How to Design the Front and Back Covers of Your Book

Unlike traditional publishing, self-publishing requires the author to produce a book cover design. Engaging front and back covers can entice a reader to pick up the book, but poorly designed covers can cause readers to pass it by. According to John Gall, art director for Vintage and Anchor books, many authors find cover design difficult. You can create your book cover by keeping a few guidelines in mind.

Create a prototype.

Create a prototype with software such as InDesign, Quark, or Word. Set the page of your design program to the size of your book. You will design the back cover on the left-hand side of the screen and the front cover on the right-hand side of the screen, the layout of an open book.

Arrange your front cover. Allow plenty of space for the author name and title of the book. Leave space for a picture. The title and author name may be placed at the top or bottom.

Leave space for a short synopsis of your book, as well as any reviewer comments if you have them, if necessary. Leave space near the bottom for your ISBN number and bar code.

Add an image

If you want to use a photograph, choose one that takes the same tone as the book. For example, if your book is a thriller, choose a bold photo. If your book is less dramatic, choose a softer photo. For a nonfiction book, choose a photo that relates to the subject.

Purchase or create your own cover image. If you are handy with a camera, use your own work. Otherwise, purchase an image from a stock photo website such as, or Depending on the licenses you purchase, you can use the photos multiple times or have unlimited use. Some images available from websites such as these are free. (See References 1, 2 and 3)

Place the photo across the front cover or, if appropriate, across the entire span to create unity between front and back. The most relevant part of the picture should be the focus of the front cover.

Choose fonts and type sizes

Select fonts for your title and author name. Use no more than two different fonts that are easily readable. The "Open Publishing Guide" on Rochester's Institute of Technology's website warns against using Comic Sans or Papyrus. (See Reference 5)

Select a type size. Type your title and author name on your prototype book cover and experiment with different sizes until they stand out. The specific size of the font should be based on the size of your book.

Select the font and text for the back cover. The font should be the same as that used on the front cover, although the text can be smaller. Choose an easy-to-read type size, such as 12- or 14-point.

Send your design to your printer.

Save your design in the format requested by your printer. Most printers prefer a .pdf file of your cover. If you save the file as a .pdf, the format will remain intact, regardless of the program with which the printer opens it file. (See Reference 6)

Upload your PDF ile to your printers website if your printer offers that option.Your printer will have separate upload buttons for your cover design and your book's manuscript.

E-mail your .pdf file if your printer does not offer an upload option. When e-mailing the cover, attach the file to the same message as your manuscript.

Things You'll Need

  • Computer
  • Internet connection
  • Cover design software