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How do I create an eye-catching book cover?

There is no 'one style fits all' when it comes to book covers, so how do you choose what type of book cover works for your manuscript? Do you go for simple, modern, colourful, minimalistic, realistic, or any of the other seemingly million types of book covers out there?


Choosing the type of cover that fits your manuscript best and attracts the most readers isn't easy. But you can narrow your search to make it easier before designing the eye-catching book cover your manuscript deserves.


Step 1: Research your genre's book covers

Readers of specific genres have book cover expectations. When you walk into a library or a bookstore, you will see a big difference between fantasy, crime, literature, romance, and self-help book covers. There are certain expectations regarding letter and image positioning per genre, and while these are not set in stone, authors are always recommended to consider these.


Book cover examples per genre

These examples are taken from the Amazon search results list. It is not exhaustive, so don't take my word for it; browse yourself.


Crime/Thriller

What is the common denominator between these crime and thriller book covers? The photo/image used on the cover is relatively simple, and dark tones dominate. Letters are quite big, all capitals, and often in Blue, Red, or Yellow as those colours pop on a (mostly) dark background. It is often:


  1. A single person in the centre with a town/city/natural scenery background, such as 'Turning of our Bones'.

  2. A simple image or natural scenery/town/city/item, such as 'The Spider', 'Resurrection Walk', Dead Man's Grave', and 'Heavy is The Crown'.

  3. A mixed-image background often showcasing bullets or a gun in the background/faded out, such as 'Cross Down'.


Romance

What is the common denominator between these romance book covers? Romance is a huge genre, and book covers vary depending on the sub-genre. Historical romance covers are vastly different from contemporary romance. Letters are often lowercase or sentence case in White, Black, or Yellow as those colours pop on the mostly bright colour and darker image backgrounds. The type can be playful. It is often:


  1. A bright background with a simple image, such as 'The Summer Swap' and 'Way Back'.

  2. One of two people taking centre stage with a simple image background, such as 'One Perfect French Summer'.

  3. A full-image photo of one or two people, either in a romantic embrace/setting or skimpy dressed, such as 'The Idea of You' and 'Ivory Ashes'.



Fantasy

What is the common denominator between these fantasy book covers? The photo/image used on the cover often has a darker tone. Letters are usually capitalised and take up most of the book cover. The type can be playful, as seen on 'Soul Music' and the italicised capital Ts on 'Two Thousand Blades'. The colour of the author's name is often White, and the title is often a colour that blends nicely with the cover image. It is often:


  1. A pattern or a single colour background, with a badge/emblem related to the plot, such as 'Fire and Blood' and 'The Witcher'.

  2. A single 'simple' image that is neutral with the book title taking the main stage, such as 'The Wheel of Time' and 'Two Thousand Blades'.

  3. A full-size (non-)realistic image of the protagonist or other important character/ imagery from the book, such as 'Opening Gambit' and 'Medea'.

  4. A full-size bold image (can be realistic) of an essential scene/item from the book, such as 'Soul Music', 'Killing Time', and 'The Shadow Isle'.



Science Fiction

What is the common denominator between these science-fiction book covers? As you can see from the examples below, science fiction is quite broad when it comes to types of book covers (most likely due to the many subgenres). The photo/image used on the cover often has a darker tone. Letters are often capitalised and White, Yellow, or Blue in colour. Some prefer a colour that matches the title, such as Red for Mars (the red planet) or go full funky, like 'The Mistery of Time'. It is often:


  1. A full-size (non-)realistic image as the background, with the protagonist or other important character/imagery from the book taking centre stage, such as 'Machine Vendetta' or 'Quiet War'.

  2. A full-size image of space with a planet or spaceship, such as 'Children of Time' and 'Archipelago'.

  3. A portrait as the main image, often accompanied by something linking to the story, such as computer code in 'To The Piper's Tune', nerves/data connecting in 'Forward The Foundation', or an emblem/drawing that may be important to the story in 'The Memory Police'.

  4. A full-size realistic image of important imagery from the book, such as 'The Three-Body Problem' and 'The Fifth Season'.

  5. A bold image showcasing something important from the book; it can be any size, such as 'The Bone Clocks' and 'Hyperion'. In the case of 'The Ministry of Time', the full-page title doubles as the artwork.



Self-Help

What is the common denominator between these self-help book covers? The cover is almost always in a neutral and calming colour. Letters are a mix of capitalised, sentence case, and lowercase. There is often a playfulness to the title and subtitle, with certain words or letters in a different font, size, or colour (as seen from the examples below). Depending on the background colour/image, letters are often White, Black, or Yellow. It is often:


  1. A plain colour background with the title/author only, such as 'Has Nobody Told Me This Before', 'Things No One Taught Us About Love', and 'You Are A Badass'.

  2. A plain colour background with a simple image, such as 'Eliminate Negative Thinking', '52 Ways to Walk', 'Surrounded by Idiots', 'Just One Thing', Cognitive Behavioral Therapy', and 'Help Me: I Have No Discipline And Zero Self-Control'.



Websites such as SelfPubBookCovers are great for inspiration.


Step 2: Narrow down your choices

What is most important is choosing something that resonates with you and the story in your manuscript. After all, it is your book, and you get to decide what it will look like.


So, if you choose a few book covers from the genre you are writing in that really catch your eye, the result will be a book cover plan you can use to start designing the perfect book cover:


  1. Try to narrow it down to two or three book covers.

  2. Write down what element/placement of each book cover resonates with you.


Step 3: Design your cover

Option 1: design the cover yourself


Computer software

There are many design programs available for creating book covers. Some are free, and some require payment. I have listed the programs I often come across below.


Before designing your book cover, make sure you know what dimensions you need for the front, back, and spine. Every manuscript, depending on its size and number of pages, will require a different-sized cover. You can find the book cover requirements on your self-publishing platform.


GIMP

Free to download: Lots of people like Gimp because of the possibilities. It may not be the easiest to work with initially, but with some pottering around, you can create a beautiful cover.


'Whether you are a graphic designer, photographer, illustrator, or scientist, GIMP provides you with sophisticated tools to get your job done.' (GIMP)

GIMP photoshop software
GIMP

Adobe InDesign

Book Brush

Adobe Photoshop

Canva Pro


Choose a font

A unique font can make the author's name and title of your book stand out on the shelves. Choosing a font that matches the genre you are writing in is always a good idea. You can find many different fonts online. FontSpace, for example, has over 120,000 licenced fonts to download for free.




Option 2: hire a book cover designer

You may already have someone in mind who makes fantastic book covers, but if not, you will have to find a designer.


These are some websites showcasing book designers' work and customer reviews that may aid you in your search for a designer:



There are also a lot of websites with ready-made book covers. All you have to do is alter the title and author name. Some designers will allow for some minor adjustments on the cover, such as title placement, etc. Prices vary, but many I have come across during my research are between £50 and £130. I have shared a few of the websites I found on Google below:



*Accessed 10/06/24.


Step 4: Publish your manuscript with that amazing book cover you created!


I hope this post was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

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