What You Should Know About Cover Design

Congratulations… You have just finished writing your first book! As you embark on self-publishing the work, are you bewildered at the thought of designing an attractive cover? Well, you are not alone! There are numerous articles and pieces of advice out there in the virtual space (this one included!) that could confuse you further.

Parts of a book cover

Though we mostly visualize and get to see the front cover, a paperback book cover has three parts – front, back, and the spine – all of them equally important for the author, publisher, and the potential reader. A hardback will have two additional spaces in the ‘flaps.’

Spine, the smallest of the spaces, is often the most visible part to a potential reader as he scans through the shelves in a bookshop. Though books are increasingly being bought online, one can relish the feel and smell of a freshly printed book in a bookshop. It is best to keep the spine uncluttered, clearly showing the book title, author’s name and the publisher’s colophon/logo.

Back cover features the ‘blurb’ – a very carefully crafted 200-odd-word write-up about your book – that introduces your book to the reader. Along with the blurb, back cover also carries a brief write-up about the author, highlights of reviews on the book by well-known people, information on the publisher, price, etc. You will often see readers in a bookshop instantly turning to the back of the book, curious to know about the book, and what they read there is most often crucial in their decisions to buy or not.

The front cover

The all-important front cover is expected to carry certain specific information for the reader – title of the book along with the subtitle, if any; name of author/editor; colophon of the publisher – in that order in hierarchy. The hierarchy is a safe guide to determine the font sizes on the cover. To support the title, imagery can be used. Thoughtful use of color and typography are other devices that can support the title on the front cover.

If you are in doubt, the safest option is to have a clean, uncluttered front cover with clear typography, articulated in accordance with the information hierarchy as well as appropriate use of color. Most of the classical serif and well-established sans serif typefaces will work very well. It will be prudent to stick to not more than two typefaces on the front cover, in appropriate sizes and styles (such as Regular, Italics & Bold).

If you decide to use imagery to support the title, there are a variety of choices in line & tone illustrations, paintings or photographs – preferably custom-made for your book rather than using a stock image as such. Be sure in your mind that the imagery used is focused and relevant to your book.

Well thought out use of color and typography can make arresting covers. Typefaces, while they can convey meaning, can also be evocative. Insightful choice of typefaces for the book title can work wonders. Calligraphy is another smart option to create unique book titles. Keep in mind, however, that too much emphasis (such as using imagery, calligraphy and custom typography) can be overkill.


For over four decades, S4Carlisle has been working with authors, publishers and organizations to help create or enhance content for books, journals and other publications, in both print and digital formats. We have a full spectrum of services that will deliver value to your publishing process.




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