How to Design a Book Cover (A Detailed Guide for Indie Authors)


This is your ultimate guide on how to design a book cover. When we say ultimate, we mean it. We’ll discuss custom book cover design ideas, principles, and elements. 

You will learn about:

  • The importance of a good book cover
  • Elements of good book cover design
  • Book cover design tips for choosing typography, colors, and imagery
  • Cover design types
  • Book cover design costs in 2024
  • How and where to find a professional book cover designer.

If you’re looking to expand your knowledge about book cover design, let’s start.

Importance of a book cover

A book cover has a few essential roles. What are they?

It serves as a strong marketing tool

The cover creates the first impression of the book and its author. It triggers the potential buyer to pick up the book from a shelf or an online store. 

When readers see a well-designed and attractive cover, they automatically think that the inside filling should be good. Moreover, you will most probably use the book cover everywhere to promote your story.

It attracts your target audience

The book cover should also relate to the book’s target audience and, as a result, catch the reader’s attention. It is the only communication tool that tells the reader something about the book. 

A book cover should, above all, represent its genre to perform this task. That’s why it’s important to ensure that all the book cover elements set the right tone and communicate the mood.

It helps you build an author brand

The design elements you use on the covers can become your distinguishing feature. This is extremely relevant if you work on a book series.

Top 3 tips on how a professional book cover design can help self-published authors

Now, let’s move on to the key elements of the book cover design and tips on how to make them stand out.

Elements of good book cover design

Take a look at the graph showing the book cover layout. To put it simply, book cover design consists of three main parts: the front cover, the back cover, and the spine.

A image that demonstrates main elements of a professional book cover design.

So why is it important to pay attention to the design of each book cover element? Let’s see.


The spine consists of the book title and the author’s name. Sometimes, an author’s logo or a small picture is also included.

So, what should you know about the book spine design?

  • An excellent book cover typography practice is to have a sharp contrast between the letters and the background.
  • The font should be large.
  • If the book is thick, we recommend writing the title and the author’s name horizontally, which is easier to read.
  • Last but not least, publications with a small, clear picture indicating the book’s theme attract more attention.
Spine book cover design on the example of Cannonball express book cover


The main elements of the front cover include the book title and the author’s name, subtitle or quotations, and images. More on that later.

Here are the main front cover design tips:

  • Aim for clarity; don’t overload your book cover with too many hidden messages and elements.
  • Make sure that your cover evokes the right emotions.
  • Only add a subtitle if your title does not communicate the complete message.
Front book cover design on the example of Station Omega


The professional back cover design contains the blurb and information about the author.

  • First, focus on the book – it should be short, catchy, and intriguing.
  • It’s important not only to describe the book but also to demonstrate the author’s competence.
  • Highlight what is worth mentioning: your short bio, interesting facts related to you as the author, your website and social media pages.
  • You can also add some short reviews about your book.
Back book cover design on the example of Wolfish
Since we discussed the basics, let’s review the main book cover design tips.

Book cover design tips

Any design begins with defining a key message you’d like to convey. Here are the main questions to ask when designing a book cover:

  • What is the main idea of your design?
  • How does the design fit the genre and content of the book?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What emotions do you want to evoke at first glance?
  • What makes your book unique?

To generate ideas, you need inspiration. Here are some ways to find it:

  • Go to the bookstore and look at books that catch your attention. Analyze what made you pick them up.
  • Pay particular attention to works in your genre. Think about what ideas, colors, and elements designers used.
  • Fill your social media feed with beautiful book covers. You can create a board on Pinterest, subscribe to book-related Instagram accounts, follow famous authors who write in the same genre on Facebook or ask for suggestions on Reddit.
The most important book cover elements

Once you’ve collected ideas, move on to the details. There are three essential elements to pay attention to when designing a book cover: typography, color palette, and imagery. Let’s see how to make them pop.

Cover design typography tips

The book cover design typography you choose has more value and meaning than the words you are spelling out.

  • Use fonts that are suitable for your genre. 
  • Set the right tone with the correct font. For example, clear, strong, massive letters are suitable for creating an adventurous set-up, while soft fonts can indicate romance. 
  • Don’t go too creative when choosing a font, as it might be difficult to read.

Generally speaking, there are different types of fonts that are widely popular in book cover design:

  1. Serif
  2. Sans serif
  3. Modern
  4. Script

Each of them has a specific meaning and message.

  • Serifs are classy and somehow traditional.
  • Semi-serifs are more contemporary.
  • Scripts are considered to be creative, while modern fonts have a strong vibe.

A font is a visual key that tells readers what to expect from your book. On the other hand, the images you choose convey a story.

Сover design imagery tips

Today, photo stock websites are full of various images. Everyone can choose what they need in terms of style, theme, and mood.

But how do you avoid drowning in the ocean of visuals? Consider the following rules:

  • The imagery should reflect the book’s genre and match the expectations of your target audience.
  • It’s vital to consider the demographics of your potential readers, including age, gender, and interests.
  • The cover must convey the book’s tone and the emotional journey the reader can expect.
  • The imagery should complement and not overpower the title and author’s name. 
  • If your book is part of a series, the cover should maintain a cohesive look with the rest of the series to help readers easily identify it as part of the same story world.

Also, remember that high-resolution and professional-quality images are a must. A poorly designed or low-quality image can deter potential readers, as it may suggest the content is similarly lacking in quality.

Сover design color tips

There is a whole field of study called color theory and psychology. The idea of color theory in book cover design is simple: every color represents and evokes certain feelings. So, use colors on your cover to express your unique message to the reader.

First, pay attention to some general tips:

  • You can use several colors that are compatible with each other.
  • For more dynamic works, a design with contrasting colors might be a good idea.
  • Use soft colors to set a calm mood.

Then, let’s look at how specific colors work in creating different moods.


Paint the town red! Red represents an active lifestyle, energy, confidence, and enthusiasm. It is used to grab as much attention as possible and get people to make quick decisions.

It’s also the color of blood and fire, which is why dark shades of red are associated with anger, pain, passion, lust, and dominance.

Book cover design by Miblart


Light green signals tranquility and peace. It’s no wonder since it’s the most relaxing color for the human eye to view. As a result, it’s associated with nature, environment, harmony, stability, and health.

Different shades, tints, and hues of green have completely different meanings. Dark, bright green, for example, is all about magic, mysterious light, paranormal phenomena, potions, and enchanted forests.

Book cover design by Miblart


Blue is the color of peace, relaxation, and meditation. It’s the color of depth and stability (think of the sea and the sky). When the reader detects blue on the cover, they may expect mental tension and a lot of food for thought.

Book cover design by Miblart

Book cover design types

There are several book cover design types with specific features. To choose one, consider your genre, target audience, and goal. Here is a general overview of the most popular types.

Depending on the imagery, the book cover can be:

  • Character-based. This design focuses on characters from the book, often the protagonist. It is effective for fantasy, science fiction, and young adult fiction, where connecting with characters is a significant draw for readers.
  • Object-based. These covers center around a specific object that is significant to the book’s story or themes. They can be simple or complex, and the chosen object often symbolizes a deeper aspect of the narrative. This type of cover is versatile and can be used across various genres.
  • Typography-based. Here, the focus is on the book’s title and author’s name. Such covers work well for literary fiction, non-fiction, and any genre where a strong, textual message can intrigue potential readers.

Book cover design by Miblart

Depending on the visual style, we can single out:

  • Custom book covers that incorporate elements such as stock photos, custom illustrations, or typography to create a unique design. They are made to capture the essence of the book’s content and theme precisely.
  • Illustrated covers that feature custom artwork, ranging from detailed scenes to abstract or conceptual art. The style of illustration can vary widely, from realistic to cartoonish, giving authors a broad canvas to convey the book’s tone and content visually.
  • Photography-based covers that use photographic images as the main visual element. They can range from simple portraits to complex compositions involving multiple elements. Photography-based covers are common in genres such as romance, thriller, and non-fiction.

Book cover design by Miblart

Finally, if we talk about the design complexity, book covers can be:

  • Minimalist ones aim to convey the book’s essence without overwhelming potential readers with too much visual information.
  • Ornate ones that are rich in detail and decorative elements. They often feature intricate illustrations or complex compositions.

Book cover design by Miblart

Cost of book cover design 

When it comes to the book cover design services, there are quite a few options to choose from. It all depends on your budget, needs, and expectations. Let’s take a closer look.

DIY book cover

This is the DIY area. You may check out convenient tools:

You can also opt for more serious software, such as Adobe Photoshop (from $22.99/month) or QuarkXPress ($233/year). Remember that you need stock images or other visual elements to create your cover. Thus, DIY design can cost $0-$262.

But if you decide to pursue this option, keep in mind that it might be time-consuming. Especially if you have no prior knowledge of design, get ready for an anxiety roller-coaster.

Book cover by a freelance designer

If you decide to go to the land of freelancers, apply the rule ‘you never know’. Some of them are great and are working on expanding their portfolio. Some might be tricky to deal with and use questionable stock images that infringe on copyrights.

The price for a cover by a freelance designer ranges from $15 to $100. 

Book cover by a design company

These guys usually provide excellent quality and are willing to network to spread the word. They most often have a good number of in-house designers and some freelancers as well. In any scenario, you will be dealing with those who make a living out of book cover design. 

So why not? The competition keeps prices similar without driving them up. The tricky part here is that it’s sometimes hard to tell the design skill levels.

The average price for a cover design company’s services is $300-$700.

Premade book cover

Choosing a ready-made cover is a smart way to save money and still get a professional-looking book cover. These covers are made to fit the usual style for your book’s genre. You also get to see how the cover looks right away, and you can ask the designer to make some changes if necessary. Usually, small changes won’t cost you more money.

The usual cost for ready-made covers ranges from $100 to $150.

You can learn more about book cover design prices in 2024 in our blog post.

Finally, let’s go through a list of things to keep in mind on how to hire a professional book cover designer.

How to hire a professional book cover designer

Start the discussion with the professional book cover designer by deciding on the following aspects:

  • First, ask for the designer’s portfolio. Ensure that the designer has experience in your genre. Don’t take a leap in the dark.
  • Discuss your constraints (budgetary, graphic, technical). Set up your budget and describe all the do’s and don’ts’ when it comes to some specific design elements, starting from the colors and details you’d rather avoid and moving on to the deadline, formats, series, etc.
  • Be clear. Remember that you should be clear and precise with yourself or the designer regarding your needs and expectations. A book cover design brief might be a solution.

How to write a book cover design brief

Unfortunately, most of the time, the designer won’t read your entire book. It’s up to you to pinpoint the most critical parts. Compress your whole book into a few key ideas. To make the cooperation more efficient, the designer can ask you to fill in the creative brief. Here is what it includes:

  • The book title, author’s name, and genre.
  • Tagline (if you have one). It might help the designer capture the essence of the book.
  • Description and extra text (general and specific details). This one might be painful, but it serves as the most valuable part of your cover design brief. It’s all about summarizing and highlighting important features. Initially, focus on the number of characters, gender, behavior patterns, appearance, outfit, and historical time frame depicted in the novel.
  • Target audience. Explain your ideal reader and their preferences, likes, and dislikes. 
  • References. Provide other authors and novel names as references. You can mention heavy hitters. How about Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, in other words, the legends? It will help the designer to capture your expectations with visual evidence. You can also gather 3-5 examples of book covers in your genre. Specify what you like the most: colors, font choice, graphic elements, and so on.

Book cover design tips on design brief 


Now, we believe that you know how to design a book cover. This guide has covered all the details, from the parts of a cover to the prices.

Keep in mind the following things before choosing typography, color palette, or visual elements:

  • Your genre and target audience
  • Your storyline
  • Emotions and moods you want your book to evoke

Depending on answers to the above questions, you can choose the book cover type: character-, object, or typography-based, minimalist or ornate, custom or illustrated, etc.

Did you find this guide helpful? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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Susan Hawthorne
3 years ago

Thanks so much!! This is terrific info! ❤️

3 years ago

Glad you found it useful! 🙂

3 months ago
thanks for teaching at least I have a guide on how to properly design a book
3 months ago

We are glad that you found this article useful!

3 months ago

A captivating book cover is more than just aesthetics—it’s a promise of the journey within.