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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Cover Design Class, October 2015

Last month I had the opportunity to teach a class about creating eye-catching book covers for the Northwest Writers Retreat (ANWA,
It was a great experience for me to share some tips that I have learned and to help authors who are self publishing to create book covers that will bring readers in!!
I would like to share a few points from my class so that anyone can learn what works (and what doesn't) for their own book covers.

Tip One: EVERYONE judges a book by it's cover. It just happens. Some covers will catch your eye and draw you in, others you will simply look over because it didn't appeal to your taste. Make sure that you always set a MOOD for you cover. The cover needs to reflect the mood of your book. If it's a romance, choose colors associates with romance- deep, lush colors such as purple, red, even deep greens or blues can work. If you write paranormal then keep the colors dark with stark breaks between colors.
Here is an example of "mood" from an anthology by Xchyler Publishing (
When you look at this cover, you get a good feel by the mood it sets. There are dark colors, with shocking red as contrast. Fonts and images are what make the rest of the mood work. So choose fonts and images that match the color mood you're creating. The distressed title font and the creepy eye in the center gives an overall "feel" for what type of book this is, right?

Tip Two: Give a glimpse into the the story (without giving everything else away). Follow the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW formula. Here is a good example of this:

As you look at this cover, what do you know? Who? A girl, probably a teenager (YA). What? The trees are on fire, so fire in definitely involved! When? It's dark outside, so possibly night time. Where? Looks like it takes place in the forest. Why and How? That's why you read the book! By giving some indication about the story, a reader can determine if it's the type of book for them.

Tip Three: Lets go over titles and images. There are rules to follow to ensure your book cover is successful. First, know your genre. If you write romances, use fonts that are soft and handwritten. If you write non-fiction, use clear, bold fonts and if you write thriller/paranormal, use distressing fonts. Make sure to look at other covers in the same genre. See what tops sellers covers look like. BUT remember, the title of the book should be the largest font. The author name should never over power the title. I know it's AMAZING to see your name up there, but make sure (until you're famous) to keep the author name simple and smaller than the title. Second, images are important. Having a focal point is vital to a good book cover. Most romance novels use couples or a woman on the cover- and will let you know if it's a period piece of not by the way they are dressed. Non-fiction keeps the imagery simple, not to overpower the title, and fantasy books are fun when showing images of another world. Again, check out what other authors are doing. Never copy! But use them as ideas for your own cover, so you know it'll fit in the correct genre. As a side note- be aware of copyright laws. Never used an unauthorized image for your cover. There are many good websites out there that you can pay for the right image.

 Tip Four: Feedback. Yes, it is important to get feedback. But be careful that you aren't just asking close friends and family. They will try to be kind and tell you anything looks great. You need neutral eyes that will be kind but honest. But also remember that if you post it on social media, asking for an opinion, you will get a lot of feedback that can be overwhelming and discouraging. Be selective about who you share the cover with and when you have finished it, post it with pride! Best not to post the final version and then ask "what do you think?" because people will take that opportunity.
Here's a summary of what we've learned today: Mood matters, give a glimpse of your story, titles and fonts make all the difference, and get feedback but not too much! Here is an example how the mood can make all the difference:

Both use the same title but you can see that the colors, fonts, and images make them totally different.

Now that I've briefly gone over the basics, remember that whether you design it yourself or use a professional, this is your book cover. Make sure to have a clear vision of what you want and go for it!

If you are interested in learning more about cover designs, comment below or email me at I am a graphic design coordinator for Xchyler Publishing ( and a freelance graphic designer.