Designing Covers on a Shoestring

What goes on your cover? There may be a lot of different answers to this question, because this can be design preferences. However, there are some basic things that should be on your Front Cover, and they may be rather obvious items: Title and Subtitle; Author’s or Authors’ Name(s) (without “by”), and a graphic. The Back Cover can vary a lot. Some people like a short author bio and small photo. Some people like a summary of the book. Another item that is popular on the book is to identify for whom the book has been written.

Deciding what text goes on the Front and Back pages is an important part of designing your book. Next is deciding what work of art goes on the Front Cover. My primary genre is Children’s Books, so my picture is one of the graphics in the interior of my book. However, for young adult and adult fiction, and non-fiction, there may not be art inside the book. Then, you will need to create it or have it created.

Color of background and text also figure into the design of your book cover. The font and size of font are also critical. Bold and Italicized fonts can be used to emphasize text. There is a lot of conversations on the Internet about fonts. There seems to be some agreement that Sans Serif works for most people. There are a lot of old-school sorts that prefer the Serif fonts.

If you are scratching your head wondering what the difference is, don’t feel too bad. Most of us, writers, don’t mess with fonts that much. A Serif Font has barbs or squiggles on it. Sans Serif means without the barbs or squiggles. To be truthful, you can read pros and cons about using one font or the other, and there are literally thousands of individual fonts within the two categories.

My suggestion is to play around with fonts. This might not be the most scientific method of working with fonts, but it has worked with me. I like fun fonts, such as Comic Sans and Hobo, for my children’s books. For non-fiction and even fiction for middle grade, young adults, and adults, fonts need to be a bit more standard. Standard, of course, is subjective. The usual choices are Arial, Palatino, or Calibri.

You can use more than one font, but I try to limit it to two. The same two that I use within my manuscript, I use on the cover. For example, with Comic Sans, I might use headlines as Hobo or Arial Black. While Covers do not have to match the inside, I just like to carry that continuity throughout the book. However, if I changed the font on the Cover because it worked on the Cover better, I might or might not change the inside pages. That would depend on why I used something different and whether it fit for the inside.

While there are many, many software programs to use for designing your cover, you really don’t have to have a fancy graphics program to do that. Naturally, you need a graphic on the cover.

You can use a photo or other graphic from such places as Dreamstime.com or iStockPhoto.com. For a small fee, you can use these images royalty free. But what happens when you cannot find exactly what you want?

Hiring an artist or graphic designer to create a Cover photo is one choice. This can be inexpensive or extremely expensive, depending on whom you hire. Hiring an art student can be a choice.

A rather new find, Canva.com will help you develop graphics and text to create your cover. The images are very inexpensive, such as free or $1. It seems to be an inexpensive way to develop cover art. It is free to set up an account and its drag and drop design environment is easy to use. There may be other applications on line, as well.

Creating a cover, also involves taking into account the number of pages to account for the spine. Most on-demand printing/publishing companies will give you the formula. Let’s just do an example, see below

  1. Choosing a Trim size of 6”X9” and a page count of 300 and white paper:
  2. The thickness of the white paper is .002252.
  3. Multiply the number of pages by the thickness of the paper or 300 X .002252 = 0.6756.
  4. .Add the width of 6” + 0.6756” of spine, giving a total width of 6.6756”.

While you can create this width of 6.6756” and length of 9” in just about any graphics program; however, I have found an easier way…well, at least for me!! Using PowerPoint™:

  1. Go to the DESIGN tab and click on the PAGE SETUP.
  2. A popup menu will give you the opportunity to enter the exact size of the page – 6.6756 width by 9 length.
  3. Then choose LANDSCAPE as the Orientation, which you can choose slides or handouts…that really doesn’t matter.
  4. Click Okay.
  5. Using the rulers at the top, move the text boxes or delete the ones that are there and create new ones, leaving the .6756 as the spine. Actually, you’ll leave a bigger space to accommodate margins on the page.
  6. Create another text box for the spine. It doesn’t matter how big it is, you can adjust that later. Type in the Title and the author name(s), then click on the HOME tab, click on TEXT DIRECTION. NOTE: It has some arrows beside it.
  7. In the left-hand text box, create your FRONT COVER.
  8. In the right-hand text box; create your BACK COVER.

One of the reasons that I use PowerPoint is that you can move text and pictures around easily and change angles, etc. Once you have finished your Cover, save it as a PowerPoint file, in case you need to work on it more. Then, save it as a .PDF file.

5 thoughts on “Designing Covers on a Shoestring”

    1. Thanks, Teena!

      I’m glad you found it helpful. Covers are very important, because that’s what people see before they buy your book. It’s especially important when you look at promoting online. Most of the time, your potential readers only see the front cover.

  1. Amazing blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog stand out.

    Please let me know where you got your theme. Cheers

    1. Thanks, Cody…this is one of the standard themes with a custom heading. It gives the dimensions for the custom graphic. Go into your graphic program and create a rectangle the size it shows, then build it from there. I use Corel Draw, but you can probably use different drawing programs.

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