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As a self-published author, book cover designs can be daunting, and there are a lot of factors to consider before committing to your final concept and design. When starting to design a book cover, you need to think about:

    • Aesthetics
    • Functionality
    • Branding
    • Audience Appeal
    • Technical Requirements
    • Professionalism

But how can you ensure that your book cover has everything that it needs to succeed? What do you need to focus on for your book to attract readers and distributors in a world of traditionally published books? Firstly, we recommend hiring a book cover designer and following the 5 key points discussed below to make sure that you are getting the most from your book cover and your book designer.

1. Trust your book designer

If nothing else, the most important thing you can do to make your book cover a success is to listen to your designer. They will make your book cover look the best it can. Your designer wants the best for your book as much as you do, and will no doubt have amazing book cover ideas that you hadn’t considered before. They are also experience professionals who have worked on a number of books in the past, so they understand the book market and know what is more likely to sell and what is more likely to not.

It is important to communicate your preferences and vision for the book in a way that can be well understood when you have the design brief with the designer. Your book designer will take cues from your brief and design a book cover that is marketable to help your book shine on the shelves and meet your expectations.

2. Don’t try to tell the whole story with your book cover

It’s important to intrigue potential readers and leave them wanting more—not leave them confused and overwhelmed. The cover should be a teaser that makes the readers want to know more and entice them to pick up your book and take it home with them. It is not necessary to try to tell the whole story of a book on its cover as it is simply a visual representation of the book meant to grab attention. If you try to include every detail that’s in your book on your cover, it will be a cluttered mess of references that are lost on potential readers.

A good cover should be visually appealing, give a sense of what genre or style the book belongs to, and accurately represent the book. Pick one to three things that best convey what your story is about and your designer will use what they can to bring your cover to life.

3. Design for your book’s audience, not yourself

When thinking about book cover design, it is important to keep the target audience in mind, rather than designing solely on your own preferences. As discussed earlier, the cover should be visually appealing and reflective of the content and genre of the book, but also designed to appeal directly to the specific audience who are most likely to read it. This may involve considering factors such as age, gender, interests, and reading habits of the target audience.

Let the book designer create the cover from the eyes of a buyer. Often what an author believes they must have on their book cover doesn’t translate well to readers and they miss what the author wanted to achieve.

Though you may read a lot in the genre you wrote your book in, remember: you are the author, not your audience.

4. Fit your book cover design within a genre

When designing a book cover, it is important to consider the genre of the book and design a cover that fits within the conventions of that genre. The buyer—whether a distributor or a reader—should be able to immediately recognise the genre of the book by the cover design. For example, a mystery novel may feature a dark and dramatic cover with a silhouette or crime scene, while a romance novel may feature a romantic image of a couple. A science fiction book cover may feature images of futuristic technology, space, or aliens. A fantasy book cover may feature images of dragons, wizards, or other mythical creatures.

This doesn’t mean that your book should be a carbon copy of another, but if the genre is not clear then the buyer will have to work harder to decipher what your book is and will be more likely to disregard it in favour for another. Gather some inspiration from within your genre and similar and pick them apart. Try to figure out which elements on those covers would work for your book and tell your designer. This will give your book designer a good starting point for your cover and let them know what you like.

5. Be a big picture thinker

When considering your book cover design, be careful not to focus on particulars, such as the exact shade of a colour, the precise positioning of an image, and the perfect font size/weight to use. While attention to detail is important in many aspects of book cover design, it is also important to keep the big picture in mind. If you give your designer a list of overly detailed instructions of what the cover must include, you’ll restrict their creative license and may end up with an unattractive book cover that just does not work.

Think about what is necessary for your book cover and what will make it attractive and successful in retail, but more importantly what is not. The goal is to create a cover that is visually appealing and accurately represents the book, rather than focusing on small details that may not have a significant impact on the overall design.

Overall, a successfully designed book cover is one that looks professional and like it belongs in the market, effectively and concisely communicates the book’s content and style, appeals to the intended audience, is visually appealing and on-par with other books in its genre, and is harmonious.

To see some of our favourite covers, check out our Instagram.


  1. Frank J

    Thanks for this post. I am a 3 time self-published author and wish I had this info right at the start of my author journey. It all rings true. I seem to have learned the hard way!

    • David Walters

      Thanks Frank… happy to impart some self-publishing tips. Have you got our Little Book of Big Publishing Tips. It’s packed with more that might be of help to you. Send us an email and we will happily post to you.

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