Congratulations! You have finished your manuscript and have decided to self-publish your book. That means you have full control over your cover design-and total creative license. Since the cover conveys the first impression to the world, you must put on its finest face. Unless you are a graphic designer, this is not a do-it-yourself project. It’s best left to the pros.

  1. Choose your cover designer carefully.Go the website to look at the portfolio of book covers. Make sure the feel and design are appropriate for your book. Contact the designer for details about pricing, schedules, and specifics. For example: For the price quoted, how many rounds of designs? How many design changes? How many editing changes? At a minimum you will want high-resolution and low-resolution marketing jpegs of the front cover and full cover for web use and printing. Have a realistic budget in mind. Book covers range anywhere from $350 to $1200+ depending on the complexity of the design. Figure a two-four-week turnaround. Ask for references-and be sure to check them.
  2. Determine your title and subtitle. This seems obvious-but it’s one of the first elements to grab the eye. The importance of your title and subtitle cannot be overstated. It is vital to the promotion and sale of your book. A fiction writer can take more license with the title. A nonfiction writer must be clever, yet clear-so the topic and benefit of the book is readily apparent. Brainstorm with friends, family, and colleagues to generate title options. You may wind up with a mix of words from several ideas.
  3. Know your genre and audience-and what they expect to see on a book cover. A historical romance will look a lot different from a pre-historical science fiction novel or a Christian spiritual memoir. Take account so that your cover appeals to your audience age and gender.
  4. Have an image in mind.Go to to see book covers in your genre and make note of those that appeal to you. What colors grab you? Do you like a particular font? Do you want to use a photo or use custom graphics and artwork? What look and feel do you want? Use screen-saver software to capture jpegs of images to show your designer-for ideas (not for copying). It will save time and money if your designer has a general idea of what you like. Don’t worry about closing off options. Your images will spark lots of creative new ideas with your designer. If your book is nonfiction for use in promoting your career, be sure to keep your business logo and colors in mind so your book is complementary to your business web site. Consider how to use elements of your cover design for your web site/blog, business cards, bookmarks, postcards, and other promotional material.
  5. Keep it simple. In today’s world where so many books are sold online (especially self-published POD books) a simple book cover is best-especially since it will be shrunk to a thumbnail for online sales. Perhaps include just one or two design elements in addition to the title and author. If you are using a photo make sure it is of adequate quality for printing and be sure to have rights to it, along with the necessary credit information.
  6. Determine the size and specifications for your book cover.Although you can print your book in many sizes, most paperbacks are 6 x 9. Once you determine your size, check with your printer on the book cover specifications-and send them to your designer. Also, you will need to determine the total pages of your book, for the cover spine.
  7. Be prepared with your back cover information. Gather your “lead in/hook,” book annotation or short synopsis, short bio, author photo, endorsements/praise, and other back cover material that will help sell your book. Don’t forget basic contact information–print your web site on the back cover, so people easily can see how to find you.

For a decade, Patricia Benesh has been providing personal coaching and a range of “success-oriented services” to fiction and nonfiction writers at No matter what your writing level or publishing goal (traditional publishing, self-publishing), AuthorAssist helps ensure you are ready to publish and promote your book. Get complimentary feedback on your writing at