• Debbie

How to design a self published book cover - 6 considerations

I have had the privilege of designing my first book cover for Honeysett Counselling 'How to set up a successful counselling practice'.

Over the years I have completed many design projects, from leaflets, business cards, banners, signage but had not yet completed a book cover - but it turns out, it has been one of the most enjoyable - if not more technical.

My six considerations:

1. How are you printing and publishing the book?

'How to set up a successful counselling practice' was published through KDP, so they provide their own detailed instructions on how to set up the size, dimensions, colours and such. So make sure to read your publishers/printers guide PRIOR to starting your design. It will save you time and effort on guessing, misapplication of past experience to a different program.

I could have utilised my time more wisely if I had done this, rather than have to make retrospective design/dimension changes (when considering the spine, thickness of the book, bleed).

2. What program are you going to use to design the cover?

There are many good online and desktop apps/software (InDesign, Scribus, Canva) which you can use to design your cover - but the key thought before you dive in is... what app are you most comfortable using that will also fulfil the criteria of the publishers list of requirements for printing.

For this project, and many others, I used Canva. I created my own template and dimensions, and it allows for high quality print PDF - which is a format in which I uploaded the cover with bleed. It is an online app I am very comfortable with, so even when changes needed to be made or the briefing from the author changed (such as addition quotes on the back of the book), I was able to adapt it easily.

3. What format(s) do you need?

As well as a physical book - are you going to need an ebook cover? As this cover will be different to your book cover (which has the back and front on), and you will need to be able to 'lift' the front cover design and the back cover design separately to become files ready for upload.

Will you need to be able other related images - such as a facebook page cover image, or social media size post etc. Then make sure you are familiar with how to copy and duplicate your design and adjust the dimensions accordingly - I would test it out with mock designs before trying it on the real thing! Preserve your sanity!

4. Design Set Up

Physical Book - Your front cover design will be on the right, back cover design on the left and spine design central - all on the one design/file.

Ebook - as mentioned in no3, you will need 2 files - one of the front cover, the other of the back cover. I would recommend you complete your physical book cover first, and when the final version is completed - only then set up your ebook covers. You don't want to keep editing both designs trying to match the last change you made. It's a waste of your time and effort!

5. How is your book cover going to stand out from its competition?

Time to complete some research! Look at similar topic books to yours, see how those authors present their book and then list the pro's and con's. This helps you define what you want for your book cover and also steer clear of mimicking another design without realising it (as you don't want to blend in with the crowd!).

Anna Honeysett was clear in her briefing about the design she wanted and the use of colours having completed this research. I was then able to show her a number of abstract images, and set up a clear title layout which would stand out on a shelf or online when listed alongside other books.

6. Get ready to edit & design

Allow time and space to bring your creation to life. Creativity comes from having a space to imagine, consider, reflect and be inspired - so don't hurry and tinker, play around with, and ask for a few trusted people for input. Don't ask lot's of people - because everyone loves an opinion and it can become unhelpful and confusing.

Remember the core vision of your book - and if those people you are asking for feedback don't relate the cover design to the vision then you may want to do back to the drawing board.


Debbie is founder of Doodle My Domain, Wix Expert, website designer in Ashford, Kent, UK

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