There are a few hard and fast rules for designing a book cover. I’m going to outline the basics here, but it can take years of experience to get this spot on. If you’re new to writing I would always recommend you get a professional for this. People DO judge a book by its cover, so it’s important to get it right. 


These are critical when designing your cover. You need to make sure they are easy to read and – if possible – are used within the book itself. Try not to use more than 3 fonts (I prefer 2, but you can get away with 3 if you’re clever) Remember, each new font, draw the eyes to it. 

Spacing between lines is probably the biggest giveaway for DIY covers and the type of effect you use on the fonts. Avoid using a drop shadow. Seriously.

Consider your bleed edge too and don’t have your text running the edge of your design. (Bleed edge? – this is the space you need to allow for trim, it’s usually 3mm on all sides, bar the spine edge.)


If you’re using images for your cover, make sure you have permission, and that you choose something that is unique. This might be a bit tricky if you’re buying a stock photo from I-stock or 123F, but it is possible if you’re smart. Getting a specific image designed, or a photo taken especially for your book cover is the ideal.

If you’re using text as your ‘image’ then hire a professional. Using fonts as a design is really tricky and requires expert knowledge.

Again, you need to consider bleed when you’re choosing your image. This is the spacing that you need to add to the top, bottom and right-hand side. Don’t have your main image so big that it goes to the edge of the book, as this will be cropped off when printed.

Title and strapline

The title is probably THE most important part of the cover (with the image coming a close second).

It needs to be;

  • engaging,
  • evoke curiosity,
  • memorable.

Do your research on titles. Engage with your audience. Make sure it’s not already taken.

Back cover

This is also an important consideration – as you can use the back cover in your marketing. There needs to be enough tempting detail that people will be wanting to buy the book. Use teaser bullets to promise what is inside (don’t necessarily tell) and have an enticing headline at the top. 

A pic of you, and a little para about who you are, and why you’re an expert is also smart. Just don’t make it all about you.

The extra wow factor – ISBN boxes.

It always amazes me that people give no thought to these. They just add the black and white ‘barcode’ type graphic, with little to no design added. If you’re smart, this can really elevate your book from screaming ‘self-published’ to professional. Just a few tweaks can have an amazing effect. I’ll be doing another article all about how to add flair to your ISBN box, but for now, give this some thought. Take a look at what is on best selling books… and come up with something similar. 

Take a look at my article, how to design a book cover that sells, over on my sister site, for a more in-depth look and to guide you further. 

Or if you’re ready to push forward with your book cover design, then take a look here for more information on how we can work together: The Book Refinery

Book cover basics – what you need to know before you hit publish