How To Write Your First Non-Fiction Book And Get Started As An Indie Author Part 4: Creating Your Book Cover

How To Write Your First Non-Fiction Book And Get Started As An Indie Author Part 4: Creating Your Book Cover

By Neal Martin/ September 11, 2014
Last Updated April 27, 2023
how to write a book

Welcome back to another installment in this series on how to publish your first non-fiction book.

In part one of this series we discussed developing and researching your book idea.

Then in part two we looked at how to outline the structure of your book and the kind of material you needed to include in it.

In part three, we then discussed how to go about writing your book.

Now in part four of this series we are now going to look at getting your cover sorted.

Step 4: Get Your Cover Designed

When it comes to book covers, don’t be fooled by that old adage of never judge a book by its cover. In the publishing business, that adage couldn’t be more wrong.

People do judge a book by its cover. Always.

Think about it. When you browse through Amazon looking for a book to buy, what’s the first thing you look at? The first thing that usually catches your eye is the cover, is it not? You look at the cover and you read the title.

If the cover jumps out at you for some reason, you click on the book and go on to read the description and reviews before you buy the book.

Now imagine that you are looking at two different books. One book has an awful cover that screams amateur hour. Everything about it sucks, even though the content of the book may not. It just hurts your eyes looking at it.

The other book has a really great cover, nicely designed, easy on the eye and gives a good idea of what the content in the book is about.

Which book are you going to click on to find out more?

The one with the great cover design obviously!

I hope you understand the importance of having a good cover for your book.

The bottom line is this: If your cover sucks, so will your sales. It’s as simple as that.

There are just too many books out there to choose from for buyers to even think about seeing past a badly designed cover. They simply won’t give it the time of day.

What Constitutes A Good Book Cover?

There are as many variations on good cover design as there are books. Each individual book will dictate the end design of the cover.

There are however, things that every good cover has, which include:

  • Easy to read title fonts. A good cover will clearly display the title of the book, which means it will use a simple typography that is easy on the eye and easy to read even though the image in the listings may be small. Using hard to read fonts on a book cover, although some may look cool, is a bad idea. Once again, buyers will just skip over the book to the next one where they can actually read the title. Always use easy to read fonts.
  • Good contrast. Good covers also display good contrast, which means things like title fonts are clearly visible against whatever background they are on. There would be no point in using a dark title font against a dark background, as you wouldn’t be able to see it properly. Remember that on sites like Amazon, the cover image in the listings is quite small, so everything on the cover needs to stand out. Same goes for any images you use. Make sure they stand out and are clearly visible.
  • Not too busy. A cover that has many different elements to it won’t work as well as a cover that has just a few, clearly contrasted and displayed elements to it. Keep your cover as simple as possible. The more you can communicate what the book is about with as few elements as possible, the better.
  • Main titles are bigger than subtitles. The main title of the book must stand out first. Subtitles should be kept smaller. We’ll talk about titles in the next part of this series, but safe to say, your main title should tell a reader exactly what your book is about without them having to read the subtitle as well. The subtitle just elaborates on the main title, so keep it smaller. Take a look at my writing book in the sidebar for an example of this.

Those are just the main pointers you should keep in mind when designing a book cover, especially if you plan on tackling the design process yourself, although I wouldn’t recommend that unless you know what you are doing.

Before we move on, let me give you a few examples of good and bad book covers. First the bad:

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Not too good, are they? Doesn’t take a genius to figure out why…

Now the good:

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Big difference, huh? Which of those books would you rather buy?

Outsourcing Your Cover Design

This is the part of the process where you need to outsource.

It’s imperative that you pay out for a good designer.

No one is saying you should pay out a fortune. You can find good designers for reasonable prices if you look on sites like Elance, Odesk or some of the writing forums like KB Boards or Goodreads.

Fiverr is another option for cover designs.

When I first started self-publishing, I couldn’t afford much for design, so I went to Fiverr and was lucky enough to find a few decent cover designers. There are lots to choose from. Look at the examples of their work before you purchase a gig and make sure they do good work. Look for the type of covers that you would like for your book.

Fiverr should only be an option if you really don’t have any money. In saying that, I’m sure you could afford $50 or even less to hire someone from Elance to do a more professional job.

Save up if you have too. It will be worth it and you’ll make more money with a decent cover on your book.

Know The Kind Of Design You Want For Your Book

It helps a great deal if you have some sort of vision in mind for your cover. Usually the title and content of the book will suggest ideas for what has to go on the cover.

Try not to get too fancy or obscure with your cover either. Like I said, simple well executed design works best.

If you have some idea of how you want your cover to look, take a browse through some of the stock photo libraries like Big Stock or Shutter Stock. These sites have images relating to every subject you can think off, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding suitable images.

Sometimes just looking through all those images can suggest ideas as well. Take your time with this and try to find a good image.

If you don’t want to use a stock image, you have two other options.

The first option is to do an illustrated cover, which means your cover will be created from scratch through digital art, just like the skeleton cover above.

Obviously this will require the services of an illustrator or digital artist and you could be looking at a big expense if you decide to go down that road, depending on what you need done.

The other option open to you is to have a typographical cover done, which means there will be no images, only text.

Covers like these can look awesome and be very effective if they are done right. Done badly…well, they suck.

Here’s three examples of typographical covers, two good and one bad. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you which is which.

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Whatever style of cover you end up going for, just make sure it fulfills the criteria of good cover design like we discussed earlier.

Spend as much money as you need too, or as much as you can afford on your cover.

Trust me, if your cover is good and professional looking, it will pay for itself many times over through increased book sales.

That’s it for this part of the series. Next time we’ll be discussing titles and descriptions, which along with your cover, can make a big difference to how people view your book and ultimately, whether or not they buy it.

Don’t forget, if you have any questions concerning anything we have discussed in this series, or if there is something you would like to add, do so by commenting below or sending me an email.

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