Where Words Meet Art: Designing a Book Cover

Where Words Meet Art: Designing a Book Cover


Have you finished writing a book that you plan to self-publish? Congratulations! Once you’ve done all the writing, revising, and editing, you need to design a cover before you send your creation into the world of potential readers. Consider these aspects as you put together artwork to represent your written project:



What kind of book have you written? A memoir? A novel? A short story collection? A historical mystery? Take a look at some book covers from your genre for inspiration. What do readers expect in terms of design? More importantly, since your cover is about your work, what elements of these covers do you like? What would (and could) you do differently?



Consider the format of your written work. Is it a graphic novel? If so, you’d likely create an illustration for the cover in the same style as the illustrations throughout your book. Or, maybe you’ve written something in epistolary form (letters, postcards, emails, something different from standard prose). You could incorporate that design element into the cover.



What feeling(s) should readers get from your work? How can you represent this mood without relying heavily on text? Think about elements like color, light and shadow, framing, and images.



When it comes to designing your book cover, images play a vital role. Do you plan to create your own illustrations or take photos for your cover? These are great options. Or, you could work with existing images. If you choose that strategy, make sure they’re available for public use (like those featured in The New York Public Library’s Public Domain Collections) and/or obtain permission from the owner to use and modify the images. Also, give credit to the creator/owner. (The link above provides important info if you plan to use existing images, whether from the NYPL or elsewhere, so check it out.)


Now, what kind of images do you want to use? People who represent your characters? Objects that symbolize the theme of your story? Both? An illustration of the setting(s)? Don’t be afraid to try a few covers and ask for feedback before making a final decision.