Tag Archives: design

book covers

How to Make Your Book Cover a Creative Masterpiece (Fast!)

Designing your own book cover? Book covers are a complicated beast, but what’s true with t-shirts is true with book covers. When it comes to designing one, you probably have a good idea of what you want, but a not-so-good idea of how to go about getting it. Book covers seem hard to make on your own, but hiring a good designer can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

So, what’s a self-published author to do? Don’t fret.

Whether you’ve never made one before or you’re a fan of the tried and true book cover template, this guide will get you from idea to store shelves in no time.

Know Your Audience

Wrote a steamy beach romance? How about creating a cover with a tanned lifeguard… Maybe in an unbuttoned shirt?

Penned a biography of George Washington? A good bet is a cover with patriotic landmarks and the American flag.

Dreaming up an otherworldly fantasy? Try a picture of cute puppies. Everyone loves puppies.

See how that last one didn’t quite make sense?

Whether your book is a raunchy romance or a fantasy adventure, you need to choose images that connect with your story.

People like familiarity. Don’t copy, but do stick with something that draws in readers. Images help prepare them for the kind of book they’re about to read.

Not convinced of the power of images?

One author made a simple change to his cover design and saw a huge increase in book sales. With a little elbow grease, you can achieve the same success.

Here’s a handy list of questions to ask yourself when choosing your book’s look:

  • What age group is this book for?
  • What do other covers in my genre look like?
  • How do I want readers to feel when they see my cover?
  • Is there an important event or plot point I want to portray?
sample book cover designs

sample book cover designs – Adobe Spark

Use Your Resources

Hiring a photographer is pricey, and doing it yourself just doesn’t work. You don’t have access to the training, time, and equipment you need to do the job. You’ve got to create a cover, but you don’t want to break the bank to do it.

You’ve got to create a cover, but you don’t want to break the bank to do it. Luckily, there are many ways to do it.

Find your image

Thanks to the internet there are tons of quality, low-cost image services out there waiting for you.

Adobe Stock Photos, Shutterstockomg photos, and iStock are a few of the many, many resources at your fingertips.

And the good news? They’re all a quick internet search away.

Get editing

Once you have your photos, you’ll need to do some editing to get them in tip top shape. There’s no need to go buy any fancy image editing software.

Free and easy to use programs like GIMP, Pixlr, and Canva are a few of the powerful tools you can use to work on your images.

Not particularly tech savvy?

It might surprise you to learn that you can even design your entire cover in Microsoft Word.

Stand Out

You’ve chosen an image that suits your theme – well done! You’re one step closer to publishing.

Before you give your book the green light, let’s make sure it can handle the competition.

Take a stroll through your local book store’s Teen Romance section. Notice anything?

About now, you’re probably seeing a lot of covers with red objects on black backgrounds. Now, I know what you’re thinking.

“It worked for Stephanie Meyer. Why can’t it work for me?”

Because no matter how big of a Twilight fan you are, you’re not the author. You’re you, and your book should feel like it came from you, too.

Plus, it’s a little embarrassing when your cover looks exactly like everyone else’s.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In the book cover world, it’s the fastest way to lose sales.

Readers will put your book back on the shelf when they realize it’s a copy cat.

Admire that author’s writing, their plot, or their themes – but keep your book cover original. You never know, you could come up with the next big cover idea.

book cover design ideas

book cover design ideas – Adobe Spark

Follow the Principles of Design

There’s a lot to know about the principles of graphic design. What’s true with shirts is also true with everything else; from tiny postage stamps to free business cards or (cheap t-shirts!) to massive billboards.

It can be overwhelming. I’ve distilled it down into the top three heaviest hitters in book cover design.


Fonts are as varied as book genres, and it’s important to look for a perfect fit.

Whether you’re going for whimsical or serious, funny or stoic, it’s crucial to pick a font that represents your book’s core theme.

Fonts need as much design as images do. Be sure to keep them well placed and well spaced. Believe it or not, the font you choose can evoke powerful emotions in the subconscious.

Did you know there’s even an entire psychology behind fonts? Take the time to choose the right font.


If you’ve ever been green with envy, felt yellow bellied or met a bonafide blue blood, then you know colors are just as linked to our feelings as images.

In fact, one study found that participants judged up to 90% of products based on color alone. That’s right, an enticing color can make all the difference.


I can’t stress this enough: let your work breathe. Don’t clutter the cover with minute details or too many characters.

Go with the main theme, one important event, or a major character, and leave space for those images to work their magic.

Write Your Blurb

You’ve finished the front of your book cover, but that doesn’t mean you’re done.

The spine and back cover need your attention too, and the blurb is a good place to start. The blurb is a short summary of your story located on the back cover of your novel.

With the average human attention span down to 8 seconds, (look, a butterfly!) you need to keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

Start with an enticing hook, and follow with some light description. Add a dash of mystery and you’ll have a book blurb worthy of its shelf space.

Get Going

With these tips in hand, the only thing left to do is get started. What kind of book cover will you design? Let us know in the comments below.


Make room for a new kind of design competition at Voteforart.com

I saw this alert for a new contest site called Voteforart.com and was intrigued by the concept of crowdsourcing designs for licensed Collegiate apparel. I wanted to know more, so I contacted Jeremy Parker and asked him a few questions. Here is what he sent back:

What is the concept behind Voteforart.com? How does the site work?

Voteforart.com is a new venture launched by the large apparel company MV Sport and will be the home for collegiate-licensed graphic design contests. Throughout the year, schools will hold contests for different themes, such as homecoming, start of the basketball season or a big event on campus. Artists from within the university and from around the world will submit designs and compete for a cash prize and a piece of school history. All submissions will be reviewed and approved by licensing and then posted on the site to be voted on by the Vote For Art community. The winning design will be printed on t-shirts and sold at the university bookstore. Vote For Art will give artists from all over the world the opportunity to break into an industry that before now has been impossible. It gives them an opportunity to get there work seen by thousands of people and make a substantial amount of money. We are not only helping artists get their work seen and paid for, but our goal is also to make college apparel a lot cooler.

How is your site similar/different than other shirt contest sites out there?

We are different then all of the shirt contest site that are currently out there because we allow artists to create licensed apparel. Additionally, the winning design for each contest is not only sold on our website but also at the University bookstore.

What inspired you to start the site and how did you get started?

In April of 2009 I was working on another business and we were selected to be a finalist at the University of Maryland Cupid’s Cup business competition run by Kevin Plank CEO of Under Armour. We did not win, but after the event I went to the University bookstore to by a magazine for my train ride home to NYC. At the bookstore I didn’t see any t-shirts that I liked. All of the designs were very simple and plain. I thought wouldn’t it be cool to create a site where college apparel could be crowdsourced and artists from all over the world could design what they would actually want to wear and fans and students of the university would be able to vote for their favorite designs. During the three hour train ride home I wrote up the >Vote For Art business plan.

What were some of the challenges with getting the site off the ground.

For Vote For art to work, I needed to partner up with a company that was already in the industry and held college licensing and had relationships with many college bookstores. After I returned from University of Maryland, I approached MV Sport, one of the largest marketers of collegiate apparel, with my idea and how I think we could revolutionize the collegiate apparel industry and create a new and exciting brand that would benefit the students of the university and artists from all over the world. Over the next 3 months, there were many meetings, business plan revisions, powerpoint presentations and in July I was given the go ahead.

I’m an artist. How do I participate and what do I need to know to be successful

It is very simple. Artists go to Voteforart.com and create an account. It takes literally 30 seconds and it doesn’t cost anything. Once you are signed up, you can submit to all of the contests that we have on our site. Currently there are 4 contests taking submissions including University of Maryland, Oregon State University and University of Wisconsin. In order to be successful, I would suggest first and foremost to read over the contest guidelines. Once you know all of the rules, download the school’s vector logos (we provide this) and create the most interesting and creative design. Once you have your design, place the design on a t-shirt template (we also provide this) and submit your work.

I’m a fan and an artist, can I do anything to get a contest at my favorite school?

Yes. Send us a message of what school you go to and we will try to set up a contest. Maybe you can help us out and be our contact at the University.

Looking into the future, what does it hold for Voteforart.com?

We are really focused on signing up more universities and creating a name for ourself in the industry. Since we launched in October 2009, we have signed up Purdue University, University of Maryland, Oregon State University, University of Wisconsin, Arizona State University, University of North Dakota and University of Kansas. We hope to be a site where artists can earn money and get huge exposure for their work. That is really our main focus right now.


Final Thoughts from PCT:

I like the concept of Voteforart. I think it’s a great opportunity to not only make money designing shirts, but to also get great crossover exposure to a huge college market. The potential alone for a shirt artist to get recognition outside the scope of the Shirt-o-Sphere makes this site worth your investigation. Check them out, and see. You might even find a team that you like.

Go Pac-10!

Recently awarded:

University of North Dakota contest at Voteforart.com

Contest now open for voting:

Arizona State University

Contests currently Accepting designs:

St. Claire CC
University of Maryland
Oregon State University
University of Wisconsin

Read about Voteforart.com in Entrepreneur Magazine.

Also mentioned in this article:

MV Sport
Under Armour


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