I know there are a lot of people out there wondering how to go about creating a cover for their own book, so I figured I would do a step-by-step guide based on my methods. Of course there are other options such as hiring a designer or using one of the templates provided by the printer, but if you’ve decided to self-publish, isn’t half the fun getting to create your own cover?
1 – Find out dimensions
Decide which printer you’re going to go with and find out what size books they create. Choose one and make sure you are creating your cover with the proper dimensions. Usually if you are drawing your cover, you want to make it proportionally a little larger than the final image. This is so that you can shrink it on the computer which will eliminate some of your shaky lines and mistakes.
2 – Thumbnail
A thumbnail is a small sketch of the final design you want to create. You don’t have to be a good drawer to create a thumbnail. Since you are the only one going to see this, stick figures are encouraged. Whether you’re creating the cover yourself or having someone else draw/paint/photograph it for you, you should have some idea of what you want it to look like. Thumbnailing is a simple way of trying out a bunch of different options without putting a lot of effort into each one. In school we used to be told to do at least 40 thumbnails, and while sometime the first one might be the one you go with, often it’s not until you force yourself to think outside your comfort zone that you really find an idea that will work.
3 – Create a proof copy
Although this is more detailed than the thumbnail, it doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re goal at this stage is to figure out layout for the book such as where the focus will be, where the title will go, where your name will go, etc. Usually you won’t use the final photo or painting being created for this part. Use a place holder image in place of the one you will create later. This will give you or your artist an idea of what sort of space should be left around the image so that nothing will be stuffed too far off to a side or in a corner.
4 – Design the title
You might think that you can slap that title on at the end after you have the image, but it really is better to have the title first and create an image that works with it. The title is the main focus of any book. It’s what you see when the book is on the shelf and it’s what will grab the attention of potential readers. Because it’s so important, make sure that it not only looks good, but is legible. Try not to use common fonts such as Times, Comic Sans or Papyrus. There are some great free fonts out there at places like 1001freefonts.com, DaFont.com, or 1001fonts.com. Often whats available on these sites are remakes of fonts used on other books or movies so be careful with your choice and try to make it look as original as possible.
5 – Create the image
Now is the time to take that photo and start altering it, or draw that image or whatever you’re going to do to create the cover. Don’t steal photos from Google, that’s illegal. There are stock photography sites out there where you can buy the photo and use it however you like, use them if you really want something off the internet. Or find a friend who’s willing to help you out. Though don’t expect a professional artist or photographer to work for free just because you’re their friend. That’s rude. That is how they make a living after all. If you have the skills to create the image yourself, go for it, but don’t forget that you want the book to look professional. Compare your image with ones used for other books to decide whether your own images are at that level.
6 – Put it all together.
You’ve got your image, you’ve got your title, and you’ve planned out how it will all look. Now is the time to bring it all together. If you’ve done everything else right by planning out the size and where to place all of the items you need, this part should work out fairly easily. Don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t. Even professional designers make mistakes, the goal is to make as few as possible and have a kickass cover to boot.
And that’s how to make a cover! Have fun with it and make sure to check out other covers so that you can have an idea of what works and what doesn’t.