Will people judge my book by the cover?

Hell yes they will!   I hate to say it, but we all do it.  Every day we see things and immediately know if it is pleasing or makes us feel good, bad, ugly…whatever.  You don’t want to brush over the cover design and if you have someone helping or doing the cover for you – be sure to communicate as much as possible with them.

I did a lot of thinking first with my cover.  That sounds kind of silly but I just thought about what kind of elements I want on the cover.  Do I want an image? What kind of image?  Random person? Typical sky or book scene?  What colors or fonts do I want?  Hmmm…there is infinite options which is kind of scary.  I looked on my bookshelves and searched through similar books on Amazon and just did some good old fashioned brainstorming. I often refer people to www.istockphoto.com and have them put some key words relating to their book in the search box.  You can get some great ideas doing that too.

I have a background in design so I did the layout myself.  I graduated from Art School in 2002 so this was right before more fancy programs came out like Adobe InDesign.  I just used Illustrator – probably about 4 versions old – but it got the job done.  If at all possible, DO NOT use Word to layout the cover and definitely do not use clip art.  If you learn anything from my blog, let that be it!

First things first – what is the right trim size (height and width of finished book)?  Well, most books are perfect bound so they will require a spine.  The spine is that little piece connecting the front and back.  This is what people will see when the book is sitting on a shelf.  The spine size is figured with number of pages and type of paper.  Click here for a spine width calc: http://dev.mirasmart.com/spinecalc/.  You also want to add bleed to the cover as well when doing the layout.  Most printers will require 1/8″ of bleed.  What is bleed you say?  It is extending the cover outside of the trim mark so the images or color goes to the edge of the page.  My book size if 5.5 x 8.5 so my cover layout will be:

.125 (bleed) + 5.5 (back) + .10 (spine) + 5.5 (front) + .125(bleed) = 11.35″ wide

.125 (bleed) + 8.5 (height) + .125 (bleed) = 8.75″ high

It is a good idea to set guides where the bleed is and where the spine is.  That way you know the exact space you are working within with placing images/text on the front or back cover.  This is pretty confusing for most people – especially if they are unfamiliar with design layout.  So I hope this shed some light.

RESOLUTION!  You know when you are looking at an image and you can see a bunch of dots – that means the resolution of that image sucked.  NEVER pull an image off of the web.  A) you do not own it and can get in big trouble.  Imagine becoming a super famous author and someone coming back to sue you for some little image?  B) the resolution of images on the web are 72 dpi normally.  This is so they can load quickly on your computer.  They are not for printing.   It is ideal to have an image at 300 dpi to scale.  So for instance, if you take a picture with your camera and put it on your computer – you want to keep it at that size or maybe just a little larger.  If you go and blow it up to a poster size, all those pixels or bits of color get stretched out and now the picture isn’t crisp and clear, it is fuzzy and sucky.  I could talk all day about resolution but I think you get the point.

FONTS – stick to what you have on the interior.   Like I said with the manuscript blog – too many fonts, too confusing.  That is all I have to say about that.

Speaking of manuscript blog – be sure and look to your right under ‘recent posts’.   Check out the last couple if you haven’t already.

As always, I appreciate any comments, suggestions or feedback. If you have a blog topic you want me to cover – send it over.  

…in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.



Filed under Book Layout

12 responses to “Will people judge my book by the cover?

  1. Great article Jill. It’s funny, but last Sunday I was on the phone to a potential client who told me he buys about 15 of my books every year to give away to his employees. And do you know what he said about why he does that? Yup, you guessed it…He loves the cover design. Didn’t say a word about the content but as long as he’s buying, I’m happy.

  2. Great Blog Jill. Nice to put a face with your expertise.

  3. I think self publishers should at least have sone input when selecting a cover design for their book. What you suggested sounds good, for example, brainstorming and coming up with colour schemes that you think work well together. Unless you have experience in design, leave most of the work up to the professional, but there’s sl no reason why you should just stand idly by either. It’s the wrirer’s work, after all. Get involved!

    • You are right, for sure. Only the author really knows what the book is about and what they want the cover to convey. It is important stay be involved! Thx for checking out my blog.

      • After reading your blog on “Does the Cover Matter….I was at a store a few days later when I gave a customer stand next to me a “color” flyer about my book. A color copy of the cover is along side the printed text – when the woman begin touching the paper to “rub” the cover of the book. I had not seen such a reaction before – because I had only given out b/w copies of the flyer. The woman said; “What a cover…I like the “leather-look” idea about your cover. The cover seemed to have reminded her of something comforting. She immediately said; I’m going to over this book!!!” It was a pleasant surprise to hear such a reaction to the cover on the book. I want to do them in color more often than not. The cover seem to glean and draw the attention I’m seeking from prospects. Just wanted to share…..Karen

      • That is great Karen! With your type of book, it sounds like color flyers are a better way to go. I think that there are times when b/w are okay (and it is cheaper too). I did the layout on a print mailer for Mira Publishing and I did it in b/w, courier font and pretty basic. It is actually quite ugly. My idea was to make it look like a voter card or jury summons or something to that effect. I just thought to myself, what do I actually look at and read when I sift through all my mail and junk? I ALWAYS look twice at something that looks like a jury summons, that’s for sure! So the moral I guess is to never take yourself out of your readers shoes. It can be hard to step back in once you get so far with your book, but it is something to think about. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I love what your doing with your blog!

    I found it funny about your advise not to use Word to create a cover and not clip art! It’s interesting, however, that that is usually what I am presented with from aspiring authors:)

    Keep doing what your doing!

    • Thanks Jennifer! You know I also work with self publishing authors at my day job and I am trying to incorporate things that I find myself saying over and over. A lot of this info is not something people just know and it can be very confusing. It is nice that there are others like yourself out there supporting the cause. 😉

  5. Gayle

    While I appreciate your warning not to use Word to create a cover ( I have done that, but only for things that just look like conference room booklets!) you don’t tell WHY not! Please expand!

    • Word is not designed to do layout like cover design. You are very limited and cannot achieve some of the looks you may want. It can also be difficult to make adjustments to the native word file if your printer needs to for some reason. Hope that helps!

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