The Challenge of Designing a Book Cover
It’s hard to underestimate the importance of a well-designed book cover, as we’ve covered in several of our book marketing articles. Unfortunately, cover design is an aspect of self-publishing a book that many authors struggle with. Some people deal with this problem by hiring a graphic designer to make their covers for them. This is a simple and often very effective solution; if you communicate clearly with your designer, chances are you’ll end up with a beautifully designed cover that represents your book perfectly.
However, hiring a professional to design your cover isn’t an option for many authors, who often have to write and publish their books on a shoestring budget. As such, self-publishing authors usually design their own book covers. Nevertheless, even if you’ve taken the time to learn how to use a graphic design program, it’s not always easy to visualize the idea you have in your head. If you happen to be one of those authors that have trouble creating professional-looking and aesthetically pleasing book covers, don’t worry. You’re definitely not alone.
So what does one do if one wants to design one’s own book cover, but can’t quite nail that professional look? In our experience, something that can really help elevate the quality of a book cover design is adopting the mindset of a graphic designer. Simply adopting a few rules of thumb can improve your cover design abilities drastically – which can boost your sales figures noticeably. On that note, we recently had the pleasure of discussing book cover design with Mila, the talented graphic designer behind Mila Book Covers. As the name suggests, Mila is specialized in designing professional book covers for authors, and as those of you who clicked her website link can see, her covers are absolutely gorgeous.
Mila was generous enough to share some general tips for aspiring cover designers with us, and with her having designed covers for successful self-published authors like Kaydence Snow, Kendrai Meeks, and Jason Smith, we’re thrilled about being allowed to pick her brain. We hope that the following interview inspires you and helps you develop your own cover design skills!
Book cover design is quite a specific area to specialize in – is there any particular reason you chose to focus on it? How long have you been doing it?
My book cover career started by sheer chance, I’d say. Long story short, I was in another field and one day I came across a book cover contest and since I loved books (here comes the funny part – before I started working on book covers, I had never judged a book by its cover—yes, I was in that minority). That said, I would never pick up a book with a really really bad and unprofessional cover, but other than that, I wouldn’t pay much attention to its design.
Needless to say, I judge all books by their covers now! I thought it would be really interesting to try to make books alive and the idea of “controlling” the books’ stories seemed compelling to me. I immediately became sort of addicted and haven’t stopped designing book covers since then. This was 6 years ago and to this day, even after designing more than 500 book covers, I still have the same passion and love for designing book covers I had at the beginning. Designing book covers has become a normal part of my everyday routine and a job that makes me happy.
For a lot of self-published authors, the hardest part about creating a cover for their books is not knowing how to get started. To that end, could you describe your creative process for us, from the initial consultation to finding inspiration and creating the actual design?
My process varies depending on a book’s genre. But no matter what genre I’m working on, I always ask for some directions like if there’s anything specific that the author/publisher would like to see on the cover or anything that I should avoid putting on it. Or if the book is non-fiction, if they want the cover to look serious or sad or fun and approachable, etc. I always start from there and if I get “No” and “I don’t know” as answers to these questions, I know that they know that they’re in good hands and that they trust my expertise. The rest is up to the author/publisher, whether they will instantly like what I created or if there are changes that they would like me to make to the design. The key element is preliminary communication.
What programs do you use to create your covers?
I use Adobe Photoshop. For the kind of work I do, I think Photoshop is the best program on the market.
What’s the most common mistake people make when designing book covers, in your experience?
In my opinion, the most common mistake people make when designing book covers is definitely using poor, inappropriate, and outdated fonts. Add an obvious drop shadow to it and you’ll get a “DIY – looking” cover. Also, using non-complementary colors pretty much destroys the cover too, as well as using too many colors. Undoubtedly, the artwork you create is very important too and it has to be well done and eye-catching, but the crucial mistake is the fonts, because no matter if the artwork is good if you go wrong with fonts, you’ll ruin the whole cover, which will result in your cover looking unprofessional, which then will lead to you losing sales.
Are there any general tips or guidelines you think amateur cover designers would benefit from?
Please don’t add an obvious drop shadow and don’t use, for example, “horror” fonts on business books or “fun” font on psychological drama books. Also, don’t make a book cover busy by adding too many elements and using too many colours and fonts. Simplicity is your friend. And creating a good balance and a great contrast is a way to go. These are the key elements any designer should stand by.
Last but not least, do you have a favourite genre when it comes to creating book covers?
I don’t have a favourite genre, I love working on all books that give me the freedom to be creative with the covers. It really doesn’t matter if the book is fiction or non-fiction, whether it belongs in the self-help, business, or religious category, or if it’s chick-lit, a novel, a psycho-thriller or a memoir – I enjoy working on all of them. However, I do have a least favorite genre and that’s sci-fi. I rarely do sci-fi book covers.
Now Get Out There!
We hope you enjoyed this quick peek into the mind of a book cover designer. If you have any further questions about the best practices of book cover design, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or drop us an email!
The cover image for this blog post is taken from Mila Book Covers.