Book Cover Adventures


As an unpublished writer without any fans or following, my budget for book covers and editing is next to zero. Since I can’t afford to have someone make me a book cover, I will have to do everything myself. I will have to learn some cover design skills. Starting out, the covers will be pretty simple until I develop enough skills to make something more complex and professional looking.

While searching YouTube for some videos on how to make book covers, I found Derek Murphy’s do it yourself cover design website. His work is quite professional, and you can look at the numerous cover designs he has made and use them as templates. Click here for his site:

He has also developed an online Flash Image Editor that is simple to use where you can make your own book covers: You make your project online and then can save the project back to your own computer, which you can reopen and continue to work on. It’s very handy. If you click on the link, this is what it looks like.


The photo upload and text editing are pretty straightforward. It gets complicated when you try to layer multiple images together to create a composite image. This is where the art and professional skill come into play. That level of sophistication I am nowhere near mastering. Here is a YouTube video on how to use the editor: If you click on help, he also has a series of video tutorials to guide you through the process of making your own book covers.

According to Derek, book covers should do the following:

  • The book cover is the packaging of your product. Its purpose is to grab the reader’s attention and get them to read the book description.
  • The book cover needs to meet the reader’s expectation of what books in the same genre look like. It should look like other books in the same genre. Don’t try to stand out or be unique. If you are self-publishing, prefer a more generic genre cover that alerts the reader to what kind of book it is. Exceptions can be made for literary fiction and non-fiction.
  • Book covers should incorporate contrasting colors (such as teal and orange). They should also use light and dark contrasts and spaces.
  • The text elements should be well spaced and the letters not all crammed together. Use appropriate fonts for the title that fits the genre. Use different fonts for the title, subtitle and author name. Use a font that suggests the mood of the genre for the title, and simple serif and san serif fonts for the subtitle and author name.
  • Keep the subtitle simple.
  • Avoid placing scenes from the book or collages of details from the book. Prefer covers that have a single background picture and one (sometimes two) characters on the cover.
  • The book cover is not about the book’s content. The purpose of the cover is to attract the reader’s attention. The book description is where you sell the book, that is when you tell the potential reader what the book is about.
  • Use humanizing elements. It doesn’t have to be a person, but something that suggests human emotion or human presence.

The biggest mistakes that self-publishing authors make when designing their own covers are:

  • They make ugly book covers that don’t attract readers and gives an unprofessional impression.
  • They use specific scenes from the book. The reader hasn’t read the book yet. They won’t know what the image refers to. The cover should be self-explanatory.
  • They make the cover too busy or cluttered with text, reviews, or awards, rather than being clean and simple. That stuff goes into the description, not on the front cover.
  • They design for the thumbnail, instead of the full-size cover. What looks attractive and readable as a thumbnail might not look so good full size. The book thumbnail is almost always accompanied by the title and the author name on the web page.
  • They try to focus the reader’s attention on too many things. Instead, pick one thing to focus on: either the title, subtitle, series title, author name or cover art, but not all. Usually, you want to title to be big and the other text to be smaller.

Derek suggests the following three easy strategies for making a good book cover:

  • Choose a single beautiful picture, accompanied by simple fonts and typography, OR
  • Use a foreground character with a background scene, OR
  • Use a close up face (with some decoration indicating the setting or genre).

Now, you can follow me in my first attempts at making some nice book covers. I’ll post them all through my website. Keep an eye out for them.


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