DIYers often write me to ask for help understanding their book cover design templates. Hopefully this infographic will make things go a bit easier. It's not rocket science, but it does get a bit technical.
by Cathi Stevenson A submission into the e-Book Cover Design Awards competition landed Book Cover Express an award for the design of Stan Levenson's The Essential Fundraising Guide for K-12 Schools. Stan was an awesome client to work with, easy going, smart, responsive. The challenge with his cover design was that I had to make it stand out in its genre, but needed it to appeal to teachers who worked with students from kindergarten through high school. It was difficult to find good stock images with children covering those age ranges, and pictures of things that might represent a first-grader's life, rarely work to represent a teenager on the verge of becoming an adult. The solution was to go with no image, and simply use colour to catch the reader's eye.
by Cathi Stevenson Book cover design is what I focus on and I work with many clients who come to me for just that one element of the book. There is no problem with this, but I like to at least make contact with the interior designer, or if that part of the job is already done, see the finished product so I can create a branded look that carries from front cover, through every page and onto the back cover. The fonts you’ve used; any graphic elements, such as dingbats or lines; drop caps or other features used on the books interior can be mirrored on the cover, and vice versa. This is not always possible of course, sometimes covers change for various reasons, but the interior of the book stays the same. One good example is once a movie has been made about the book, a new cover will immediately be produced that reflects the move characters and title, but quite often the interior is not altered. http://BookCover Express.com has a wonderful, very experienced interior designer and through the years we’ve formed friendly working relationships with many others. Collaboration is not usually an issue. One problem I do run into is with do-it-yourselfers who are creating very amateurish interiors, using Times and Ariel, mixing too many fonts, not spacing paragraphs properly and not understanding punctuation (there is a difference between a hyphen, an em dash and an en dash). Since the book cover is the handshake that greets the world, you can’t really afford to display anything that’s no able to hold its own in a competitive world with professionally-designed books. Try to remember your book is one project and it should have a distinctive look that identifies it throughout.
This is interesting. I always love reading about book cover design trends. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_eye/2015/08/25/flat_book_cover_design_why_do_all_the_summer_novels_have_the_same_look.html. In May the IBPA ran an article I wrote on the same topic: http://www.ibpa-online.org/article/book-cover-trends-2/.
One of my all-time favourite book cover designs is now on the best sellers' lists, and it couldn't happen to a nicer author. Alan Mesher is a long time client of mine and a great guy to work with. Congratulations Alan on The Silent Steps of Grace doing so well.
Check out our brand new site for nonfiction and spiritual book cover design at Nonfiction Book Cover Designer. There are special package prices for book cover design, interior formatting and website design. Self-publishing authors and publishers can still go through Book Cover Express, but the new site makes it easier to focus resources and manage teams dedicated to the specific needs of nonfiction and spiritual book publishers.
by Cathi Stevenson I've been a book cover designer for more than 15 years and I've created over 2,000 book covers for traditional and indie publishers. If there's one thing I've learned along the way, it's that book cover design is subjective — very subjective. I can share my experiences with clients. I can tell them what worked in the past. I can explain what I’ve learned through hours and hours and hours of research, and looking at best sellers’ lists and losing myself for entire mornings in bookstores. But, at the end of the day, determining what cover style or trend is the best, is still subjective. The client likes what the client likes. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it might be a bit narrow-minded. A book cover shouldn't simply reflect the tastes of the author. Its purpose is not to be the prettiest picture on the market — a book cover is supposed to sell books. While a beautiful cover is a great thing, an effective cover is more important. Many successful books don't even have images on the cover. A skillful use of typography and layout has taken many books to the best sellers' lists: There's Bill Bulford's Heat, and Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl, which I wrote about in a previous post. Since I love designing nonfiction, I've created many text-only covers; one, The Essential Fundraising Guide for K-12 Schools, is getting rave reviews (and a book cover design award). Fortunately, the industry does have experts willing to share their knowledge. Chip Kidd is one such book cover designer. For 25 years or so he’s been creating memorable designs that you've probably seen, like the dinosaur silhouette on Jurassic Park, and the “water smudged” look of Augusten Burroughs’ Dry. Kidd has several very informative videos on YouTube. If you’re designing a book cover, hiring a cover designer or managing a publishing project, this video is well worth the 17 minutes of your time. I think the information at 2:50 is really important and exemplifies a common issue with many self-published covers. Random House also has material about the process of book cover design on YouTube (Chip Kidd shows up in this one, too). Another well-known designer who generously shares his design process is Henry Sene Yee. I thought his cover for Smut was brilliant. His use of Comic Sans on Sam Lipsyte’s book was a great marketing idea. There's lots of good information out there. Take my word for it.
by Cathi Stevenson Book cover designers are always on the lookout for new trends. While I spend hours in bookstores and online searching through the best sellers’ lists, I find the UK and Italian markets are a great source of inspiration. For example, Penguin in the UK in known for simple, unique designs that are quickly embraced. With the advent of e-books, front covers became not just the main element of book cover design, they became the only element. Spines, back covers, and flaps are no longer necessary. Even self-publishers who go to print are usually using digital presses, so the books themselves are very basic in structure. Gone are the textures, specialized coatings and high quality paper stock. Things are getting very plain. I really treasure my beautiful and unique print books. Varnish, raised letters, French flaps, deckled edges . . . these things just make my heart beat a wee bit faster. I discovered a book on a flea market giveaway table a few months ago that had a 3D cover. I’ll never read the book . . . well, actually, I might now that I look at it again, but I’ll definitely never give it away. I’m convinced that in 20 years the craft of book printing will go the way of the illuminated transcript when Gutenberg arrived on the scene. And designers are no longer being taught how to make such books. Many are self-taught now that software and training is available to everyone with an Internet connection, but even recent graduates of art schools seem perplexed when asked about plate separations or colour trapping. I guess they’re too busy learning about animation and video game production. It’s a plus for the trees, but it’s just one more art that is being lost in a digital age.
by Cathi Stevenson I’ve created approximately 2,000 book covers since about 2000. Most were for print projects, so there was a back cover that required copy. Over the years, I’ve developed a file of information that I send to all of my clients as we’re nearing that part of the project. These are just guidelines, but for the typical 6 x 9 book this is what I have found works best, and what I share with my clients: BACK COVER TEXT: You have room for about 250 – 300 words on the back cover. Submit it in an unformatted (no boxes, no tabs, no indents, no italics, just plain text double spaced between the paragraphs) Microsoft Word file (.doc) or plain text file. WHY? People won’t struggle to read your text, so it needs to be set in a comfortable size, with enough space between each line (called leading) that it’s easy to read. You also need to leave a good-sized margin around the text, so people will have a place to put their fingers, and not have to constantly adjust position as they’re reading. I ask for plain text files because the text has to be imported into InDesign and sometimes text boxes, tabs and other formatting will cause problems. I can always save the file as plain text myself, but if I’m not using the same word processing program or version of it, then that can also cause problems. LISTS AND QUOTES: If your back cover text contains lists and quotes, you have less room. WHY? Both lists and quotes use only a portion of the lines they’re on. In the case of some lists, you’ll have only a few words on a line. In addition, lists often require extra space between each line. Quote credits often require a bit of extra space and again, only part of the line is being used. In short: they eat up space. Check out the images at the end of this article for a visual explanation of what I mean. IMAGE CREDITS: Make sure that you include any credits necessary to comply with the license of images you have purchased to use on the cover. The exact wording will be included in the End User License Agreement (often called a EULA for short), where you made the purchase. If you have an author photo to go on the book, you should also credit this. NOTE: Image credits can also go on the copyright page, or in the case of a hardcover on the inside flap of the dust jacket. IMAGES: Must be 300 dpi at full size. WHY? This is the minimum required for print, but dpi on its own means nothing, that’s why I added “at full size.” If you have an image that is 4 inches wide and 4 inches high at 150 dpi, simply changing it to be 300 dpi will mean you can only print it at 2 inches wide by 2 inches high. If you force the increase to 300 dpi and keep the size 4 x 4, then the quality of the image will deteriorate and it will not print well. LOGOS: For optimum printing quality these should be submitted in the native EPS (vector) file, with fonts converted to outlines. BAR CODES: Include your 13-digit ISBN and the price (if you want the price embedded into the bar code). I will make the bar code here to ensure it is formatted at 100% black, CMYK and a vector image. WHY? Most of that is technical jargon, but it is the only way to ensure the bar code will print properly and scan. PNG images, which many agencies provide, cannot be formatted in the proper color gamut (CMYK) so you’re taking your chances using them or gif images, or a “lossy” image format like jpg. A vector image is the best way to produce a bar code that will scan. BISAC HEADINGS: If you want your book to have a subject heading for shelving, please find your proper heading here.
by Cathi Stevenson I've been invited to give a talk on book cover design for the Writer's Federation of Nova Scotia on February 7, 2015. I've prepared a PowerPoint presentation and have gathered a stack of books with different finishes, papers and bindings to use as examples. I even managed to find a 3d book cover, which was pretty awesome. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, drop me a line.