Picture an intrepid reader in the bookstore. They’re skimming the shelves when their eye is caught by a brilliantly imagined front cover. They pick the book up. Check. The spine is bold and inviting. Check. Then they flip to the back of the book cover — and it’s a boring solid background with no text.
When it comes to book design, your thoughts probably don’t jump straight to a book’s back — it’s not as sexy or attention-grabbing as, say, the front. But it happens to be one of the most important sales tools at your disposal. So let's clear up some misconceptions:
I don’t need a back cover to self-publish a print book! CreateSpace and IngramSpark require you to upload a front cover, spine, and back cover.
Nobody ever sees the back cover of a book online! Amazon.com now allows customers to view the back of paperback books.
Then there’s the biggest myth of all: nobody pays attention to the back of a book. Almost everyone reads the back cover before they decide whether to purchase. What’s more, they’ll spend only 10 seconds doing it. In this post, we’ll show you how to make that time count so that a reader ends up deciding in your favor.
To understand what makes a back cover tick, let’s expose its partner-in-crime: the front cover. When readers browse the bookshelves, it’s the front cover (or spine) that gets them to pick it up. But the job’s not done! At best, they’re only vaguely intrigued at this point. The back cover is there to finish the job.
Done properly, the back cover will motivate the reader to open up and start reading. The best back book covers do this through:
Convincing copy that makes the reader impatient to find out what’s inside.
Some strong aesthetic style — a sign of professionalism and finesse.
To fully cover both points, we’ve split this post into two sections. Part 1 will address the first point: creating great copy for the back of your book cover. Then Part 2 contains tips from our top designers on the best ways to design an aesthetically beautiful jacket.
But we’ll start by turning to the essentials. What exactly should be on the back of a book cover?
Part 1: How to write the back of a book cover in 4 steps
In general, the back cover design is composed of the following parts:
These are the four most common ingredients that the back of a book cover uses, and we’ll run you through each of them.
You’ve got three seconds to grab a reader’s attention from the moment they flip it over. So strike them with the tagline right at the top of the back.
The tagline can be a:
Short descriptive sentence
Quote from the book or review
“May the odds be ever in your favor.” – The Hunger Games
“Even in the future, the story begins with Once Upon a Time…” – Cinder
“A great modern classic and the prelude to Lord of the Rings.” – The Hobbit
“Winter is coming.” – Game of Thrones
As you can see from these examples, a great tagline doesn’t need to summarize the whole novel. But you do need to tease readers. Once you’ve successfully enticed them, their eyes will drift to the next bit of copy: the blurb.
Let’s get this straight. The blurb on your back cover is not the:
Synopsis: This is a four-page document that summarizes the entire narrative arc of your book for an agent or publisher.
Testimonial “Blurb”: That’s a bunch of short stand-up quotes from a testimonial or review. We discuss this in another section of this post.
Book Description: This generally means the copy on your online book sales page.
Here’s what a back blurb is: a description of your book that acts as your 10-second elevator pitch when readers pick it up.
Therefore, your first instinct is probably to make it dazzling. But the real secret to a great blurb is to know your audience. Write it with the reader’s desires in mind. That’s why the blurbs for nonfiction and fiction books are based on two separate formulas.
For nonfiction authors
Nonfiction books should promise to teach the audience something valuable. Therefore, the most effective blurbs will:
Present the question / challenge / problem.
Tell readers in plain words what they’ll take away from the book.
Here’s the blurb for Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, for instance:
A landmark volume in science writing by one of the great minds of our time, Stephen Hawking’s book explores such profound questions as: How did the universe begin—and what made its start possible? Does time always flow forward? Is the universe unending—or are there boundaries? Are there other dimensions in space? What will happen when it all ends?
Told in language we all can understand, A Brief History of Time plunges into the exotic realms of black holes and quarks, of antimatter and “arrows of time,” of the big bang and a bigger God—where the possibilities are wondrous and unexpected. With exciting images and profound imagination, Stephen Hawking brings us closer to the ultimate secrets at the very heart of creation.
Notice the ground that it covers in just two paragraphs? If you crawl into the mind of nonfiction readers, they’re basically asking, “What new information will I gain from reading this book?” Don’t be cute or vague. Your best bet is to directly tell them — and use bullet points if you need to communicate a great deal of information efficiently.
For fiction authors
The novel’s blurb should promise intrigue, excitement, mystery, wonder, or drama. Hint at the emotional payoff that awaits them within the pages! Think of a movie trailer and try to capture that effect.
Let’s take a familiar example:
Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry's eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!
To recap, your best practices for both nonfiction and fiction blurbs are to:
Keep the blurb short, punchy, and interesting
Know your target audience and appeal to their specific interests
Demonstrate the benefit that readers will get out of your book
The Author Bio
Take note, authors: the bio on the back of your cover isn’t always your “About the Author” section! In many cases, it’s even more compact.
The first rule of the author bio is: KISS. Keep it simple, stupid. Here’s an example from David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day:
DAVID SEDARIS is also the author of Barrel Fever, Naked, and Holidays on Ice. He is a regular contributor to Public Radio International’s “This American Life.”
Compare that to the 500-word “About the Author” section that you can find on Mr. Sedaris’ website. See the difference? The bio on the back of the book cover should be the nutshell inside of the nut.
For fiction authors, this is optional. However, nonfiction authors must include an author bio as part of their back cover copy to convince readers of their authority. You can use the author bio template provided in this post on creating a killer author bio.
To recap, your best practices for the author bio are to:
Keep the bio on your back cover brief and clear
Don’t regale the reader with a description of your eye color: list your previous publications, achievements, education, (if you wish) your place of residence, and (if applicable) your author website
Testimonials (also known as “cover blurbs”) are positive endorsements from notable personalities, such as a fellow author or a publication.
The back of a book cover is the perfect place to put this social proof. Testimonials are incredibly persuasive in transforming potential readers into readers. Our friends at Bookbub carried out an A/B test in which they sent Group A a book description with a testimonial and Group B a version without a testimonial. The book description with a testimonial caused 22.6% more readers to click and buy.
How to get testimonials
You can go to three sources for testimonials:
Fellow authors: These are VIPs or your author friends. Be sure to contact somebody who’s relevant to your genre. Potential readers browsing online will respond to names that they recognize.
Publication reviews: Like a snippet from a New York Times or Washington Post review. If you’re self-publishing and get a review from Publishers Weekly, the back of your book is where you can feature it.
Customer reviews: If you’ve started your book review campaign already (as you should’ve done), you can pluck testimonials from some of your five-star reader reviews.
Start building relationships within the community early! You’ll probably find it easier to reach out to a friend for a cover blurb than cold emailing a stranger.
That said, if you’re asking a VIA (Very Important Author) to read your book, send a polite email. Personalize your note. If they say that they’re open to it, send them a free ARC (advance review copy) of your book.
How to present testimonials on the back of your cover
Generally, you can’t go wrong if you aim to include two or three testimonials. You want to strike a good balance between all the moving pieces, so use your best judgment when determining the number to include.
Then it’s just a matter of following this rule: if you’ve got it, flaunt it.
If you secured a starred review from a publication, be sure to note that in parentheses.
If you won a cover blurb from a fellow author, make sure that the author’s credentials are prominent. For instance:
“There are many pieces to solving the SEO puzzle. From reputation management to content marketing, SEO for Growth will help you put it all together.”
— Joost de Valk, Founder and CEO, Yoast
Or, if you’re the author of a fiction book:
“Her work understands human secrets generally as well as secret places both in the world and in the mind.”
― Lorrie Moore, New York Times bestselling author of Bark and Birds of America
To recap, your best practices for testimonials are to:
Start planning early and make sure to get some reviews under your belt if you can't access any fellow authors in the field
Emphasize the credentials of the person who's writing your testimonial
Voilà. You’ve got social proof for your book. Now let's turn to the second aspect of the book of your book: design.
Part 2: How to design the back of a book cover
Creating the back of a book cover is a two-step process. You might’ve written brilliant marketing copy for it. Now you need to design it.
To give you complete mastery over this step, we’ve turned to our top designers for their sharp insight. Here are their best tips for you, in their own words:
Tips from designers
Jake Clark: Don't overcrowd your back cover. I've seen too many back covers that are slammed from margin to margin with text with the blurb in the largest font possible. Treat your back cover with the same respect as your front cover. Let your text breathe a little and still be selective in the blurb and supporting text you place on the back cover.
Patrick Knowles: Continue the visual story. Most obviously this could be to repeat a background image or border treatment. Think about how you can create extra elements to enhance the blurb and give it a sense of atmosphere. The main thing is to give some creative energy to the back and make it look as though the whole project is integrated and thought through.
Jakob Vala: Design with a clear hierarchy of information in mind. Make blurbs or callouts bigger or in a different color from the description. Publisher information, if you have it, is the least important. It should be the last thing people notice.
Maxwell Roth: Let it speak to the reader. Too often, I’ll spot a good book cover and turn it over only to find a solid background and an outdated font. Why not use that space to illustrate the author’s text? A book cover can (and should be) an interaction with the reader: A spectacular cover. Turn. A spine to be displayed on a shelf or desk. Turn. A spectacular back cover and continuation of the author’s narrative. And then, to turn the pages.
Jakob Vala: Incorporate elements from the rest of the book. Sometimes I employ the film texture from the front as a background. I also use the same font and color scheme. The drop cap at the beginning of the description can reflect the style used inside the book.
Examples of back covers
These cover spreads can help give you an idea of what a great back cover looks like once these tips are put in practice.
Now that you’ve seen what should go onto the back cover, you might be wondering: how do I juggle everything and pull it all together?
We’ve created a couple of templates to show you the most popular configurations out there.
As you start putting your own back cover together, just remember: experiment to find a balance that works for your book. When you hit a perfect balance between all the elements, you’ll have created a back cover that works.
Are you in the middle of designing your own back cover? How have you found the experience? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
If you are a self-publishing author who wants to know how to format a book, there are plenty of tools and resources available to you. Many choose to format a book in Word — but writers shouldn’t just make this choice by default. Ensure you take the time to explore the different options available for formatting your manuscript because achieving clean design is a vital part of publishing success.
In this step-by-guide to formatting a book, we’re going to give you tips for producing a professional-looking final product, and explain how our very own free book formatter — the Reedsy Book Editor — can make the job simple for you. In a nutshell, here are the 6 steps for formatting a book:
What are the six steps to formatting a book? Find out here. Click To Tweet
Why should I use the Reedsy Book Editor to format my book?
With the input of the expert designers, our product team designed a book production tool that allows authors to create manuscripts that meet the high standards set by the industry. Whether you want to create an ebook, or produce physical copies, there are many reasons to turn to the Editor, including: no previous design knowledge required, your work is securely stored in the could and accessible for any device (no need to install any software), professionally designed templates, compatible with a variety of distribution platforms, unlimited exports, and more.
Comparing the Reedsy Book Editor with Word, Scrivener, InDesign, Calibre, Pressbooks and Vellum
And did we mention it’s fast? We tested the RBE this morning and were able to format and typeset an 80,000-word novel in under 10 minutes.
But before you set your timer, let’s quickly cover why it’s so important to come to market with well-designed book interior.
Why is book formatting important?
The readability of a book depends entirely on how your manuscript is formatted. A work with poor readability, well, probably won’t be read — and won’t sell. So if you want to go toe-to-toe with traditionally published titles, your product needs to look its best, inside and out. While cover design is critical for a reader's first impression, interior design and typesetting shouldn’t be overlooked. For more information on typesetting, check out our guide to interior book design.
To go toe-to-toe with traditional titles, your product needs to look its best, inside and out. Click To Tweet
The art of book formatting is not new. In fact, manuscripts produced during the medieval era conformed to a well-defined set of rules that publishers today are still following. The canons of page construction, for example, describe how a manuscript’s proportions, margins and type areas (print spaces) should be constructed.
But we know that learning the technicalities of making a book can’t be learned overnight — and that hiring a professional interior designer for your manuscript might not be in every author’s budget. So let’s get on to your DIY guide for how to format a book.
6 steps for formatting a book
Step 1 - Import your book into the Reedsy Book Editor
Regardless of the software you’ve been using to write (Word, Pages, Google Docs, Scrivener, etc.), your first step is to import the manuscript into the Editor. We’re still developing an “import from file” feature, which will be available soon. Meanwhile, you will have to:
Create chapters or parts
Copy and paste the content of your text file into those chapters
Throughout this process, you should note that Reedsy respects the existing formatting of your manuscript, which means that our software will retain elements like headings, links and inline styles (italic / bold). Here’s what it looks like:
Note that we will also soon introduce a chapter break feature to automatically split the content of one chapter into two, saving you copy and paste time when importing a manuscript for the first time.
Once your manuscript is nestled comfortably into the editor, the formatting can begin!
Step 2 - Format your content
One of the features that makes our book production tool really smart is the formatting bar: simply select the type of paragraph or character style you want to use and the formatting will be applied.
Available paragraph styling options are:
Two types of paragraphs: one with a serif font for most of your text, and a sans serif font to offset content you want to stand out (such as a letter or diary entry)
Three levels of headings to structure your content (mainly for non-fiction books)
Three alignment options: left, centered, and right
Two types of lists: bullet points and numbers
Code (coming soon)
Once you’ve defined your paragraphs’ styling, you can customize your font styling with the following options:
Link and cross-references
You’ve mastered the formatting bar and are ready to get a little fancy. On to step 3...
Step 3 - Add images, endnotes, and scene breaks
Books that meets industry standards but are also unique and personal? Brilliant! The next step is to enrich your existing content with:
Images and captions
Scene breaks (for fiction)
You will find your endnotes in a dedicated chapter at the end of your book for reference:
At this point your manuscript’s interior is taken care of and it’s time to focus on its exterior.
Step 4 - Add a book cover
You can now click on the Export icon which will lead you to our Export page — where most of the magic happens.
The first thing you should do here is upload your cover. Make sure you upload an image that follows the requirements of the ebookstores you are using for distribution. For best results, we recommend your cover image use a ratio of 1:1.6 and measure at least 2500px on the longest side. But if you’re not sure, check out our handy guide on how to choose the right book cover dimensions.
Note that for physical books, POD services will require both a PDF with the full jacket and a separate PDF for the book’s interior. For the book’s jacket, we recommend working with a designer from the Reedsy marketplace who knows the requirements of different POD services and will be able to provide you with the right file.
Check out these formatting tips for producing a beautiful, professional-looking book. Click To Tweet
Step 5 - Configure your front matter
“Front matter” refers to the parts of your manuscript that come before the actual content begins. With the Editor, you can configure the following front matter elements:
There’s currently a debate about whether or not ISBNs still make sense, and you can read more about it here. For now, you’ll still need an ISBN if you’re planning on printing POD versions, and most POD services will provide you with one for free.
Once your ISBN has been added, the next step is to configure your table of contents. For this, Reedsy gives you four options.
Step 6 - Select the file you need: EPUB to create an ebook or PDF for print-on-demand (POD)
We’re getting closer! It’s now time to decide whether you want to create an ebook, print copies, or both. This will also determine whether you need an EPUB or PDF file. If you’re undecided, you can check out our guide to EPUB vs. PDF.
How to create an ebook: download an EPUB file
Your EPUB will be compatible with Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore, the Kobo Store, Nook Press, Google Play and NetGalley.
Next, decide how you’d like to organize your endnotes (if applicable). You can either have them positioned at the end of every chapter or all together at the end of the book.
For print copies: download a PDF file
The files created are currently compatible with most POD services (Lulu, CreateSpace, IngramSpark, CPI, etc.). Again, the first step is to position your endnotes. For physical copies, you can decide whether you’d like them to be footnotes at the bottom of a page, or actual endnotes at the end of your book.
Unlike ebooks, your physical copy needs to be set to a trim size ready for printing. Reedsy currently offers a few different options, based on popular industry standard sizes:
Pocket 4.25 x 6.87 in (10.80 x 17.45 cm)
Reedsy 5 x 8 in (12.7 x 20.32 cm)
Digest 5.5 x 8.5 in (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
Trade 6 x 9 in (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Which trim size should you pick? There’s no clear-cut answer. Your choice depends on the genre and audience of your book, the length of the manuscript, and, of course, your personal preference. To make a decision here, we recommend that you spend some time in a bookstore with a ruler to determine what makes most sense for your future bestseller.
Here are a few pictures to give you a sense of what those different sizes look like:
From left to right: Reedsy 5 x 8 in - Digest 5.5 x 8.5 in - Trade 6 x 9 in
Once you’ve selected your trim size, simply pick a template and hit the download button. Your moment of glory is only seconds away as the editor typesets your book and gets it ready to be downloaded!
As a bonus, we have a short video tutorial for formatting your manuscript in the Reedsy Book Editor.
Head to our Reedsy Book Editor and format your book for free, in just a few seconds. And if you have any questions or feedback, feel free to let us know in the comments below.
When we talk about book cover design, we often talk about the color palette, typography and use of images. What we rarely mention are the dimensions of the cover. After all, it’s usually determined by the book’s trim size. That, or it’s seemingly inconsequential, as most new independent authors rely on ebook sales anyhow, where the cover only really exists on digital retailers.
In this post, we'll look at the standard sizes of book covers in publishing and help you decide on the right dimensions for your design.
Before we jump too far into the conversation, let's start by looking at the most popular ebook cover sizes used today.
What are the recommended book cover dimensions?
Kindle Direct Publishing recommended size — 2,560 x 1,600 (1.6:1 aspect ratio)
Novels and Non-Fiction — 2,560px x 1,600px (1.5:1 aspect ratio)
Illustrated Books — 2,800px x 3,920px (1.4:1 aspect ratio) or 3,000px x 3,600px (1.2:1 aspect ratio)
Audiobooks — 3,200px x 3,200px (1:1 aspect ratio)
These numbers might be confusing at first, especially if you're not familiar with pixels and aspect ratios. In this next section, we'll take a closer look at what these terms mean, and how they will affect your cover.
Choosing the size and shape of your eBook Cover
The average ebook reader’s screen (Kindle, Nook Simple, and iPad) has an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 — which means that for every 100 px (pixels) of width, there will be 133 pixels of height. This is equivalent to the shape of your old, standard definition TV. However, few publishers bother creating a cover that perfectly fits the Kindle. Each device will center the cover design seamlessly and, more often than not, the reader will never actually see it on their e-reader.
So, instead of focusing on how your cover design will look on an ebook reader, consider how it will look on the retail platform. A book cover has to make an impact as a thumbnail if it has any hope of doing its job. Therefore, the aspect ratio is critical.
Kindle Direct Publishing's Recommended Size – 1.6:1
The Amazon store is very flexible when it comes to the range of cover sizes that authors can upload to their product page. However, they do issue this recommendation:
The ideal size of your eBook cover art is a height/width ratio of 1.6:1. This means that for every 1,000 pixels in width, the image should be 1,600 pixels in height. To ensure the best quality for your image, particularly on high definition devices, the height of the image should be at least 2,500 pixels. Ideal dimensions for cover files are 2,560 x 1,600 pixels.
1.6:1 is a ratio you will see in paperback fiction — especially with the smaller, mass-market formats. You might notice, however, that it results in a ‘thinner’ design than you would expect from most novel covers on Amazon.
Novels and Non-Fiction – 1.5:1
Publishers will commonly display a novel's original hardcover design on the book's Kindle page — and those designs often have a 1.5:1 ratio. It’s a bit ‘wider’ than Amazon’s recommended size, which offers more 'real estate' for the design, and this is extra-critical when you're displaying them in thumbnail form.
Screenshot via Amazon.com
It’s important to note that by using this slightly wider cover format, the design doesn’t tend to be made any ‘shorter’ to compensate. The cover is actually a little larger, which can make a massive difference at this scale.
To use the 1.5:1 ratio, we recommend setting your cover's dimensions to 2500 x 3750
Illustrated Books – 1.4:1 or 1.2:1
In general, illustrated titles such as photography, art, and cookery books tend to have a ‘wider’ trim which lends itself to the imagery. As a result, they tend to have covers with a 1.4:1 or a 1.2:1 aspect ratio, as you can see in the cookbooks below:
Screenshot via Amazon.com
For these sorts of books, the artwork is a massive selling point — and these two formats can help the cover photography stand out.
To use the 1.4:1 ratio, we recommend setting your cover's dimensions to 2800 x 3920
To use the 1.2:1 ratio, we recommend setting your cover's dimensions to 3000 x 3600
Audiobooks – 1:1
If you’re making an audiobook, congratulations for entering the fastest growing sector of publishing! When it comes to deciding what size to make your audiobook cover, the work has already been done for you.
Screenshot via Amazon.com
Audiobook covers have a 1:1 aspect ratio, which some people might describe as “a square.” This is a throwback to ye olde days when people listened to books on CD.
In a lot of cases, indie authors will make the decision to record an audiobook after the launch of the original book. This sometimes leads to the audiobook cover simply being a ‘cropped’ version of the paperback design. We would urge you, however, to work with your original designer on amending the design for audio. That way, they can re-adjust the type and imagery in a way that’s best suited to a square design.
To use the 1:1 ratio, we recommend setting your cover's dimensions to 3200 x 3200
As we’ve mentioned already, choosing a set of dimensions for your cover requires you to balance a few needs:
the need to fit in with other books in your genre,
the need to stand out from other books in your genre (ironically),
the need grab a reader’s attention as a thumbnail.
Now that we've had a look ebook designs, let's quickly touch on covers for printed books.
What are the ideal dimensions of a printed book cover?
If you intend to create a physical version of your book, either by POD (Print on Demand) or by sending off for a print run, then your cover dimensions will largely be determined by your trim: the size and shape of each page. Depending on where you're based, this will be measured in inches or millimeters.
When choosing a trim size, bear in mind:
How it will affect your printing costs. Printers will charge more per-page when the trim is more substantial. However, it may also mean fewer pages, which could reduce the cost.
Each category has its standard book sizes. If you aim to create a title that fits the market, you may wish to adhere to the standards of the genre.
If you have any intention of selling print books, please do look through this post on standard book sizes. It will provide you recommended proportions for most major categories including novels, non-fiction, and picture books.
From left: 5” x 8”, 5.5” x 8.5” (digest) and 6” x 9” (trade)
Once you have determined the trim size of your book — that is, the exact dimensions of the pages — you must then figure out how that relates to the size of the cover. Createspace/KDP Print and IngramSpark, the two largest POD services in the world, will require you to submit a cover design that includes the front cover, the back cover, the spine, and bleeds.
When setting up the cover design file, the width can be calculated by adding:
2 x Trim Width. This would be the front and back cover.
Spine Width. This needs to be carefully calculated, based on your page count and paper stock. Use Createspace/KDP Print and IngramSpark's figures for accurate and up-to-date values.
2 x Bleed. A bleed is an extra bit of design that is extended on all sides, to allow for slight printing errors. For most printers, they will want a bleed of 0.125” (3mm) on all sides of the design — not including the border between the covers and the spine.
And the height can be calculated by finding the sum of:
2 x Bleed. 0.125” or 3mm, typically.
The good news is, if you're using a professional designer, they will take all this into account for you. But if you're making your own cover, you can look for templates on whatever design software you're using, and make sure that the settings match up with your printers' specifications.
What resolution should you choose?
When creating a print cover, the resolution you choose is almost as important as the dimensions. After all, you don't want to spend ages making sure that the front cover is exactly 6 inches side, only for the design itself to be blurry and muddy.
The cover on the right has half the dots per square inch (DPI) of the version on the left.
Both Createspace/KDP Print and IngramSpark suggest a resolution of 300 dots per square inch (DPI) for your cover design. And in the case of most printers, a CMYK (Cyan Magenta Yellow) color profile is preferred over an RGB (Red Green Blue) one.
You know the mantra: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But that’s easier to say than do. A book's cover is your not-so-secret weapon when it comes to sales and the reader's very first impression of a book. Or, as famed designer Paul Sahre once put it in an interview with Penguin Random House:
“On a purely functional level, a jacket is there to protect the book, but I also like to think of a book cover as a door. It’s the beginning of the experience of reading.”
Basically, book cover design is one of the book’s most important assets — and you need to get it right. So if you’re looking for some insight into what makes a cover click, why not learn from the best?
We cherry-picked 68 brilliant covers to give you some book cover ideas. That's right, we're going to give you permission to judge them. So that you've got a maximum range of covers for inspiration, we broke this post down into three sections: those that employ illustration brilliantly, those that excel in their use of typography, and those that are genre-specific. Happy viewing!
68 book cover ideas that can (and will) inspire your next book! #bookdesign Click To Tweet
Illustration-oriented Book Covers
1. Minimalism is still trendy.
Cover designs by (from left to right, top to bottom): Tom Lenartowicz, Rodrigo Corral, Johannes Wiebel, Peter Mendelsund, David Drummond.
To quote Antoine de Saint Exupéry: “A designer knows that he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Minimalist covers strip a cover elegantly down to its bare essentials. Often characterized by a simple font and a marginal amount of content, these quiet, clever covers instead rely on white space to turn acres of nothing into something.
2. Employ the cover to convey the book’s “one idea.”
Cover designs by (from left to right, top to bottom): Na Kim, Mario J Pulice, Janet Hansen, Adly Elewa, Keith Hayes, Suzanne Dean.
A great cover doesn’t necessarily need to be complex. In fact, the goal for many cover designers is simply to distill the essence of a book into one image — or “one idea,” so to speak.
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This simple result can be spectacular. Take the cover image for Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, which features a lone brain-shaped rock. Or Anne Michaels’ book of poetry, All We Saw, which presents an outstretched hand draped under a night sky — an image that at once imparts the book’s theme of connection in the middle of a vast universe. To no one’s surprise, the designer will want to make sure that this “one idea” is the centerpiece, so you’ll find that the typography is more often than not restrained on these covers.
3. The silhouette can turn heads.
Cover designs by (from left to right, top to bottom): Joel Tippie, Christopher Brand, Alison Forner, Jeffrey Nguyen, Jarrod Taylor, Lynn Buckley.
Ah, the silhouette. There’s a reason why it’s so ubiquitous on covers: it’s really, really effective at getting a reader’s attention. Who wouldn’t glimpse a shadowy figure and automatically go, “Who’s THAT?”
That said, you could say that the silhouette is a victim of its own nebulous triumph. It’s so common that it can be tough to make it original these days. Designers who succeed often play it against the cover typography (as in David Nicholls’ Us) or make the silhouette itself exceedingly arresting (as in Han Kang’s The Vegetarian.)
For Galloway’s Justice, it was important to convey a mysterious tone and the idea of a missing girl. I chose to create an empty silhouette shape on top of a photograph to portray a missing piece. I wanted the use of integrated photography, lettering, and illustration to make a compelling design. I try to create a cover that can sit within its genre while being striking and unique. — Jeffrey Nguyen on designing Galloway's Justice.
4. A collage is worth a thousand words.
Cover designs by (from left to right): Raúl Lázaro, Christos Kourtoglou, Oliver Munday.
Photo collages are an exciting trend in the world of cover design. Given the recent innovations in photomanipulation, they offer a vast sandbox of possibilities to designers. As you can see, photo collages give the cover a bit of a modern look. In a bit of a twist, you might see this technique adorning the covers of classics — giving books such as Charles Baudelaire’s Las Flores del Mal a very contemporary interpretation.
5. Hand-drawn covers add a personal touch.
Cover designs by (from left to right): Harriet Russell, Aled Lewis, Andreas Preis.
We’re suckers for originality, which is one area that hand-illustrated covers certainly have covered. From the softness of the illustration for Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park to the gorgeously intricate cover of Runemarks, hand-drawn covers are so versatile that they’re present in pretty much every genre. Not to mention the way they allow designers to add that extra special touch! Where else can you find a cover upon which the “Y” is the wine glass that Gatsby delicately holds?
Typography-focused book covers
6. When typography met imagery...
Cover designs by (from left to right): Christopher Brand, Matt Vee, Jennifer Carrow.
Let’s start off with a bang: there’s no better illustration (!) of how powerful typography can be than a cover that turns its typography into an image unto itself.
A book's cover is your secret weapon when it comes to sales. Find #design inspiration here! Click To Tweet
Take the cover of Karan Mahajan’s The Association of Small Bombs, for instance: it does a brilliant job of conveying the book’s message in only a few strokes. You’ll notice that the o’s in the title end up creating the “small bombs” that are at the heart of this book. As LitHub points out: “While we expect explosions to create chaos, the impact of the bomb in this composition is very organized and evocative of networks. It is a timely interpretation of violence.”
7. Sometimes, the bigger and bolder, the better.
Cover designs by (from left to right, top to bottom): Jon Gray, Thomas Walker, Jon Gray, Neil Fujita, Mirandi Babitz, Adly Elewa.
Big, bold typography on covers is another trend in recent years, and it’s not terribly hard to see why. This kind of typography shouts: “This is a book that you want to pick up.” That, or: “Here… we… go!” Like elephants in the room, these covers demand attention.
Expect to see this sort of typography splashed into the midst of bright colors, as subtlety isn’t exactly the game here. You’ll frequently find it paired with books with emphatic titles, too — such as Eve Babitz’s Sex and Rage or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am. Also: if it’s executed well, there’s a chance that the type can gain iconic status. (See: the typography for The Godfather, which became an instant classic on its release).
8. Simple typography shines a light on the illustration.
Cover designs by (from left to right): Erin Fitzsimmons, Terry and Eric Fan, Kathleen Lynch.
Let’s go now to the opposite end of the spectrum. Simple and understated typography is actually used with a lot of purpose on book covers — it elegantly balances the elements to best highlight the illustration. Great designers aren’t afraid to let the typography be restrained so that the illustration can take the center stage. Because of that, the end effect is stunning: covers of this kind allow the (often) jaw-dropping artwork to really grip the reader's imagination.
Make Way for Her was a book in the New Poetry and Prose series from the University of Kentucky Press. The design went in several directions before we ended up with the final: initially, the look was illustrative and abstract; then it switched to edgy and photographic. In both instances, I kept the typography clean and simple. It allowed me to integrate it with the elements of the artwork, adding to the depth of feeling of young women searching for themselves and making their way, and letting the illustration shine. — Kathleen Lynch on designing Make Way For Her.
8. Type can create visual magic.
Cover designs by (from left to right, top to bottom): Scot Bendall, Janet Hansen, Oliver Munday, Timothy Goodman.
Fun fact: not all magicians wield wands. Oh, you want proof? Take this set of covers, otherwise known as Exhibit A: Typography as Magic. Did the visual dynamism of Baci’s The Water Knife make you do a double-take? Don’t the extra letters on Rebecca Schiff’s The Bed Moved escape your notice — until you realize that they exist to perfectly mirror the title itself? They’re so mesmerizing that they almost make you want to reach out and open the book (which is, of course, the designer’s goal).
“To minimize the themes of the book, I used a grid of boxes to write them down: playful, funny, young, chaotic, sexual, edgy, personal, feminine, and smart. I pinned this sheet of words up and stared at it for a few days before starting, and I tried to approach the design by only thinking about these themes.” — Janet Hansen on designing The Bed Moved.
9. Hand-lettered titles keep things real.
Cover designs by (from left to right, top to bottom): Jim Tierney, Adly Elewa, Rodrigo Corral, Leanne Shapton, Adly Elewa, Leo Nickolls.
You know that feeling you get when a friend writes to you by hand? That’s the idea behind hand-lettered titles, which are currently trending in cover design. Hand-drawn titles radiate a sense of warmth, sincerity, and personality. Don’t be shocked to discover that this kind of typography works best with quirky or uber-original books that showcase a bundle of personality! Case in point: it’s pretty popular in Young Adult fiction right now, with one example being John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.
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10. Type that interacts with the design becomes immersive.
Cover designs by (from left to right): Jaya Miceli, Tyler Comrie, Jaya Miceli.
Placement is the key to this kind of typography, which allows the title to be a direct part of the design. Sometimes this might mean that it’s is obscured by the cover design, as in Brett Reetz’s Swimmer. Other times, it means that the title is an extension of the scenery. Look at the cover for The Girl on the Train, for instance: its combined elements create a sense of motion — replicating the point-of-view of the title character, peering out the window as the scenery races by.
Suspense and mystery books use this technique to great effect. By giving you only a glimpse of the whole scene, the designer makes readers wonder where the rest of the picture might just take them. And you can bet that it won’t be Kansas.
11. Fantasy covers show off (or strongly imply) the fantastical.
Fantasy covers often fall into two categories: the abstract or the extremely realistic. The latter sort is terrific at setting the mood, while realistic covers show readers exactly what they’re going to get. (Though it’s worth noting that recently the trend has moved away from the hyper-realistic.)
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If you’re writing a fantasy series, your author brand is going to be a key consideration. The font you use for the cover, the style of artwork: these are all things that will make your series (and your name) immediately recognizable to the..
This is a guest post by Jessica Ruscello, a copywriter at Blurb, Inc. Jessica is also a writer, teacher, and photographer who makes her mark with empty coffee cups, ink spills, and red lipstick. She’s passionate about creativity, people, and the written word. She believes anything worth doing is worth doing beautifully. When not chasing the perfect sentence, she’s stalking Bay Area beauty camera in-hand, amazed and grateful that she gets to call San Francisco her home.
The last ten years—even the last five—have seen game-changing developments in printing technology. Even if print-on-demand has been around longer than that, we’re now seeing these digital machines produce exquisite quality. Advanced inkjet technology now creates pages and covers that are nearly identical to those created with traditional offset printing, offering incredible advantages to self-publishers.
How can you make sure you're getting the most return out of it? Let's find out.
How does Print-On-Demand (POD) work?
You choose your format. From coffee-table books to magazines to trade paperbacks, print-on-demand is compatible with any format you’d find in a bookstore. The more copies you order, the more cost-effective customization becomes (higher volume order makes it possible to try different endsheets, ribbon markers, or cover styles). That said, standard commercial sizes and papers are readily available across printers.
You create a properly formatted book file. Your PDF or other print-ready file will stay on hand with the printer and can be called up any time an order is placed for your book.
You list your book on major bookselling sites. You can do this using a “print-on-demand distributor” like KDP Print (for Amazon), IngramSpark, or Blurb.
Every time someone orders your book, the order is sent to the printer. Digital printers print and assemble your book all in one place.
The book is shipped to the retailer, who forwards it to your reader. In some cases, the customer will be able to get the print book in under one hour!
Your reader pays the retailer. Your retailer will then send the net revenue to you (after deducting printing costs and retailer discounts—read more about these below).
Print-On-Demand technology: what you need to know
Books that are printed on-demand are still created by “presses,” but this term is misleading because there are no plates in digital printing that are “pressed” to paper. Digital printing is derived from the Xerox technology developed in the 1950s, which relies on a laser imaging system for transferring image data to the paper. Early digital printing systems suffered from lower resolution (300 dpi or less), fewer colors, and slower machines, but the last 15 years has seen a revolution in equipment—more pages per minute, more colors, and up to 2400 dpi.
The variation in digital printing depends on three things: how the ink hits the paper, what type of ink hits the paper, and what kind of paper you use. For your book, you may not need to know the technical function of particular printers or ink deposit chemistry. However, here are some things you do need to keep in mind as you select your digital printing process.
Did you know? Digital printing is derived from Xerox technology developed in the 1950s #selfpub Click To Tweet
Inkjet or toner printing
An inkjet printer and a toner-based printer put ink on the paper differently. With inkjet printers, you’ll likely get more vibrant colors and finer resolution for images. With toner-based printers, like copy machines, you might get richer blacks and sharper edges, which suits books that have many pages, lots of type, and aren’t so concerned with resolution. As inkjet technology improves, toner printers are being used less. A printing company may not spell out the exact type of printer they use, but they may offer differences in color or black and white at different price points and quality, and this is partly why.
Type of ink
Different machines are compatible with different types of ink. Some machines use an ink that’s dry, some use wet ink. Meanwhile, some inks are water resistant or fade resistant; some inks break down more easily than others. All of the above affects resolution and sharpness. If you’re making a children’s book that will be handled a lot, you’ll want to check for ink durability. If you’re making a photo book, you’ll want rich colors and precision. If your book is mostly type, you’ll have fewer concerns and can economize, but you’re looking for deep blacks and crisp lines.
Different inks look different on different papers, and paper type often has the highest impact on the base price of your book. Uncoated paper is less expensive, but has a rougher texture and is more absorbent, so colors don’t have the vibrancy of coated papers. Coated papers keep more ink on the surface and reflect the colors back to you. Papers with different coatings can create dramatically different looks even if they were created on the same press.
The advantages of Print-On-Demand
It’s less expensive up front
For self-publishers, getting your work into the world used to mean printing 1,000 copies—and an expensive proofing copy. If there were errors, you’d pay again to have another proofing copy sent. These proofs alone could cost anywhere between $100-$500—and then there’s the cost of printing thousands of copies of your book, which can outpace a down payment on a Ford Focus! For print-on-demand, your only upfront cost is the price of one copy of your book, which could be as low as $10. You’ll see the book in full, and you can do several rounds of proofing for a big order, all for the same price of one round offset.
Digitally printed books are created in the same facility, without having to ship blocks and covers to different sites for assembly. Not to mention, commercial digital printing machines in themselves are incredibly fast, and getting faster. This means even larger orders can be done and in-hand in as fast as a few weeks, not a few months.
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Storage and fulfillment handled by someone else
Print-on-demand eliminates that problem of thousands of books in the basement that you’ll need to address and ship yourself. Books are shipped by the printer or the retailer directly to your customer, without effort from you.
Niche books stay in print longer
Digital printing allows for smaller runs, which means books that don’t sell to a wide audience can still come into being, without printers suffering major losses. Small-run titles can stick around more.
No pulping waste books
This is better for the self-publisher, the printer, and the environment. Books are printed as they’re ordered, so there is no waste.
Printers like Ingram have relationships with Amazon and Barnes & Noble. (Blurb’s Trade Books are printed and distributed with the help of Ingram.) Amazon commands almost a third of print book sales, so listing your book there comes with its own advantages and even credibility. You don’t have to convince customers to go to these sites, and once they do, getting your book into their hands is pretty simple.
Distribution through these sites doesn’t come free, however. Both Amazon (and localized Amazon sites) and Ingram (for trade books, which also reach Amazon and Bn.com) charge distribution fees and do their own markup, referred to as a “Wholesale Discount.” The “discount” is the markup amount distributors add to your book. It’s usually a percentage of your retail price and any fee.
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Ex. 1: Children’s Book
Photo books are a format type that have the richest color printing, so they are often used for Children’s Books. A Standard Landscape Photo Book through Blurb with a hardcover ImageWrap and 30 pages will cost $41.99 to print, and Amazon’s fees for that book are $1.35 + 15% of the retail price. If your markup is $5.00, that photo book would be $55.38 on Amazon.
Trade books are a format type that lend itself well to selling, so they are often used for novels and poetry books. A 6x9 in. Trade Book with a hardcover ImageWrap and 350 pages will cost $16.25 to print through Blurb, and Ingram’s fees for that book are about 36% of the retail price. If your markup is $5.00, that trade book would be $28.90 per copy in the Ingram Catalog for book retailers.
Offset printing is older technology that uses plates which transfer an image onto a rubber "blanket.” Afterward, that image is transferred onto a sheet of paper. It's called “offset” because the ink is not transferred directly onto the paper, but the plates first.
So many variables affect the cost of an offset order (such as customizations and overseas printing), it’s difficult to compare POD and offset for the same book. However, it’s possible to reduce your per-copy cost by as much as 40% by printing offset. There are also more opportunities to design and shape the book in specialty ways. As we'll see below, this older printing method has its own advantages, especially for larger orders.
Offset printing uses plates to transfer images. Find out more in this post Click To Tweet
Lower cost per copy, higher cost at the outset
Printing offset means ordering at least 1,000 copies of your book. But this way of printing, especially with an overseas printer, is hands-down the lowest possible cost-per-copy. You just have to finance a large order. Without negotiating warehousing and fulfillment with your distributor, these tasks are also up to you. Printing offset means the highest possible margin, but you also bear the largest burdens for up-front cost and distribution.
Printing offset follows the older printing methods of page creation, cover creation, and assembly. Your printing plates will need to be custom-created, so the creation and setup of plates gets factored into your proof copy.
Because the plates, trimming, covers, and even materials are individually set-up, these large orders make it more cost-effective to make your project look and feel exactly as you like, since the setup fees have already been costed out. This means more possibilities for specialty trim sizes, paper types, and cover types. Cost effectiveness (and therefore feasibility) for customizations increases as orders exceed 1,000 copies.
Brick-and-mortar consignment retail possibility
Self-published books come with their own challenges when contending for shelf space, but an offset order creates enough inventory for stocking local establishments. You might not be able to get on the shelves of national chain brick-and-mortar stores, but you can approach local bookshops or other relevant stores to carry your book on consignment (for a portion of your sales).
Possibility for in-person and event sales
Offset orders yield the inventory to follow up speaking engagements or events with a printed-take home piece for your audience, and a built-in bookselling opportunity for you.
Control over distribution
If you’d like more options to manage your own distribution, or if you would like to offer signed copies and do your own fulfillment, on offset order puts you in charge and stocks you up.
The offset difference
People enjoy the customization possible with offset, but what’s really compelling about an offset order is the effect it has on the cost per copy. You can estimate the single copy price through Blurb with your paper type, page count, and cover type with the pricing calculator. Any actual order would require a talk with Client Services about the specifics of a project.
Take a look at the effect of ordering offset on the two projects we listed above:
100+ Client Services Pricing - $19.50/copy (Not including taxes of shipping)
1000 Copies Offset Printing - $10.00/copy (Includes approximate shipping to US)*
*digital printing - 4 weeks with proofing; offset printing 12-13 weeks to delivery
Novel or Non-Fiction Trade Book
100+ Client Services Pricing - $16.00/copy (Not including taxes of shipping)
1000 Copies Offset Printing - $7.50 /copy (Includes approximate shipping to US)
Don’t overlook offset printing because of the large upfront costs, and don’t overlook print-on-demand, which offers greater speed, quality, and innovation than what has been available at any other time in print history. Whichever one's better for your project, there's no doubt that print-on-demand has done so many exciting things for book-makers, creating more options for beautiful end products.
Have you tried offset printing on one of your books? What has been your experience with print-on-demand so far? Leave your thoughts (as well as any questions for Jessica) in the comments below.