Book Cover Ideas

book coversNo doubt a book shouldn't be judged by its cover, but it invariably is, and very quickly. The average bookstore browser spends 8 seconds looking at the front cover and 15 seconds looking at the rear cover. Reviewers should know better, but they are also guided by first impressions. And of course booksellers know immediately what they're dealing with.

Book covers in full (CMYK) colour are expensive, well beyond the means of the poet bringing out a first collection. Some alternatives:

1. Get a friendly graphic designer to produce a simple B+W illustration.

2. Use an out-of-copyright woodcut or illustration.

3. Employ the templates provided by short-run printers.

4. Just put the title, but in the right typeface, size and placing.

5. Add text to your own or non-royalty photos with a cheap graphics program like Paintshop Pro.

Learn from Others

Nonfiction books need testimonials, quotations or review blurbs, which appear on the back cover, but are sometimes used as a lead-in on the front.

For novels and poetry, advice on these aspects (book cover illustration design) is much more difficult — and necessary. Most covers of poetry books are dull beyond belief, and those for novels do not always serve their best interests: triumphs of design but not creating a mood of pleasant anticipation.

The best advice is to simply look around bookstores, notebook in hand, for books similar to your forthcoming work. What attracts and why? What is the page layout and typeface? How is the cover designed? Does the blurb do its job? Armed with more decided requirements, you'll then be able to decide from the portfolios of book cover designers appearing on the Internet.

Book cover designers tend to specialize, not only in this branch of graphic design, but by genre and price range. You'll get the picture if you organize your impressions, and enquire about fee ranges of designers that appeal to you. Some short-run printers have in-house designers or affiliates who can give your cover an individual personality without wrecking the budget. Book covers are a branch of graphic design, and don't come cheap, but they do add immensely to a book's selling potential.


Book cover designers are well advertised on the Internet, but here are some resources:

Illustration Web.

Hire an Illustrator.

ZDNet Business Directory. Listings by major US cities.

eBook Services Directory. Covers apply to ebooks too.

All Graphic Design. Article and examples.

Design Book Covers. CafePress article, with templates and guides: many excellent articles on site.

99 Designs. Professional book cover designs from $299.

Covers Sell Books. Article arguing for good book covers.

Short listing on Preditors and Editors.

Non-royalty photos are available for modest prices at iStockphoto and other sites. Do an Internet search.

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