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3 Questions Authors Should Ask About Creating Their Own Book Covers

Should authors create their own book covers? Just answer 3 easy questions to find out.

First, I’d like to thank you, Leisa, for inviting me to guest on your great blog. I’m both flattered and grateful.

Q1. So, you’ve written a novel. Do you have one utterly fantastic idea for your book cover, a vision so clear and so awesome you can see it when you close your eyes, almost ‘taste’ it?

A1. If your answer is “yes”, cover design may not be for you. By all means, ask your cover designer to investigate your idea, along with several others, but one idea isn’t enough to ‘choose from’, react to, and fall in love with. It sounds as though you’ve been swept along this narrow path by your closeness to the book; you know it better than anyone, and you think that makes you the best person to design the cover, right? However, once you’ve pinned your book down to a single idea, you’ve closed your mind to what a book cover should be: not an accurate description in pictures of what you have written inside your book, nor the characters and scenes you see in your mind’s eye while you’re writing, but one fabulously compelling image that is the ‘essence’ of what your target reader is looking for. She’s looking for a book that promises to make her life richer while she reads it. Her reaction to your cover should be almost primal; we want her emotional response.

Q2. Do you have dozens of ideas flying around your brain, and you’re not sure which one will work, if any, until you’ve see them ‘on paper’ (or screen) and you’ve played around with them a bit, experimented with different images, colours, typefaces and atmospheres? You’ve put in hours of work and identified your target audience, you’ve brainstormed ideas with your editor/beta readers/partner, and you’ve made masses of scribbly notes.

A2. This is much better. You’re certainly thinking in the right way; you have an objective view of your book and your mind is open to new ideas. Unlike an arithmetic problem, which has only one correct answer, creative problems have many right answers (you know this already – you’re a writer). With this attitude and mind set, your chances of creating a good cover are much higher than the author we talk about in Q1. But, and it is quite a big but (with one ‘t’, of course!): you will need some skills… If you haven’t tried your hand at the skills I mention below, and you’re still determined to design your own cover, maybe you should give it a go; but do get some expert advice as well.

*Take a look at my ‘Cover critique’ service, described below under ‘Services’.

Q3. Okay – skills. Are you an expert (yes, I did say ‘expert’) in at least one of these applications: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Quark? Do you know what these terms mean: mech, gutter, trap, ascender, counter, kern, gamut warning, rich black, anti-aliasing? Can you judge when a design is: hackneyed, cheesy, amateurish, overworked, clichéd? Do you know the difference between good and bad design, layout and typography? Have you been designing book covers for ten thousand hours or more (the amount of time it takes to move from apprentice to expert)?

A3. If you’ve answered “Yes” to all these questions, go for it – I’m guessing you are already an experienced designer, right? And, hey, if you’re not, maybe you should be thinking about design as a sideline! lol

You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? Yup, it’s the same old answer we book designers keep chucking at you; the only way to get an excellent book cover is to hire a designer, ideally one who’s done their ten thousand hours and knows the ropes. As the saying goes, “You’ll remember the quality long after you’ve forgotten the price.” In this digital age, pretty much anyone can throw together a book cover ‘of sorts’ … he-he (dare I say it, when I think I’m guilty of this one), in the same way that everyone these days thinks they’re a writer! ;@)



Jan Marshall

Jan Marshall

Jan Marshall

I’ve been a graphic designer for many years, more than the requisite ten thousand hours. Specializing in book cover design at present, I’ve worked on all sorts of graphic design projects in my time – some simple, and some utterly extraordinary, from key rings for the CBI Conference to supersite outdoor posters for Universal and Paramount movies. “It’s been an amazing journey, and I’m not even there yet!”



Cover design: I’m not the cheapest designer you’ll find, but I do go the extra mile to provide a premium service: I’ll send you a questionnaire/brief sheet about your book, read your manuscript, produce concept after concept until we find the one we both like the most, then hone it (in high resolution) until it’s perfect. And I guarantee we’ll end up with a cover you’ll love.

Cover critique: I know that some of you will go ahead and create your own covers. So, why not get some expert advice to help you along the road? Send me a JPEG of your cover design at any stage in its completion and I’ll give you an idea of how you’re doing. Critiques start at £20/$35 for a 10-point ebook cover checklist.

Contact me for a quote if you’d like an in-depth report or if you want help with a particular aspect of your project.

You can follow me on Twitter here: @Jan_Marshall and visit my website here: Jan Marshall – The Book Designer. There’s a contact page on the website or you can email me at; I’d love to hear from you.

Many thanks to Jan Marshall for taking the time to write and share her thoughts on book cover design with Indie It Press.  As always thank you for reading and supporting indie! Leisa Greene ~ Indie It Gal

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Category: Indie It Guest Writer/Artist

About the Author: If you are reading this post it means that some incredible indie promoter, artist, writer, author or musician wrote this article. Many thanks to all indie artists. I appreciate your generosity with other artists, incredible determination to keep trying and willingness to share your talents freely. Indie supporters, without you, there wouldn't be an audience. Indie It Gal ~ Leisa Greene

Comments (6)

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  1. Hi Jan, great book cover tips, and so wonderful to see you on Leisa’s site!

    • Jan Marshall says:

      Hi Terre,

      It certainly is great to be on Leisa’s blog. And in such great company… I saw your excellent post here a little while ago, Terre.

      And thank you. I’m glad you like my tips. 🙂

      • Hi Jan, thanks so much! Everyone on this site is worth knowing. As for the post, that was all Leisa’s doing; a generous gift, not to mention her continued support of my art on her site. I’m forever grateful . . . thank you, Leisa! 🙂

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