that their title either blends into the background or is just too small to read. So, before you finish, make sure to look at your cover in the size it will be on the Amazon results to check that it still looks good.
Step 5. Test Your Book Cover
Here is the BEFORE & AFTER of Martin Lake’s book cover, mentioned earlier in the intro. The cover update was completed by master cover designer, Derek Murphy. This is a perfect example of how subtle changes like font, color, and organization can have a huge impact.
The case study results for Martin and several other authors who sold more books by replacing an old cover can be found here.
And if you have a couple of covers and you’re not sure which will sell best, I highly recommend using PickFu to split test your covers and see which one people like better. This helps you get honest feedback from potential customers (people you don't know) so you can more confidently make the final decision about your cover.
After you're done making a book cover design that impresses both you and people you don't know, turn your flat 2D image into an awesome 3D Book Mockup to create more professional looking advertisements for your book.
Some cover designers will include a 3D cover in the package you pay for (or will add it for super cheap). Alternatively, you can download templates yourself for free or hire someone to create a mockup for you for super cheap (like $5 or $8) as I explain in this guide to create book cover mockups.
See how much better your book cover design can be with just one simple trick?
The Art and Science to Book Covers
I'm a big fan of Ted talks, and this one is a perfect cap to the article.
Have you ever wondered if just a simple change of your book cover design could be what your book needs?
The truth of the matter is, people do judge a book by its cover. If your book cover design doesn’t follow these key guidelines, your book–no matter how well written–will fail.
So make sure you can answer “Yes!” to all of these final book cover design questions:
Does your cover send a clear message?
Did you stick to genre expectations?
Did you select a font that’s proven to be great?
Did you use colors that compliment and pop?
Did you choose a powerful picture that intrigues?
Does your cover make an impact in the small thumbnail size?
Did you brand your covers if you wrote a series?
Did you test your covers to see which is truly the best?
Implement these steps and you’ll be well on your way to designing a book cover that’s perfect for your market. You may even double or even triple your book sales.
When I am not fighting dragons or chasing the bogey man out of my kids closet, I like using my previous Online Optimization skills to help other authors with the 'technical' stuff and get the right authors to the top of Amazon and any other eBook service out there.