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 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 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.
by Cathi Stevenson It really is the little things that count. Things that many people might not consciously notice when they're there, but miss when they're not there. This is true even when laying out a book. Spacing between lines, words, the type of numbers you choose, the font, drop caps...these are all essential elements that need to be considered if you want a book that is both pleasing to look at and easy to read. Book layout really is an art. That might be hard to believe in this world of technology, where it's possible to do such work by merely choosing a few options in some software program. But, if you take just two minutes — literally, to watch this video, you will learn a few things that can take your book layout from boring and amateurish, to sleek and professional. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOruWL2FOCs
by Cathi Stevenson A book that has been professionally designed will appear more polished and appealing to potential buyers. These formatting tips are not limited to the front cover of a book. There are many ways to enhance the look and readability of back cover text and interior layout. 1. Don’t make your line width too long. Many people assume the solution to too much text is to either drop the point size or extend the trim size or margins. This is not the case. No matter how much space you have, no line should exceed about 70 characters. After 70 characters, the reader has to blink and readjust his or her focus, then determine where the next line is and travel back visually to the beginning of the new line. Long lines make this a tiresome, frustrating task. No one will struggle to read your text. 2. Make sure you’re using the proper glyphs. A common mistake is to use the symbol for feet or inches when single or double quotation marks are required, and vice versa. Quotation marks curl or slant, while measurement symbols are straight up and down. All good quality fonts will offer both. 3. Know the difference between an em dash, en dash and hyphen and when to use them. There’s never any reason to have a double hyphen (–) when you really need an em dash (—). On a PC, the em dash can be obtained by holding down the ALT key and pushing 0151 on the numbers pad, to the right. The en dash is ALT 0150. Wikipedia has a good explanation of the types of dashes and when to use them here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dash 4. Drop caps can add style. Some people like the stylish look of a drop cap at the beginning of the back cover text, or at the start of a new chapter. It’s important these be neat and laid out properly, though. The bottom of the drop cap should sit on the baseline of the line it sits on. If you prefer a stickup cap, then it should align perfectly with the first line of text. The stickup cap is usually easier to create. 5. Small caps are another element that are often used and abused in book design. Some people like the look of small caps, and they can be a nice decorative element when used at the beginning of a section or for some headings and titles. It’s important you actually have the real small caps font, though. Most design and word processing programs will offer this option, but that doesn’t mean the font is there; They’re just “faking it” by making any upper case letters slightly larger. This can cause problems when creating a PDF for the printer, and it rarely looks good. If you enlarge a letter to fake small caps, the larger letter will be thicker, wider and look heavier. 6. Make your margins nice and deep. Remember, there has to be room for peoples’ fingers to hold the book. No one wants to be constantly moving his or her hands to read text. Also, if your interior margins are too tight, readers will be forced to open the book wider than the binding might allow, causing pages to fall out. These things all reflect on you as a publisher. 7. Don’t skip a title page. A title page can take on a life of its own and add value to a book. It doesn’t have to be just the title, either and it doesn’t have to be only one page. It can be several pages and include illustrations or decorative elements, title, sub-title, author name, publisher’s imprint, quotations, copyright information and credits for editors and fonts and the forward or preface. Chapter 27 in Marshall Lee’s Bookmaking: Editing/Design/Production (3rd ed., 2003) covers this subject very nicely. 8. Using a business name. If your company has a name, have your book designer create a little logo for it, if you haven’t had one created professionally. This can be done just setting the company name in a nice font and doesn’t have to be anything fancy. If possible, avoid using your own name as part of the business title, because this will tip off reviewers and bookstore owners that the book is self-published. Many people have preconceived notions about self-published books that are not very positive. 9. Make sure your black text is 100% black for a black and white interior. Some word processing programs and free PDF creators do not produce 100% black text, and books end up printed in 90% black or lighter. This can easily be checked within any layout or design program such as Adobe InDesign or Adobe Illustrator, as you work. If you’re not using the proper software there might be no way to check this. You can also preflight your file in Adobe Acrobat Professional to uncover this and other issues. 10. Working with the right colors. If you’re using Print on Demand technology (also called POD and digital printing), then it’s almost always a good idea to send the printer files formatted in the CMYK color gamut, even if the printer says it’s okay to send RGB. Switching colors “on the fly” from RGB to CMYK, even when a professional printer does it, often creates unexpected results, and not just with color; In some cases images can look pixilated or blurry after being switched from RGB to CMYK.