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5 Tips for Indie Authors on Designing a Book Cover
Written by
Jee Ann Guibone
October 2017
Written by
Jee Ann Guibone
October 2017

Sometimes, indie authors just don't have the budget to get a book cover that costs a hundred dollars. Other indie authors, meanwhile, like the idea of experimenting and learning about book cover design.

Whether we want to admit it or not, people still judge a book by its cover, so getting a good book cover is important.

If you're not confident with your artistic skills, it's much better to let a professional handle it, but if you'd like to give it a try, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

First things first. If you're going to design your book's cover, you need to do the following:

  • Look up other books in the same genre on Amazon's Best Sellers list.
  • Use either Gimp (it's free), Photoshop, Canva, or other design tools. I would advise against using PowerPoint as you need to get the book cover size right.
  • Remember that your cover's purpose is to grab the attention of your target or ideal reader.
  • Make yourself a cup of coffee.

5 Tips to a Great Book Cover Design

1. Use the right book cover size.

Remember that it's a book and not an album cover. Amazon KDP suggests 2,500 x 1,500. Other distributors like Smashwords and Draft2Digital suggest 2,400 x 1,600. You can also use 4,500 x 3,000. As long as the minimum length is 1,000 pixels.

It's also a good idea to save your cover's resolution in 300 (for print) or 72 (for ebook). 

2. Choose the right photo or image.

Genres like high fantasy and sci-fi generally make use of illustrations. The rest usually use stock photos.

When making a book cover design, remember that it doesn't have to show an exact scene from your book. It doesn't have to include all main characters. It doesn't have to be the most perfect rendition of your protagonist.

It's not a movie poster.

You can make use of Public Domain pictures, or those that can be used for commercial purposes. The best thing is to buy stock photos from sites like Can Stock Photo or Shutterstock.

Don't grab anything you can find online. Plan your book cover design so that you don't spend money unnecessarily.

Urban fantasy book covers usually have cities or alleys. Thrillers or detective mysteries have silhouettes, alleys, or forests. Romance book covers, of course, have couples, beaches, seasonal backgrounds, etc.

3. Use genre-appropriate typeface.

"Typeface" is actually what we usually call font style. There are many free ones you can get from sites like 1001 Free Fonts and DaFont. Download the ones that are free for commercial use.

Don't use fonts that are boring and cliche like Times New Roman or Arial. Likewise, don't use overly flamboyant or flashy ones like Bleeding Cowboys. They might look good on a t-shirt, but not on your book cover.

For example, one of the covers I did before was this:

sample book cover horror

So, which genre does this book belong to?

If you're a horror fan or someone who thinks there will be some deaths in the book, then you're the target reader of this book cover. The color, title, and design basically say that there's something dark about the story.

We can even change the colors so that the title wouldn't be white. The important thing is to make sure that your cover design reveals the core atmosphere of your story.

Anyway, the typefaces used here are:

Trajan Pro - Author Name

Freight Text Book Italics - New York Times Bestseller, for the, Feast Series Book One

Requiem - Feast & Dead

So just 3 typefaces that are different, but are close in style. An ideal number of typefaces to use are 2 or 3, so don't go overboard. Otherwise, your book cover will look too busy.

4. Blend colors and images. Pick your accent colors.

Nothing is more off-putting than images that don't blend together. It's much easier to do this when - before you blend your pictures - you put up a plain background color as the base, like black when you're creating dark urban fantasy or horror.

Also, remember that there are favorable colors according to genre - sci-fi and fantasy usually have shades of blue. So does urban fantasy and paranormal (with smoke/fog/glow or sparks hovering around the character). Horror can have dark blue, black, or red. Thrillers also have the same color pattern.

Romance covers usually have red and white or pink. Depending on the story, it could be red, yellow or blue if the story is set in the autumn season, etc.

Here's a really simple sample I created using

So, you have there a red accent that blends well with other light shades.

5. Make sure your book's title and author name are visible.

It's good to blend colors, but when it comes to author and title name, make sure they stand out by contrasting them with the background. You don't want to hide your author name after all!


A busy book cover is a confusing book cover. Keep it simple. Remember that it's primary purpose is to get noticed. Your blurb and story will do the rest.

Just make sure that your book cover has to represent the feel of your story. Is your book scary? Fun? Serious? Your book cover should convey it - simply.

So that's it. Have fun! And if you realize it's too much, just hop on over to Goodreads, 99 Design, or even Fiverr (although I think they're better for non-fiction cover design and some contemporary romance) and get someone else to do your book cover. DeviantArt also has amazing artists. You can also look for pre-made covers on The Book Cover Designer, but if you have the budget, I say go for it and commission veteran book cover designers at Damonza.

Bonus Tip:

Get someone to look at your book cover. Don't tell them what the genre is - ask them what they think the genre is, and have them what the story could be. If their guess is close, then you did well.

You can also submit your cover design to Cover Critics for more suggestions. Otherwise, you might end up at their other website, Lousy Book Covers.

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