10 Tips on Creating a Book Cover

10 Tips on Creating a Book Cover

One of the most important things when self-publishing is to create a compelling book cover. (Well, that would be the case for any route you publish, I suppose.) After putting in so much effort in creating the story, you need to make sure the cover flies off the shelves. You could have a bestseller inside but unless the cover screams ‘Pick Me! Pick Me!’, it’s most likely going to get lost in the island of misfit books. 

Now I’m not a graphic artist, but I do have an artistic vision and I am creatively driven. I love doing these types of projects almost as much as writing. That gives me a huge advantage. However, I know that channelling your inner artist isn’t in the cards for many. For the artistically challenged, or for those that would rather spend their time writing, check out Fivvr and Reedsy. They are great resources for finding graphic artists. It may be a more expensive route, but it will save you a lot of time. For a cheaper option, do a quick Facebook or Google search for pre-made book covers that fit your genre. (I’ll be honest though, I’m not a fan of those. But that’s not the point of this post…)

If you’re publishing an eBook, you only need a front cover. 

Canva Pro is the best tool for creating that image. I’ve tried a lot of applications and I keep coming back to Canva Pro every time and kick myself for leaving. As mentioned in 7 Steps to Self-Publish a Book, once you have the final image created for your front cover, simply adjust the size for formatting and you’re good to go. (Click here for KDP’s Kindle eBook cover specifications.)

What about paperback and hardback covers?  

Frankly, it’s NOT easy. 

If you have not worked with desktop publishing applications before, I highly recommend hiring someone. Save yourself the heartache, the headaches, and the hangovers driven by frustration. Hire someone else to create your vision. 

But, if you are game to do it yourself, these 10 tips on creating a book cover will help:

Tip #1: You need to create multiple images before you begin…

You need to create the front cover design, AND a spine image AND the back cover format, which includes the blurb and maybe even your author image. All of which can be created in Canva Pro. With this app, you have access to a large assortment of quality images, and with the Pro version, you have the permissions needed to use them for book covers. That’s SUPER important. You will be declined by distributors if you do not own or have permission to use the cover image.

Tip #2: For additional images for your cover design, check out Unsplash.com 

Unsplash.com is now owned by Getty Images. I was disappointed to discover this acquisition to be honest, but it was bound to happen. A free resource for amazing images? I guess I was surprised it took this long. I use Unsplash a lot but it does looks like as if Getty have claimed the higher quality images for iStock, and left the lower quality to Unsplash. Still, there’s a large array of decent stock available, and gems still to discover on Unsplash. If you find an image you love, make sure you have permission to use it for a book cover (remember that permissions comment in Tip #1?). And don’t forget to credit the photographer/artist somewhere in your book, usually at the bottom of the back cover.

Tip #3: Before you begin putting your template together you need to gather information specific to your book. 

To create these templates for your paperback (and/or hardback), you need:

  • Your 13-digit ISBN. 
    I write about why it’s important to have your own ISBN number in this post.
  • Decide on your book’s trim size. 
    What size do you want your book? Both Camino Wandering and Beneath the Surface are 9×6 inch trim size. When deciding on my book’s trim size, I researched what was popular in bookshops and what was likely to be picked up off the shelves. I also polled people I knew who are avid book purchasers, asking what they found most appealing. Your genre may also steer your decision on the trim size.
  • Do you want white or cream pages?
    This is a personal preference. I tend to go white, but check out your favourite books and see what they are. It’s something you probably never notice… until you do.
  • Will the cover be gloss or matte? 
    This is a harder decision than you may realise! Do your research here. I love the matte format and I smile when I watch the booksellers assessing my books. They always – always – run their hand over the cover to feel the front matte cover.
  • What’s your Page Count? 
    You need to know the page count to determine the width of the spine. Vellum works great to calculate this (and I write about this great app in this post.)
  • Know your book’s pricing.
    You need to know the price of your paperback and hardback. Look at comps for this. My recommendation is NOT to include the price on the template, especially on your first book. Adding a set price locks that price in and you may need to be more flexible depending on market conditions. 

Tip #4: To self-publish a paperback, using IngramSparks or KDP, you must use their individual template.  

Each distributor have their own templates. They weren’t easy for me to find so I’ll provide the links to save you some time. 

IngramSparks’ Cover Template Generator is buried in their help option. Click here for that link. Once you submit the information in Tip #3, email the template to yourself (see Tip #6) then check out Tip #5 to continue. (Yeah, the tip order doesn’t make sense to me either. The process itself is so intertwined.)

For KDP, use their Cover Creator. Here’s the link.

Tip #5:  If you plan on creating multiple book-covers, invest in something like Affinity Publisher (AP). 

Affinity Publisher is the equivalent of Adobe InDesign – just a lot cheaper. It’s a one-time purchase and they often offer a 50% discount. If not AP, then find another desktop publishing program you are comfortable with. 

Tip #6:  If you use IngramSparks and decide on Affinity Publisher…

Save your template as an IDML file when emailing the template to yourself to then open in Affinity Publisher.

Tip #7: All Templates have a blank area for the barcode for reason.

The templates, provided by the distributors, will automatically create a bar code using your ISBN number. You do not need to purchase a bar code. Do not cover this area. Your template WILL be rejected if it’s covered *unless you do buy your own bar code (see italicised note).

Tip #8: When using the templates, read the template directions very carefully

If there was a tip that was THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP, this is it. Read the template instructions. Then read them again. Understand the border limits. Make sure your images do not go over the lines.

Instructions on the IngramSparks template

Tip #9: If you need to do a background image for your spine and back cover, use the same image.

Layer it over both sections. Check out the spine and back cover on the full cover image of Camino Wandering, below. I used one image for these sections. Doing this prevents overlapping issues at the printer.

Tip #10. When you are ready to throw something through the window in frustration…

Check out these resources before you do that. Save the wine, coffee and computer. These resources can help:




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