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, Page Layout, Writing

3 Tips for Writing Your Book in Microsoft Word

Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.

Catherynne Valente – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Whether you’re writing a gripping mystery novel, your great aunt’s biography, or the history of sawdust manufacturing in 1750s Bristol, your story likely began as an idea and spent a while kicking around in your head. When it comes time to print your book, that wild, intangible idea gets transformed into something solid that can be held in your hands.

The first part of that transformation is creating print-ready digital files, and most authors (myself included) use word processing programs like Microsoft Word or Pages to create their interior. Word processors are fantastic for writing, and using them to create a PDF is a breeze. That said, nothing is perfect, including Microsoft Word, and sometimes the programs designed to help you can get in your way. Here are three tricks for outsmarting your word processor to create a perfect print-ready PDF.

1. Know Your Pagination

Let’s talk about recto and verso.

Recto means the right side page, and verso means the left side page. This is a simple concept that will save you a lot of time as you think about book design. Especially if your book has spreads, (pages where content spreads across two separate pages) you’re going to want to make sure you know which is recto and which is verso.

This becomes critical on the first page of your book, because Word, Pages, and even Adobe Acrobat are likely going to show that page on the left, or verso. But all books, whether they’re softcover, spiral, or hardcover, start with the first page on the right, or recto.

book printing first page recto verso

If you format your book to start on the left page, it’s going to throw the rest of your pagination out of line. If your software won’t display the first page on the right, you can add a blank page to the beginning of your book and think of it as the inside cover. Just make sure you delete that page before you send it off for printing!

2. Center Your Page Numbers

Word and Pages make adding page numbers as simple as clicking Insert. Unfortunately, these programs will often put page numbers in the right hand corner. This looks perfect on the screen. But once you lay that document out like a book, you’ll see that half the page numbers are hidden in what we call the binding edge—they’re on the inside edge of the page instead of the outside.

book printing page numbers 1

Trying to make Microsoft Word alternative page numbers can be a headache, to say the least. Save yourself some stress and center your page numbers. Centered page numbers look elegant, clean, and no matter if they’re recto or verso, they’ll be in the right spot.

book printing page numbers 2

3. Review Your PDF

I recently printed my own book here at Gorham Printing.  I created the book in Pages, since I was using a Mac computer, and set my margins for a half inch all the way around. After all, I tell people day in and day out that half inch margins are the way to go for most books. I checked to make sure everything looked good in my Pages document—the margins were right, the font was the right size, and the spacing was excellent.

But then I opened my PDF.

Suddenly, I had one inch margins on the top and bottom. My page numbers were in a different font than the rest of my book. My recto and verso were all tangled, and the beautiful formatting work I had done wasn’t quite so pristine.

What happened? Well, two things. One, when I exported my document to a PDF, there were export settings that overrode what I had in my original document. Two, exporting it to a PDF let me see my document with fresh eyes. This is why it’s critical to open your PDF after you export it and make sure everything looks exactly as intended. If something doesn’t look right, you can always go back to the original document, make adjustments, and try exporting it again.

Using Microsoft Word to Write Your Book

Word, Pages, and other word processors are excellent tools to write your book, and thanks to features they’ve added over the years, they work well for creating a print-ready PDF. Like any tool, it’s important to know how to use them, and to know where their shortcomings are.

Some authors feel overwhelmed when they run into these issues, but there are countless resources to help you! Thousands of other authors are using these programs for the same thing as you, and many of them have documented their process. The Microsoft Help Forums and Pages Help Forums are a great place to start looking for expertise.

ebook conversion service
Additional Services, Book Printing Cost, Design, Page Layout, Reading, Self Publishing

Understanding the Difference Between eBooks vs. PDFs

Ever since their rise to popularity in the early 2010s, eBooks have dramatically changed the way we read, share and enjoy our favorite books. In 2018, e-book sales accounted for roughly a quarter of global book sales, further cementing their place in the growing market of readers.

While printed book sales continue to rise in 2018 and beyond, eBooks still play an important role in the marketing strategies of many self-published and indie authors. eBooks represent a nearly unlimited resource for authors, requiring no investment beyond the initial conversion cost. In other words, your eBook sales will always perfectly match your demand.

ebook conversion service

But what is an eBook, and what makes it different than a PDF?

A PDF (Portable Document Format) is a common file type that can be easily downloaded, shared and read across a wide range of computers and monitors. Most documents can be converted into PDFs using standard text editing programs, such as Word or InDesign.

However, PDFs lack many of the quality-of-life features of your standard eBook file. The two most common file types for eBooks are Mobi and ePub. Mobi files are required by Kindle and Amazon devices. ePub files are accepted by most other online booksellers, including Google Play and Barnes & Noble.

Both Mobi and ePub files are specifically designed to be read on an e-reader or tablet. As such, they’re equipped with some convenient features, including:

1. Linking

eBook files are an HTML-based format, meaning they may contain links within the text. This allows readers to quickly navigate between sections of the book, from the index to relevant pages, or out to separate websites. This is especially handy for textbooks and guides, which may contain reference notes.

2. Reflowable Text

eBooks text will “reflow” depending on the viewing window. This allows eBooks to be conveniently read on multiple devices and sizes, including tablets, phones and computers.

3. Pagination

With reflowable text, the total page count of your book will increase or decrease depending on the window size of your device. Publishers handle this differently; some embed pages to match the print or PDF version, and some leave them out entirely. As such, some eBooks will not display a page number and will instead allow users to jump directly to chapters using the Table of Contents.

In some instances, however, you will not want your page count to change, as in the case of some academic books with chapter or section citations. In these cases, PDFs are often the preferred format as they will lock in your total page count.

online ebook conversion

4. Accessibility

For impaired readers, eBooks give users the ability to modify the appearance of the content on their device, making them much more accessible than a PDF. Features, such as font style and font size, can be easily modified on the fly to meet the reader’s needs.

5. Zoom In/Out

Unlike PDFs, eBook files do not have a zoom in/out tool. Instead, users can customize the font size of their books using their device, and the text will automatically reflow to fill their screen.

6. Advanced Features

In addition to the above features, eBooks can incorporate many advance features, including:

  • Video — embed a video that your reader can watch.
  • Audio — enhance your message by including audio recordings in your content
  • Gallery — your readers can swipe through an entire collection of images with captions instead of navigating through pages to find them.
  • Read-aloud — make certain words, sentences, or paragraphs of an ebook read aloud to the reader. This can be useful when reading to children.
  • Multi-column Layout — add visual appeal to your content with multiple columns.
  • Pop-over — this feature enables the readers to access another window that contains additional information, data, or another image to give more context about the selected image with just a tap.
  • Scrolling Sidebar — insert relevant information and topics into a scrolling sidebar so readers can view additional or explanatory material without ever leaving the page.
  • Interactive Image — incorporate callouts and pan-and-zoom features to your images.
  • Reviews — let the readers review their knowledge using different types of tests such as multiple choice, select correct image, label the image, or a mix of all three. Authors can include up to six possible answers to each question.
  • 3D Images — instead of just seeing flat images on your ebook, your readers can interact with 3D objects by touch.
  • Keynote Presentations — browse presentations with custom animations right inside your ebook. This feature includes controls for slide navigation as well as optional auto-play presentations.

how to make an ebook

What’s the difference between a “classic” and “fixed-layout” eBook?

A classic ePub or Mobi file has flowable text so it can be read on any device using the reader’s preference for font size and styles. There are no official pages because the  text flows into each device differently, much like a web page. With this kind of eBook, the reader has more control over the reader experience. The classic-layout is less expensive than the fixed layout because less attention is paid to the look of the pages.

A classic ebook layout is ideal if:

  • Your book is mostly text (such as a novel)
  • Your book uses only small images that are embedded between paragraphs

A fixed-layout ebook does not reflow

because each page is locked in place, much like in the pages of a printed book. This type of eBook is ideal when pages rely heavily on images or formatting, such as with children’s books, cookbooks or books with detailed layouts. The reader has less control over his/her reading experience other than the ability to zoom in/out. Fixed-layout eBooks are more expensive than classic eBooks because they require extra attention during the conversion process to maintain the design.

A fixed-layout eBook is ideal if:

  • You want to preserve the look of your pages
  • You want your book to have a horizontal orientation
  • You want multi-column text pages

Learn more about our eBook conversion service to find out how to get an eBook copy of your book.

How to pick a book size
Book Printing Cost, Book production, Design, Page Layout, Pre Press

How to Pick a Book Size for Your Genre

Printing a book takes a lot of decisions. What will your cover look like? What font will your book be printed in? How will your characters escape their fate?

how-to-pick-a-book-size

There is one question, however, that authors often forget to ask themselves until their book is ready to go into production: what SIZE will my book be?

Trim size affects not only the price of your book but also how your readers will perceive and handle your book. Your readers will have a preconceived notion of what kind of book they are about to read based on the page count and size.

What book sizes are best suited for my genre?

While book size is largely a matter of preference, below are some of the most common genre and book size pairings.

5_5x8_55.5 x 8.5” – Pocketbooks, Travel books, Novellas

If you intend your reader to travel with your book, 5.5 x 8.5” is a convenient size for readers to fit in a purse or briefcase. This is also a great size for books with shorter word counts, as it will increase your overall page count.

Genres that work great as 5.5 x 8.5” include business guides, thrillers/mysteries, self-help books and instruction guides.

6x96 x 9” – Paperbacks, Novels, Anthologies

6 x 9” is one of the most traditional and well recognized trim sizes. This is your “standard” book size, great for paperbacks and softcover novels. It is also one of our most popular sizes, chosen by many first-time and independently published authors.

It would be hard to find a genre that doesn’t work well as a 6 x 9”. Popular choices include sci-fi, memoir, spiritual and both general fiction and non-fiction.

8_5x118.5 x 11” – Workbooks, Textbooks, Histories

If you have a book with a lot of content, 8.5 x 11” is a great size choice to reduce your page count. It also gives your pages a lot of room to show off charts, tables and photographs. Most document editors are also set up for 8.5 x 11”, making this a convenient size when preparing your files for print.

Popular genres for 8.5 x 11” include school textbooks, ancestry books, family history books and picture books.

11x8_511 x 8.5” – Art books, Photo journals, Children’s books.

If you’re looking for a size that will help your book stand out, consider a landscape trim size. Landscape books are often intended to be put on display, such as coffee-table books. This size also works really well for books with multiple columns.

11 x 8.5” is a great choice for books that want to showcase their artwork, including children’s books, photography books and artist portfolios.

How do these trim sizes affect my final cost?

Paper is commonly bought as what is known as a parent size. Two common parent sizes are 25 x 38” and 23 x 35”.

For example, if your book is 5.5 x 8.5”, it would likely be printed on stock that started as 23 x 35”. If the book is 6 x 9”, it was likely instead printed from a 25 x 38” parent size. These sizes give you the best cut out with the least amount of waste to still allow for finish trimming.

So what if your desired size is 6 x 8.5”? This would then mean your book would be printed from the 25 x 38” parent size, creating the possibility for additional charges for a non-standard size. This might not be the case if your book is printed on different equipment or if the bindery is able to adjust to a non-standard size without time loss.

Check with your book printer before you do the final page layout to find the most cost-effective approach for your book.

Check out these other helpful self-publishing guides for how to pick the size of your book:

BookCover Cafe

The Book Designer