Publishing 101: Cover Design

Publishing 101This is one in a series of posts entitled Publishing 101: Draft to Book in 30 Days. To learn more about this challenge, visit the Publishing 101 page, where all links regarding this topic will be listed as they become available.

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Writers who self-publish have several options for cover design. They can

  • hire someone to design it for them
  • purchase a premade cover
  • use a CreateSpace template
  • design it themselves

I’ll go through three of these four steps quickly and then focus on what I do.

Hire Someone to Design a Book Cover

A quick google search will turn up a long list of graphic designers who will create amazing covers for your book. CreateSpace also offers the service. You can have a cover created specifically for your paperback and one for your eBook. Prices start at around $50 and go up quickly from there. Remember: quality often matches the dollar value.

Elance is a well-used site where anyone can post a job and receive bids for it. The eLance system protects buyers and sellers to certain degree. Like all business, this is a business and it’s your job to do the homework to see you get the best value for your buck. I know two authors who found excellent illustrators on eLance.

Purchase a Premade Cover

I’ve seen several sites around that showcase covers on their pages. All you have to do is submit the title, author name and whatever other text you want on the cover and they insert it for you. Bang! Your cover is complete.

I’ve seen designers charge as little as $20 for these covers. The design you choose is the design you get. There is often no tweaking of background image. The lower end of the fee scale is reserved for eBooks. If you want a paperback version expect to pay more.

CreateSpace Template

CreateSpace provides several templates in which you add text and drop in an image to create a basic cover. There is no extra charge to use these templates.

There are thirty templates to choose from. Each time I publish a book through CreateSpace, they ask me for suggestions on how they can improve their service. I tell them more cover templates would be great. From what I can see they’ve been offering the same ones since I first signed up almost two years ago. Each template has been used multiple times, so it wouldn’t hurt to inject new blood into the system.

Even though I don’t use their templates, I assume other authors would benefit if they increased the template count.

Design it Yourself

This is what I’ve been doing. I enjoy it, but I realise it’s not for everyone.

If you make your own covers, you’re in charge of everything. From images, correct size, font type and placement: it’s all in your hands. If you create your own using a CreateSpace template, you still must make choices that will ultimately help or hinder book sales.

As a cover creator the first items you need to decide are

  • title of the book
  • author name
  • one sentence blurb
  • added message
  • genre
  • price

Title of the Book

As the author/publisher, you have the pleasure of naming your book. Choose one that tells something about the story, one that will catch the attention of readers and stick in their minds. Try to use as few words as possible.

Author Name

This is not as simple as it sounds. Are you going to list your full name plainly (Diane Lynn Tibert), spice it up a bit (Diana Lynn Tibert), use your first and last name (Diane Tibert), initials only (D. L. Tibert) or a middle initial (Diane L. Tibert)? Or maybe you’ll use your married name or your married name with your maiden name in parenthesis (Ruth M. (Rumley) Legge).

If you’re divorced, you might revert to your maiden name, or if you’re married more than once, you can choose whichever surname sounds more like a writer’s name. Country and Western singer Faith Hill uses her first husband’s surname not her maiden name (Perry) or current husband Tim McGraw’s.

Do you see how choosing an author name can be a complicated matter? Now let’s bring in pen names…

Do you want to use one or not? If so, how will you choose from all those names out there? I’ll leave that up to you, but here’s a post about how I chose Diane Lynn McGyver: Penning a Name.

Here’s another post I wrote about finding my Candy McMudd pen name: Pen Names are Good. Or are they Bad?

One Sentence Blurb

This is a one-sentence blurb you sometimes find on front covers. It’s short and meant to pique the reader’s interest. Sometimes instead of a short blurb about the book, a comment by a well-known author or publication will boast about the book.

Or you can leave this out. It’s up to the publisher (you).

I’m thinking about using the following blurb: Shamo Drive hasn’t been the same since Mildred Fowler retired and found a hobby.

Added Message

This message is a few words long. It might state “New York Times Best Selling Author” which means diddly-squat these days and doesn’t really tell the readers anything because I see hundreds of books with this on it.

The message might state, Author of Shadows in the Stone, which would tell readers about another book you’ve written.

Or you could leave this item out. It’s up to you.


Several months ago I read that the genre of a book should be noted on the back. I’ve decided to practise this for the time being, so the short, one-word genre for Fowl Summer Nights is: Humour.

When I list the book at outlets, I’ll use what I can of the following genre: Novella-Contemporary-Humour.


As the publisher you set the price, taking into account the bare minimum CreateSpace will allow you to charge for a book. Several sources state the price should be on the back. I followed this advice a few times, but I think in the new age of publishing, this is not feasible, so I’ve opted to keep it off. Normally it would go above the genre in the bottom, left-hand corner of the back cover.

After deciding on these items, you have to start thinking about design. If this is your first cover, I suggest keeping it simple. I recommend creating a minimum of six covers, and then decide which one suits your book best.

The items to design are

  • title font
  • author name font
  • front cover sentence font
  • back cover blurb font and style
  • genre font

Unlike interior font, the font for a title and author name can be fancy and elaborate. However, if readers cannot read the text, then the font defeats the purpose. Readers must be able to read the title and the author’s name.

Here’s a post I wrote about creating book covers in PowerPoint: Create! Design! Make it So. I discovered I could use PowerPoint to create covers in this post by Dean Wesley Smith: Think Like a Publisher #6…Covers and Publisher Looks.

If you need inspiration, check out the books at a library, book store or online at Amazon. Look at books that are similar in flavour as the one you are designing.

The covers below are set at 11 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall, but the one I choose won’t remain that size. The eleven inches comes from the sum of the back and front cover (5.5 + 5.5). When I know exactly how many pages the interior will be, I’ll enlarge the width for the spine and bleed, as well as add the bleed to the height.

Getting the right size for the cover is a post in itself, so we’ll stop here for today.







This completes this step in the Draft to Book in 30 Days challenge.

Next Post Publishing 101: Book Summary

2 thoughts on “Publishing 101: Cover Design

  1. Great in depth post about this, and thanks for explaining all the options clearly, it’s a major help when I’m coming up to this stage in my self-publishing journey 🙂


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