The book cover makes or breaks your book. This is a hard fact that you have to be aware of. The cover is the advertisement for the book and if it doesn’t grasp the readers interest in a matter of a split second, then it won’t sell.
The cover has to convey the context and mood of the book, it needs to entice the reader and – last, but not least – it has to be actually readable. Especially with online stores it has become essentially important to create covers that deliver on a tiny format, because platforms like Amazon show a small preview image.

Get Professional Help

First of all I have to say that investing in a professionally made cover by someone with expertise and experience is worth every penny. There is a great deal of knowledge in a cover and aside from aesthetical aspects there is also psychology and marketing to consider.

If you want to know some insights anyway, I’ll try to give some here.

Get Inspiration

Generally, it helps a lot to look at existing and well-known book covers to get a feel for the overall style. Each genre has it’s signature marks that make them unique and recognizable. While romance novels have an airy feel with pastel colors and maybe some florals on them, those typical self-help business books use dominant single or dual colors and big, straight lettering. Take a look at your niche and figure out the recurring elements.

Mood, Style and Context

Before getting to any actual design ideas, I want you to think about what you want to convey with your cover. What is your genre, what are some genre-typical style elements? What kind of mood dominates your novel that you could go for? Dramatic? Dark? Airy? Light?

The three design pillars

Image

First off: Don’t just use some random stock images. Or any random picture at all. Your choice should be intentional and well thought out.
Then you want to make sure that whatever image you use, you 1. have the right to use it (you may need to pay for this) and 2. you have a high quality image. You probably don’t want to use a direct visualization of your novel, but rather images that set the tone, the mood or a feeling.
One thing that I learned from Pinterest and its users behaviour is, that images without a face are pinned much more often. They leave room for imagination. I’d suggest the same thing for a book cover. Don’t show clear faces, if possible.

Fonts

Choosing a font is an art, I tell you that. For the amateur like you and me I’d highly recommend plain and clear fonts. Readability is your number one priority. No shadows or stretching or artsy variants. Be aware that eBook covers have not much room to spare, so use the little you have wisely. Put the title big and readable on screen. Maybe skip a subtitle if possible. Your name doesn’t have to be dominant as well.
If you want to use more than one font, use two. No more than that. Two can be easily matched without being overwhelming, more is too complex for amateurs.
Oh, and make sure that you have the right to use the font commercially as well!

Colors

Same principle as above: less is more. Try to use one or two colors. Make them compliment each other. You can take a look at this page for basic color matching.
These examples work with bright colors, but don’t make your cover too glaring. You may want to mute or darken the colors to make them less aggressive to the eye. Your general aim is balance.
You can find inspiration through your genre and mood again.

Simplicity

Your overarching theme should be to keep it simple. Use one single focus point in your pictures, few colors, one or two fonts and be extremely focused with what your cover conveys.
The reader has one look – one quick look – so the title has to jump into his eye and the whole cover needs to be clear and impressionable.

Format

The desired format depends a lot on the platform you want to use. Amazon currently has a ratio of 1.6:1, meaning for every 1,000 px in height you need 1,600 px in height. They advice a minimum height of 2,500 px with ideal dimentions of 2,560 x 1,600 px.
Inform yourself of the current format before you start.

Websites

You can use some graphic design software to create a cover, if you know how to handle it, but you can also take a look at Canva or Kindles Cover Creator to get help with the creation.

I guess it is possible to make a semi-professional and acceptable book cover youself, if you have a sense for style and know how to handle the implementation. If, however, you realize, that this is not your cup of tea, then I urge you to spend the money for professional help.
It would be a shame if your novel would collect (digital) dust, just because the cover doesn’t sell. Don’t do that to yourself, please. Your work deserves to be read.

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