Guidelines for designing your book’s front cover

Given that the most important part of your cover is its very front – as that’s what potential readers will see when they consider purchasing your book in a store or online – you’ll want to spend some time thinking about and working on it.

The artwork you use should receive the most consideration. Many potential readers won’t see the words so much as the illustration or picture that graces your front cover. Because of this, your artwork should be dramatic enough and convey something about the book. It’s a lot more complicated than that, of course, so we’ll spend more time discussing the elements of a good illustration for a cover in an upcoming blog entry.

Once you select artwork for the title, you need to find a spot for the title and the subtitle if you have one. First decide on a font that best represents the feel of book. A romance novel might have an elegant cursive typeface while a science fiction piece might use a futuristic font. The point size is another consideration. The title ought to be the larger than the subtitle and the author’s name but not so large that it covers too much of the artwork and distracts from it. Indeed, where you place the title in relation to the artwork is key. While it can be laid over the artwork, ideally the illustration you use will have white space (or blank space) where the title can appear.

After placing the title and subtitle, the author’s name needs to go on the front cover. While it doesn’t have to match the font used for the title, good design usually requires that it come from the same family of typefaces. One aspect of the author’s name that must absolutely be followed is that it exactly match the name used on the half-title and copyright pages (If I used “Robert A. Bignell” on the title page of this book, placing “R.A. Bignell” on the cover would be a no-no.). Finally, you may want to add a promotional line telling who you are (For example, I might use “Author of ‘7 Minutes a Day to Your Bestseller’” on this book’s front cover.).

Another element you might add to the title is a promotional line about the book. This usually are a four or five words of something nice someone has said about your book (For example, this book might say: “‘The only worthy guide out there.’ – Kyle John Janison, editor”). The person or the source (such as a newspaper or magazine) should be reputable and recognizable, however.

Finally, you can use free programs online or even from the self-publishing company to make a cover, but they tend to look amateurish. Given the elements of art/design, a professional designer often is needed to create a front cover.