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The ABC's of Cover Design

As a graphic designer and author I'm constantly looking over covers to see what works and what doesn't. There are a lot of beautiful covers out there but for every good cover I have seen some really bad covers!

So what makes a good cover? First of all it is my strict belief that a cover should reflect the story inside. Buying a pre-made template might seem easy and cheap but think about how many other people are buying that same template.

Here now are a few tips to help you. Whether you are designing your own cover or hiring an artist such as myself keep the ABC's in mind. And if you'd like to hire me for your designer I'd be happy to work on your cover. Contact me today!

Need a cover design? Contact Original Cyn Content

  • Authentic: Like I said before, a cover should be unique to the story inside. Don't settle for less than your novel deserves!

  • Balance: Placement of images is very important. Your eye should not be assaulted by random images but should follow the story of the cover.

  • Creative: I like designing because it is another creative outlet. The cover design doesn't have to be a masterpiece but it should convey creativity.

  • Distinctive: Again, your work is distinctive of the story you're trying to tell and the cover should convey that as well.

  • Energy: A lazy cover doesn't compel me to read the book. We are visual creatures and a good cover should convey a sense of "must read."

  • Genre: This one is important. Different genres expect specific things on a cover as well as in a story. Romance will almost always have two people kissing or close to kissing. Horror conveys something wicked, while children's books might have a cartoon feel to them.

  • Hot! Speaking of romance, or erotica, you're going to want to convey a hotness level consistent with the amount of heat your romance portrays.

  • Images: Another important step. This is why I disapprove of templates. Overused images get you lost in the crowd. I've used images bought from Shutterstock, etc. that others can buy but it is what I do with those images that makes mine different.

  • Jumps Out: Either on a bookshelf or a virtual bookshelf your competing with a lot of other books. Make sure yours jumps out from the pack.

  • Keep continuity: This one is mostly for a novel series. They should be individual but each cover in the series should match up to its brothers so you can tell they're part of that same series.

  • Leave 'em wondering: While the cover should provide the basis of what's inside it should also compel the audience and leave them wondering what happens in a way that they must read it to find out.

  • Message: What message are yo utrying to convey? This goes back to genre and your story itself.

  • Not too much: Don't go overboard with graphics, titles, etc.

  • Open: By open I mean don't push things together and leave them looking cluttered. There should be an openess to the cover whether it is just ebook or full coverflat.

  • Pride: You should be proud this is your cover. Once I had a designer draw a stick figure for the main character. I told them I'd design it myself because there was no way I could promote my title with any pride as it was.

  • Quality: This goes without saying. And there are bad covers I've been seeing. A quick slap and paste job won't win you new readers. Take your time!

  • Readable: Font is important especially for print books. That back jacket with the description needs to be readable. Same goes for ebooks. Take into account the thumbnail size on Amazon, etc. Can you still read the title or your name?

  • Simple: Keep it simple...less is more.

  • Titles: As I mentioned pick a font that's "Distinctive" and "Readable." Play with position until you find what's right for you. I usually go title top, name bottom.

  • Unique: Make your cover unique as the story inside. Don't copy an image because that novel sold alot. I've seen so many 50 Shades of Gray knock-offs that they've become background nose that doesn't jump off the bookshelf at all.

  • Variety: Don't be afraid to try something new. Variety is the spice of life!

  • Want to read: At first glance the reader should want to read that book!

  • Xtras: For self-published indies don't forget to include your website, headshot, bio, and logo if you have one. Sounds like alot for a little space? Hire a designer, I'll show you how!

  • Yours: The book is your baby. It should make you smile when you see the finished product.

  • Zeal: The novel and the cover are a package deal. Have as much zeal and excitement for the cover as you did for the book.




"Original Cyn" Cynthia Vespia writes fantasy novels with edge. This blog is dedicated to all things fantasy, writer wellness, and my author journey.


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