Stacey D. Atkinson

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If you are planning to self-publish a book and have now reached the design phase, you’re probably asking yourself two questions:

  1. Should I hire a professional designer to create my book cover? or
  2. Should I dust off my design skills and give it a go myself?

What is the right answer? Well, you can approach it either way—hire a pro or DIY—it all depends on your publishing goal. 

What kind of book cover design do you need?

The book cover design for your print book includes a front cover, back cover, and spine. For an ebook, it just includes a front cover and a separate book description for your metadata or book selling page. Overall, you'll want to include the following in the book cover design process:

  • Ensure the book cover looks professional, e.g., a nicely designed image or illustration and fonts, and all copyrighted images have been licensed for your use.
  • Ensure the design meets the book’s specifications, e.g., a fiction book might have a book trim size of 5.5 x 8.5 inches.
  • Ensure the design meets the printer’s specification, e g., saved as a PDF with embedded fonts and flattened images.
  • Ensure you have well-written and edited content for the cover, e.g., front cover quotes; back cover book summary and publisher information.

Should you hire a pro?

If you want to see your book on a bookstore shelf someday, either in a bricks-and-mortar store or an online store, then you should spend your money wisely and hire a designer to create your book cover. If you want your book to compete with mainstream books coming out of New York publishing houses, then your cover has to look just as good as those books. You can find a book designer in a few different ways:

  • Word of mouth
  • Search online for designers’ websites or social media sites
  • Look for book covers you really like and contact the designers of those books 
  • LinkedIn, e.g., search for “designer” and the name of your city
  • Search the “find a designer” tab on the website GDC, Canada’s National Association for Design Professionals
  • Search the designer directory of AIGA, the Professional Association for Design in the United States
  • Additionally, if you are on a budget, you can consider online freelancer sites such as 99Designs or Upwork.

Should you DIY?

If you write for the fun of it and your main goal is to share your book with family and friends, then consider saving your money and creating a free cover design by using a template. Or if you or someone in your family has design skills, then consider designing your own cover.

To get started, check out these resources:

  • Createspace, a major self-publishing company run by Amazon, provides several resources for self-publishers. They offer a guide to creating a cover PDF for your book, custom templates, and a free cover creator service.
  • Or you can consider designing your own book cover from scratch by watching YouTube tutorials or by reading books like Book Design Made Simple by Fiona Raven, which offers a step-by-step guide to designing and typesetting your own book. 

As you can see, there are all kinds of options out there for book cover design based on your publishing goals and budget. 

Happy publishing!

This blog post is based on the content in Lesson 5: Designing a Book Cover, in the How to Publish a Book online course offered by editor Stacey D. Atkinson of Mirror Image Publishing.

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