Self-publishing skills: Designing

Welcome back to the third in this series of self-publishing skills. Today we will be looking at the skill of designing the great cover.

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The tired old maxim is to not judge a book by its cover. Sadly, when it comes to sales, that doesn’t cut it. Think about where you want your book to be sold, be that in a bricks-and-mortar bookshop or online and when you see books for sale, the first thing you see is the cover.

Like most skills that are needed in the self-publishing world, there are professionals out there who can support you through the process and can create beautiful designs for you. But if you’re going to try doing it yourself, here are a few things that you’ll need to consider.

The best place to start is to look at covers in your genre. You probably have plenty on your bookshelves but take the time to visit your local library and bookshops too. Look for the colours, the design, fonts, even book sizes. Don’t forget, it’s not just the front cover, look at the back cover too!

Typefaces form part of the design and it’s important to remember that. Different typefaces say different things about your book. Times New Roman is totally different to a Trebuchet or Arial typeface. Think about the tone of your book and the time setting. If you are using things like texts, tweets, or emails, you might want to consider a change of font or typeface here.

Does the cover use photographs? Or graphic art? Or maybe just a simple colour? What is it about your story that you want to reflect on the cover?

Whether you are going to design the cover yourself, or you think you will hire a professional cover artist, it is really important that you have a clear vision. Your research will help you get that clear vision. You’ll need it to create your own cover or to brief a professional artist.

In the past, it was easy to spot self-published book covers. But, as tools, fonts and photos become more accessible, it is easier for the self-publishing author to create an effective cover for their books.

Things to avoid:

  • WordArt. Remember that feature of Word? Leave it for your 90s kids’ homework projects!
  • Blank spaces around the edges. Your design needs to go right to corners!
  • Too many words. Save your blurb for the back cover.
  • Stretched photographs. Make sure the resolution of photos or designs is high enough and you keep it in ratio. No one wants oblong faces!

The design of your cover will change depending on the format, so make sure you are using the appropriate formatting. Hardbacks, paperbacks and ebooks will all need different cover designs, although you’ll want to keep a level of consistency across the different formats.

While we’re talking about design, it’s crucial to think about a few other things too.

Design of a book extends from the front and back covers, through the spine (yes, think about that too!) into the pages themselves. How do your chapter headings look? Is there a flourish you could tie in with the cover?

What about section breaks? Are three asterisks enough or is there a more suitable way for you to show the break? Again, look to some of the books in your genre for inspiration.

So now, you have a complete and edited manuscript, a design for your cover and internal pages, next we will look at putting those words onto the page: the typesetting.

Edited by David Ledain

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Published by Nick Taylor | Editor & Proofreader

Fiction editor and proofreader.

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