Designing Your Own Book Cover? Expert Brian Jackson gives us his Tips and Tricks! - J.K.'s place

Designing Your Own Book Cover? Expert Brian Jackson gives us his Tips and Tricks!

The world of book publishing requires authors to have a hodgepodge of skills, including choosing your cover art! Need a little help getting that eye-catching cover for your book? Brian Jackson is the man for the job!

0xF Tips for Creating a Selling Book Cover

by Brian Jackson

I doubt that there are many self-published authors out there who would argue against the fact that a good book cover is essential to grabbing a buyer’s attention and therefore selling more books. We all know this. Let’s assume it’s a given.


Given that we all care about our book covers, have you ever wondered how to create a book cover that sells? I bet you have. In my self-publishing book, Do It Yourself: Book Covers, I address the mechanics of creating quality book covers inexpensively but provide little guidance on the best practices for book cover design. In this blog post I intend to rectify this omission.

The following are 16 tips for creating a quality book cover that will sell more books. Why 16 tips instead of 10 you ask? Because I used to be a programmer and we count in base 16 (hexadecimal). As a result, I’m providing 16 tips, not 10. They’ll be number in hexadecimal format from 0x0 to 0xF.

0x0 Reinterpret Existing Book Covers

Before creating a book cover, spend plenty of time checking out the covers on books that sell well and covers that you like. I’m not saying you should steal the covers, but there’s nothing to say you can’t borrow appealing elements from these cover, try to match images, replicate a color scheme or layout, and thereby reinterpret a winning book cover.

You can begin your journey by reviewing The Wall of Book Covers located at the following URL:

These book covers were created by me using the techniques outlined in my book.

Before creating a book cover or contracting with someone to create a book cover you, do your homework by examining plenty of covers for books in your genre. Look for pleasing color schemes, cool fonts, and eye popping images to reinterpret in your own cover.

0x1 Use Fonts to Tell Your Story

A book cover is composed of three basic elements: text, images, and colored boxes. It’s that simple. All three of these elements need to be used to tell your customers what you’re book is about. One of the most frequently overlooked elements that can be used to tell your book’s story is your cover font.


Go back and check out The Wall of Book Covers. Notice how the fonts used on the covers move from whimsical to downright creepy? That’s because the story told by each book ranges from whimsical to downright creepy.

If you’re creating your own book cover, check out the following URL to download free fonts onto your computer: Look for fonts that tell your story.

0x2 Purchase Quality Low Cost Images

One of the most powerful aspects of any book cover are the images presented to tell the book’s story. You can spend your time trying to get the licensing rights to images you find on the web or searching the public image bins, but I recommend that you instead purchase the rights to low cost images.

The following websites sell the rights to professional images for one or two dollars an image. The quality of the images is exceptional and you don’t have to screw around trying to get the rights, they’re selling the rights: and

Both sites are great, the first is a little cheaper and the second has somewhat better images. In either case they’re both cheap and provide wonderful professional images. All the images on The Wall of Book Covers are from either canStock or iStock.

Note that when buying images from either site, you should purchase credits and use them instead of paying in dollars. Paying in credits is significantly cheaper.

0x3 Avoid Spindly Fonts and Tiny Images

Man those delicate, spindly fonts sure are pretty. The problem is that when these fonts are viewed in thumbnail size (e.g. on Amazon) those pretty delicate fonts tend to become dashed and come apart. The same is true for small delicate images.

Avoid using narrow fonts and small images on your book covers to insure they can be seen. One good way to insure your book covers elements can be seen is to…

0x4 View Your Cover in Thumbnail Size

All image manipulations programs (e.g. GIMP or Photoshop) support the ability to view your images in various sizes. Use this feature to insure that your cover is readable and looks good when displayed in smaller sizes (e.g. in GIMP I view in either 1:8 or 1:16 size to verify an image’s readability).

0x5 Use Large Fonts for Title and Author

You want to make your title readable. Next in order of importance is your author name and any accolades you want to brag about. Reviews from famous authors are also important. Your subtitle or slogan doesn’t matter quite as much. Make your title and author name large enough to be readable in thumbnail size.

0x6 Contrast Font and Background Colors

Dark text tends to pop off the cover better when it overlays a light background. Conversely, light colored fonts show up best when laid over dark backgrounds. White on black or black on white produce the greatest contrast and tend to pop the best. Pay attention to your font and background image colors when designing your book cover. Consider using colored boxes or drop shadows to make your font stand out.

0x7 Include Appropriate Accolades

If you’re an Amazon, New York Times, or USA Today bestseller, you’d better say so right about you author name on your cover. Likewise if you’re a Bram Stoker, Hugo, or Nebula award winner. Include appropriate accolades on your cover right about your author name.

Skip the accolade if it’s a featured author in your junior college review. Yeah, I won that honor once as well, but we’re trying to REALLY wow the reader.

0x8 Include Series Designation

If you’re book is part of a series, let the reader know. At least list the name of the series to let the reader know that they can purchase additional books if they like the characters and world. Consider including the sequence number of the book in the series (and definitely include this information in the title of the book in your Amazon listing).


0x9 Include a Catchy Subtitle

Got a nice hook to draw readers in? A catchy slogan or subtitle? Use it, just keep it smaller than your title, accolades, and author name. If it’s really good then why isn’t it your title?

0xA Use Colored Boxes or Background Images to Contrast Text

This is that old light text on dark background and vica versa thing. I really like placing light or dark colored boxes behind my text to really make it pop. In your image manipulation program simply select a rectangular area and dump a light or dark color into it, then place the rectangle behind your text and over your background image. Works great.

0xB Use Drop Shadows and Ghost Shadow to Make Text Pop


Quite often, text can be highlighted by placed a drop shadow or ghost shadow behind your text. If your graphic program doesn’t directly support drop shadows, simply put the same text behind the text you want to make pop but make it a contrasting color (e.g. black for white text, white for black text). Position the text behind the text you want to make pop and slightly down and right of the text on top. Now blur it. I like to blur white ghost shadows a lot defusing them into the cover image.

0xC Use Complementary Colors

Show some taste with your covers. Use cool blues or greens, pastels, or wild yellow and red. Just keep the colors complimentary (e.g. no hot pink fonts over an image of a forest). I’d like to explain further, but this blog post is too short. I’m afraid that if you have no taste you’re doomed when it comes to cover design.

0xD Select Compelling Cover Images

Yeah, I know. This is pretty obvious but it’s also so important that I feel the need to state the obvious. Besides, to some degree this is the fun part of cover design. Spend lots of time on canStock searching for images that will catch the eye by being exceptionally beautiful or in some other way are eye catching. Find an image the both tells your books story and catches the book buyer’s eye.

0xE Review Your Book Cover With Others

I always send my book covers out on FaceBook for review. Readers can provide a lot of good insight into how to improve a cover. Plus it’s nice to get some positive strokes for your work.

0xF Tell a Concise Story

Keep it simple. Sometimes the simplest, minimalist covers are the best. Tell a concise story with your book covers and don’t overload the reader with needless BS. Title, accolades, author, subtitle, image. That should do it.

About the Author


Brian Jackson is a retired computer programmer who now spends his time writing. He is the writer of fiction in a number of genres and nonfiction books about self-publishing. Additionally, he publishes books written by his wife Melanie Jackson and maintains her web page.

Thanks to Brain for a helpful guide to cover designing! What do you look for in a good book cover?



Linnae Crady

Great advice for creating memorable covers that will stand out and grab a reader’s attention. The Cover Cafe website sponsors an annual romance cover contest each year. (The contest for 2012 covers is online for public voting through May 28th, 2013.) Each year, the contest results are posted with voter comments and they offer valuable voter feedback.

One additional comment I have is about making sure your cover doesn’t fall into the “latest trend” category. Readers tire of concepts that appear over and over again. If there are too many “concept” covers released at the same time, they all blend together and the marketing impact is lost. The covers all look the same and your cover will not stand out from the pack.

Brian Jackson

I had 16 chances and I can’t believe that I missed one of the most important issues regarding cover design: branding. You should use similar styles, pictures, colors, and fonts for all you books to establish a brand that says “this book belongs to you”. This is particularly important to books in a series.


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