Design, Marketing, Page Layout, Self Publishing

How to Design Your Book Cover Like a Professional

How is a great book cover made? Many people like to think that a great cover just materializes, fully formed, in the mind of the designer. The reality is that many factors, such as visual appeal, color, fonts, and audience, all have to be considered before starting. Additionally, a book designer must have the technical skills to put those ideas into print.

Here are four tips on designing your cover from a professional book designer.

1. Think About Your Audience

When creating your book cover, it is critical to consider where your reader will be seeing your book, what they will be looking for, and the feeling or tone of covers in that genre. Before starting your design, I recommend looking online and at local bookstores for books in the same genre as your book.

A fiction cover should appeal to the heart. What is the mood or feeling of your book? If you can pinpoint this, with a little searching, you will certainly be able to find an image that conveys that feeling. You may have better luck searching for concepts rather than things. So searching for “alone” or “lonely house” may provide you a better image than “lost cabin in the woods.”

Common photographic themes that can provide mood:

  • Dark Clouds
  • Shadows
  • Light Rays
  • Facial Expressions

A nonfiction cover should appeal to the mind. A metaphor will get the buyer thinking about what the book may be about. When choosing images, download a copy or sample of any image that you are considering. Try each of your ideas on the cover design with the cover type to see which one is the best before you pay.

2. Keep It Simple

One of the most common mistakes made in book cover design is overcomplicating the cover imagery or being too literal with it. Choosing one image or a direct focal point in the cover image will help your cover be more understandable and more enticing to potential readers. Ask yourself: if you were to drive down the highway and see a billboard of your book’s cover, would you be able to understand and determine what it is at a glance?

3. Focus On Your Title

Your readers need to know what your book called, which means they need to see your title as soon as they see the cover. Making the title your focal point will help direct your readers’ eye and entice them. Part of making your title the focal point is choosing the right font and size.

Choosing a serif vs. sans serif type face: Serifs are generally used more on literary or historical book covers. Sans serifs are used often on thrillers or on non-fiction. Here is comparison of the two types:

Choosing the right font: While it is tempting to choose a “fancy” face, resist this temptation. Many of these treatments absolutely guarantee an unprofessional cover design. Here are a few recommended typefaces:

Placing the type on your cover. It may seem a bit traditional, but you can’t go wrong with centered type! Keep your contrast as high as possible by using pure white type over a dark image, and pure black over a light image. When formatting your title, you may want to use wide letter spacing if your type is going over an image. If your background image is simple, you can choose a type with thinner letters. If the background image is busy, choose a heavier typeface.

4. Rule of Thirds

This is a common guideline or best practice for photography but also relates to book covers. The rule of thirds is a composition style that recommends that you divide your artwork into three main sections, each taking up one-third of the cover. For example, your focal point (usually your title or center element) will take up one third of your cover, while the remaining two thirds would be left open for background elements. Your sections can be divided, vertically, or diagonally. Below is an example cover that utilizes the rule of thirds:

Following these four tips will help give your book a professional look and make it standout among the crowd. Designing a cover should be fun and most importantly it should be something you love.

Check our our cover design portfolio and text design portfolio for a little inspiration.

Design, Marketing, Self Publishing, Book production, Book Printing Cost

How to Choose the Right Book Cover Finish: Matte vs. Gloss vs. UV

When I’m in a library or bookstore searching for my next adventure in reading, it’s a total sensory experience. From the smell of paper to the feel of the cover, choosing a book becomes about more than just the content on the page. Part of this experience is the cover finish on a particular book. Whether it’s the glossy art book or a matte novel, the cover finish you choose will affect how a reader perceives your book.

The type of cover finish you choose should be considered in tandem with cover design since it will complement your cover artwork. Think about the visual impact of your final book as well as how it will feel to the touch. Whether it’s on a living room coffee table or on a bookstore shelf, the right cover finish can be the difference between your book being noticed or not.

The three most common cover finishes for books are UV Coating, Gloss, and Matte. They are all terrific options, each with its own benefits and appeal depending on your book.

UV Coating

If you’re looking for a cost-effective cover finish, you can’t go wrong with UV Coating. UV Coating is a liquid solution poured onto your cover that is then cured using ultraviolet and infrared lights. This cover finish will give your book a bit of a shine, and will help protect your book against curling. It won’t peel and is more pliable than other finishes.

If your book’s cover is a solid color or a dark cover, you may notice smudges, fingerprints, and scuff marks more easily with UV Coating.

UV Coating is the best option if you want to keep your production costs low, or you want a look somewhat between gloss and matte. This finish option is versatile, making it a terrific choice for genres from fiction and history to textbooks and manuals.

Gloss Lamination

Gloss lamination is a reflective film that is stretched across your book’s cover. Gloss lamination provides increased shine and surface protection. This durable cover finish option will repel fingerprints or smudges, and is easy to wipe clean if it comes into contact with dirt or dust.

Books with a gloss laminated cover finish have a smooth texture and polished look that will enhance your cover by giving vibrancy to your photos and artwork. The reflective surface will surely grab attention from a bookshelf or coffee table.

You should choose a glossy finish for your book if you are looking to make a high impact, if your cover design is bright and vivid, or if you are looking for the most protection from scratches or dirt for your book. Gloss lamination is also reasonably priced if you are looking to upgrade from UV Coating. If you are interested in adding a premium feature like metallic printing, gloss is the best choice to pair with it.

Popular genres with gloss lamination include textbooks, cookbooks, art or photography books, and children’s books.

Matte lamination is a film overlay that results in a muted look for your cover and a velvety texture. Matte lamination offers a pleasant tactile experience and has an overall softer look. The less reflective overlay gives a more natural look to cover art, with a lower contrast on darker colors.

One of the benefits of matte lamination is that it is resistant to small scratches and scuffs. While wear and fingerprints are more readily absorbed with this finish, it can be more susceptible to stains and spills.

Besides producing a pleasing texture, this cover finish offers a unique, distinguished look. Where glossy books may be more common, one with a matte cover will really stand out from the crowd. For our 3D Spot UV premium feature, matte lamination is the way to go. 3D Spot UV is a raised and reflective overlay that contrasts beautifully with the muted look of matte lamination.

We see matte lamination used often for history books, memoirs, or poetry books.

How to Choose the Best Cover Finish for Your book

When deciding on the cover finish for your book, take into consideration your genre and intended audience. Browse your local bookstore for similar books and see what speaks to you. Whether you use film lamination or UV Coating, each style will have different impacts on the colors and artwork used in your cover design. The finish affects the visual and tactile experience of shopping or reading a book, as well as the perceived quality and value of your book.

What cover finish will work best with your project? Call us to talk about your lamination options! Jennifer and I can discuss the vision you have for your book and help pick the best choices for your cover finish.

Self Publishing, Book production, Book Printing Cost

The Best Binding Type for Your Book – Pros and Cons

A few months ago I moved into a new apartment.  Some of the first boxes I tackled when I was unpacking were my 500+ books. I organized them by spine color, creating a wall of book art in my living room.

As I placed each one I was struck by the different feelings each book evoked. We’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but if we’re judging favorably, is it such a bad thing? Each spine, whether a beautifully illustrated softcover or a timeless, foil-stamped hardcover, spoke volumes.

One of the first questions we ask when speaking to an author getting ready to print their book is “What binding style would you like?” Often a client will have this answer at the ready; in other cases, the author has not considered this before. Don’t let this decision get you in a bind!

Here are some pros and cons to consider when deciding between hardcover, softcover, or spiral binding.

Hardcover Books

Hardcover Book Binding

Pros of Hardcover Book Binding

  • Printed hardcovers (with a color image wrapped around the front and back) offer a high impact look.
  • Clothbound hardcovers with foil stamping have a classic look. Additional features like dust jackets and ribbon markers make it easy to imagine your book on a library shelf!
  • PUR adhesive binding makes these books extremely durable.
  • Hardcovers are long lasting and make great keepsakes.
  • Premium features such as custom foil or cloth colors, embossing, and custom endsheets will take your hardcover to the next level

Cons of Hardcover Book Binding

  • Hardcovers are more expensive than other binding styles.
  • Production time is 4-6 weeks.
  • Hardcover books dos not lay completely flat.

Softcover Books

Softcover Book Binding

Pros of Softcover Book Binding:

  • Softcovers are light and portable.
  • They are extremely cost-effective.
  • Shipping will be less expensive due to the soft cover and uncoated paper, which is more lightweight than coated paper.
  • There is a quick turnaround, most orders taking 5-10 business days in production.
  • Plenty of premium features are available, like 3D Spot UV, metallic printing, and embossing, help make your softcover book stand out.

Cons of Softcover Book Binding:

  • Coated paper stocks are incompatible with softcovers.
  • The perfect binding may not have the elegant feel of a hardcover book.
  • Softcover books do not lay completely flat.

Spiral Bound Books

Spiral Book Binding

Pros of Spiral Book Binding:

  • Opens completely flat or folds backwards.
  • Many different colors of spiral to personalize your book.
  • Wire-o binding is an inexpensive upgrade for a professional, polished look.
  • Several premium features, such as foldouts and inside cover printing, are available for spiral books!

Cons of Spiral Book Binding:

  • Page counts larger than 450 will not work with spiral binding.
  • Spiral books may not have the polished feel of a softcover book.
  • When shelved, the book title is not visible on the spine.

I recommend letting your book’s genre and intended audience guide you when deciding on a binding style. A cookbook or journal is perfect for spiral or wire-o binding. If your project is a family keepsake meant to be passed down to future generations, a clothbound hardcover will last for years and look fantastic on every bookshelf. And you can’t go wrong with a softcover for the majority of genres, from novels to coloring books to photography books. If you are hoping to reach a wide base of customers, softcover books are reasonably priced to produce and you will be able to pass those savings onto your readers.

Take some time to peruse your own bookshelves or favorite bookstore for books with similar genres to yours. You will get plenty of inspiration when choosing which binding option is best.

Jennifer and I are available by phone or email to discuss your project and use our knowledge and expertise to help you find the right fit for your book!

Community, Design, Local authors, Marketing, Self Publishing, Writing

Author Spotlight: Adventure, Photography, and Postcards with David Robertson

Every book is its own adventure. This is specifically true about one of our authors who has been printing books for a decade with new titles almost every month. His name is David Robertson and he is an exceptional person, author and artist!

I have had the pleasure of working with him on a majority of his books and being able to talk to him about his journey and creative process. He has multiple series of books including family history hardcovers, photography journeys, and a new series of postcard books. When he and his wife are not traveling across the country or the world, he prepares these amazing books for printing. I had a chat with him recently to get his thoughts about his process and here is what he had to say:

GP: What was the inspiration for creating your first book?

DR: I used to do posters and deck of cards and brochures. When I began trying to make something out of our travels, none of these formats seemed to work really well. I would do one trip as a fold out or the like, and another as a deck of cards, but I began to feel they were not working all that well. So, eventually I thought, hmmmm, these trips ought to be a book.

GP: What made you choose Gorham Printing for your books?

DR: I ran a Bioregional Artist in Residence program here at Davis back 20 years ago. One of the artists was Mike Madison and he told me about you. Mike has become quite famous, reviewed in NY Review, etc., and the piece he did in the Artist in Residence became a chapter in his first book. So we deserve some credit here. So On the Road Ecology was my first book ever, except for scholarly books.

David always impresses us when we receive his files. His books are interesting and always pass the file review with flying colors. Out of all his books he has done, he is so meticulous with his editing that I can only remember maybe one time that he made changes to a proof. His editing process works fantastic for him!

GP: What is your editing and proofing process like?

DR: Chaotic! I go through the photos in the iPhone (or what cameras came before) and edit and delete. Then I download them and delete some more and get an idea what “hangs” together. By this time I have an idea of what the book is going to be about. Most of the time the basic idea comes on the trip on the basis of what I see and read. So I make a list on a sheet of paper of what photos might go together. And I make notes of what words might go with them. Then I go back through the photos and on paper say “yes” or “no” or “?” I go away for a few days. Return. Start the book in InDesign. Do a first draft. go away, for a week to a month. This is very important. I get too close to a book, so I have to go away so I can get some distance. I return and most of the time make significant revisions, ever so often change the whole idea because I don’t think it is working. I wait another 2 weeks or so and finalize the MS and after another 2 weeks, send it to you.

GP: How do you sell or give away your books?

DR: I do not sell books, ever. I give them away to friends and family and to anyone who asks for one.

GP: I know you use InDesign for setting up your book now, but have you always used in InDesign? Why did you choose InDesign?

DR: Used Photoshop and InDesign from the start. I decided I would force myself to do no shortcuts. Get the best and learn how to use them.

David has a mix of black & white and color images in most of his books. As part of our PDF Review, we always check to make sure the color count in files are correct. David worked with our team when he first started to understand the best way to set up black and white images to make sure they registered as true black and white images using grayscale settings. His files are always 100% accurate in his color count!

GP: What are the struggles you have faced with designing your book?

Ideas!!! Ideas are the most important ingredient. No idea, no book. (That may not always be true, you understand.) There are two basic ways to “show” photographs. One is as a series of individual pictures, each of which stands alone. Two is a “story.” That’s what I want. Readers of my books should start at the beginning, go through the book as if they were reading a novel, and get somewhere at the end, somewhere they were not at the beginning. Again, you understand, this may not always be true, but I am trying.

GP: You have a few different series of books, including photography travels, family history, and now postcard books. What advice would you give to new authors looking to start self-publishing?

Ask yourself, what do I really want to do. Me, myself, what do I really want my books to be. Then do it. And beware of praise. Praise makes you want to continue doing the things people like, instead of going in your own directions.

David let me know he has another book heading our way soon which will be another Postcard book. We always enjoy seeing his new adventures, new books and working with him. A few years ago he and his lovely wife stopped by our shop on one of their journeys. The team was so excited to meet them!

We hope to make a connection with each one of our authors just as we have with David and perhaps meet you one day as well!