Sketch Your Paperback Cover Before Building It

The next step in the paperback cover design is to sketch what your cover will look like. This is your cover’s blueprint. Creating a sketch to follow as you gather the materials needed to bring your design to fruition, you’ll save yourself time by not having to redo work if you’re just pantsing it.

Your sketch doesn’t need to be too fancy, but the more time you spend on it, the more likely that it will look better, simply because you’ve put some thought into it rather than slapped it together.

To come up with ideas for a cover, look at what others are doing on their books. Amazon’s bestsellers list for your genre is a good place to start. You don’t want to copy another cover’s design but instead be inspired by it. Maybe you like the color scheme used on one cover, possibly the font used on another book. Can they be melded together in your design? Does a certain style of artwork grab you more than the style used on other covers? Can that style be emulated for your sketch?

When sketching your cover, think of how you want the four elements to look and where they will go. What artwork will you use – a photograph or an illustration? What font and color will the title be? Ditto on the byline. Will you use a tag line and what will it say?

In the sections ahead, we’ll examine all of that and some good design principles your should follow. 

But first one last thought: Your sketch is just a sketch. You always can change it. You may have to, in fact. Maybe you won’t be able to find the artwork you originally envisioned. Maybe you’ll see a better piece of art or a better font than you planned. Be willing to switch up. Just make another sketch with the new materials or ideas. Allow your cover to evolve.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.