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The Ultimate Guide to Master Your Book Cover Design

Books are judged by their covers! If you’re ready to learn how to make your book cover design stand out, you’ve come to the right place.

The Ultimate Guide to Master Your Book Cover Design
    Table of Contents

Here, we’ll address everything from high-level basics down to specific details of book cover design, including:

  1. Printing Options for Self-Publishers
  2. Formats: Ebook, Paperback, and Hardcover
  3. Picking Your Book’s Trim Size
  4. Book Cover Design Basics
  5. Top 8 Cover Design Tips
  6. Cover Design Ideas
  7. DIY Book Design
  8. Hiring a Book Cover Designer

The Ultimate Guide to Master Your Book Design: Expanded Edition

To learn more about the entire book design process—including the best fonts for books and interior book design tips—download the free expanded guide today!

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Book Printing Options with IngramSpark

Changes in technology have allowed for self-publishers to have more book printing options today than ever before. Let’s look at the book printing and binding options available for IngramSpark authors!

Book Printing Options with IngramSpark

Outside the Book

Book Cover Options

Book Cover Options

Paperback - Full-color laminated cover with perfect-bound binding

Hardcover - Available with or without dust jacket

Book Cover Options

Book Textures

Matte Cover - Soft feel, no glare, polished

Gloss Cover - High shine, smooth finish

Digital Cloth™ Cover - Subtle, cloth-like look (available with or without dust jacket. Textured feel available for hardcover books printed in the U.S. and U.K. only)

Book Cover Options

Book Binding

Perfect Bound - Pages and paper cover glued together at spine

Case Laminate - Pages glued to hardcover at ends

Jacketed Case Laminate - Pages glued to hardcover at ends with the option to design what prints on the cover beneath the jacket

Inside the Book

Ink Qualities

Black-and-White Printing - Most economical, printed on 50 lb / 74 gsm paper in crème or white

Standard Color Printing - Standard color quality, printed on 50 lb / 74 gsm or 70 lb / 104 gsm white paper

Premium Color Printing - Highest color quality with more vivid color, printed on 70 lb / 104 gsm white paper

Ink Qualities

Paper Color and Weights

Groundwood 38 lb / 56 gsm – Available in black-and-white printing and select, small-format trim sizes in the U.S. and U.K.

Crème 50 lb / 74 gsm – Available in black-and-white printing

White 50 lb / 74 gsm – Available in black-and-white printing and standard color printing

White 70 lb / 104 gsm – Available in standard and premium color printing options

IngramSpark is dedicated to expanding book printing options for indie authors! As of early 2020, authors can take advantage of the new digital cloth and jacketed case laminate options for hardcover book printing. Check out the videos below for more details and to find out how publishers reacted to the new book design options.

Book Formats: Ebook, Paperback, and Hardcover

We highly recommend that you publish in all formats—ebook, paperback, and hardcover. In this section, we’ll talk about print books vs. ebooks, the difference between paperback and hardcover, and the pros of publishing hardcover books.

Book Printing Options with IngramSpark

Ebooks vs. Print Books

Ah, the age-old question: ebooks vs. print books. One of the best ways to maximize your book’s potential success is to offer it in multiple formats. If a reader exclusively looks for books to read on their Kindle, they won’t find your book if there is no ebook version. On the other hand, if a reader exclusively shops for books in their local independent bookstore, they won’t find your book if there is no print version.

In addition, studies have shown that the majority of consistent ebook readers also regularly purchase print books. These hybrid readers seem to make buying choices situationally; for instance, an avid reader might enjoy a physical paperback while relaxing at home, then switch to an e-reader while traveling with limited luggage space.

Ebook illustration

Ebooks can be less expensive to produce, so some authors use them as free digital giveaways to build their author platform before producing print copies.


Many authors publish their books in a single format only, and while this approach might also work for your book, the prevailing philosophy supports publishing your book in as many different formats as possible—with the goal of making your book accessible to as many different readers as possible.

Difference Between Hardcover and Paperback

harback vs paperback books

Alright, let’s talk print books. You’re probably wondering—besides the obvious—what’s the difference between hardcover and paperback books?

In traditional publishing, debut books are typically released in hardcover several months before the paperback. This capitalizes on the readership who’s willing to pay more for the hardcover edition of a book and those who don’t want to wait. IngramSpark is one of few print-on-demand services that offers hardcover book printing in a variety of sizes, with or without a dust jacket.

That being said, the perfect-bound trade paperback is the most commonly printed book in the self-publishing industry. Many readers prefer the ease of a paperback, and for indie authors on a budget, it’s less expensive to produce and ship, something you can test for yourself with IngramSpark’s Print and Ship Calculator.

Pros of Hardcover Books

So why should indie authors consider publishing a hardcover book? There are three main reasons.


Higher Margin

Some readers are willing to pay for the durability and prestige associated with a hardcover book. Since they’re more expensive to produce, the list price of a hardcover book is typically higher than a paperback. IngramSpark authors can calculate the compensation of a paperback vs. hardcover book with IngramSpark’s Publisher Compensation Calculator.

Try the Compensation Calculator: find out how much you'll earn per print book sale!

Libraries Prefer Hardcovers

Did you know that libraries prefer to stock hardcover books? That’s because hardcover books stand up better to repeated use. Since library books are shared between various members of a community, authors can also price a book higher for the library market than the retail market—which means more money for your bottom line.


Maximize Sales Potential

Different readers prefer to consume content in different ways. By having your book available in multiple formats (hardcover, paperback, and ebook), and enabling it for global distribution, you’re maximizing the opportunity to make a sale.

In addition, certain genres are more likely to be published in hardcover, including cookbooks, some nonfiction, and most young adult fantasy and dystopian books. If your target reader has an expectation, you want to be sure to fulfill it.

IngramSpark author, Savannah J. Goins, shared her experience publishing a hardcover book with IngramSpark’s Jacketed Case Laminate.

Picking Your Book’s Trim Size

This might seem like a last-minute decision, but your trim size impacts the page count, weight, and overall look and feel of your book—and before you begin your book layout design, you’ll want to choose your book’s trim size.

Trim Size

Learn more about book layout design in The Ultimate Guide to Master Your Book Cover Design: Expanded Edition.

So how do you know what trim size to choose?

A good rule of thumb is to stick to industry standards. Go to your local bookstore or search online to see what trim sizes are most commonly used on popular books in your genre.

Most Commonly Used Specifications for Books Published through IngramSpark

Novels & Poetry Books


Children's & Cookbooks


Graphic Novels


Business & Health Books


Once you have an idea of your book’s trim size, use IngramSpark’s Print and Ship Calculator to determine how much you’ll pay to print and ship orders directly to yourself or your customers!

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The Basics of Book Cover Design

There are several things to consider when you design the cover of your book. Let’s start with some book cover design basics.

Cover Design Basics

Book cover design is one of the most fun parts of the publishing process! It’s an opportunity to take your manuscript—the story you’ve poured your heart and soul into—and give the words a visual representation. Ask yourself: If I was only given a split second to grab a potential reader’s attention, what’s the best way to do that?

Answer: a compelling book cover design.

There are three things to consider in book cover design: the front cover, back cover, and spine. Let’s look at each of them individually.

Front Cover Design

Your front cover is arguably the most important element of book cover design. There are two main parts of your front cover: imagery and typography.

Book Cover Imagery

Your imagery could be a photograph, an illustration, geometric shapes, an interesting play on color, or more!

Book Cover Typography

The typography should include your book’s title, subtitle, and author name. Keep in mind that the book’s title should always be the most prominent (unless you’re a New York Times-bestselling author).


Your cover will likely be designed to stand out on a bookshelf, but you should also ask yourself: what does my book cover look like on a small screen? Your front book cover design should be appealing (and readable) to both a reader browsing in a bookstore and a reader looking at a thumbnail image of your book online.

Back Cover Design

book back cover design

When people think about book design, they’re often picturing the front cover alone. However, a book cover is an entire package—front, back, and spine. Your back cover is your chance to build on the excitement you created with the front cover, and ultimately hook the reader into buying your book.

The back cover typically includes a book description, book reviews, author bio, ISBN, and barcode. The book description and reviews are your main selling points, and should come above the bio, ISBN, and barcode.

Keep in mind that if you’re publishing a hardcover, you can place some of this information on the interior flaps of a dust jacket. Similarly, if you’re publishing an ebook, this information can go on your ebook’s description page.

Spine Design

book spine design

The spine of a book is often overlooked by new authors–but take a moment to think about how books are shelved at bookstores and libraries. In most scenarios, the spine is the first thing readers will see as they scan the shelves.

The title should be the most prominent text on the spine, followed by the author name, and the logo of your publisher imprint. As you’re designing your book, keep in mind that the spine is directly affected by your book’s page count. You’ll want to make sure that your interior file is complete before beginning the book cover design process to ensure that the spine width does not change.

You can use IngramSpark’s Weight and Spine Width Calculator to calculate the width of your spine before you begin your book cover design.

Top 8 Book
Cover Design Tips

Now that we’ve nailed the basics of book cover design, let’s discuss how to design a book cover with IngramSpark’s top eight book design tips!


8 Tips for Book Cover Design

  1. Give readers a sneak peek of what’s to come.
  2. Indicate the book’s genre.
  3. Understand your audience.
  4. Set the appropriate tone.
  5. Pay attention to the details.
  6. Follow the rules of design.
  7. Have a distinct style.
  8. Consider working with a professional.


Give readers a sneak peek of what’s to come.

Your book cover design should give readers an idea of the plot/theme, without giving away any major spoilers. Not too much, not too little…but just enough to get them interested.


Indicate the book’s genre.

Many readers can tell a book’s genre simply by glancing at the cover. For example, a thriller will look different from a collection of humorous essays, and many genres even differ by trim size.

three understand your audience

Understand your audience.

Oftentimes, books could fit into several genre categories. If you’ve written a combination of historical fiction and romance, your cover can help the reader understand whether your book is focused more on the history or the romance. Make sure your front cover accurately conveys what your book is about, so readers know what they’re getting into.


Set the appropriate tone.

All books have a dominant tone. In order to attract the right readers, your book cover design needs to match the tone of your book. What do we mean by that? Well, if you’ve written a mostly humorous book, you might stay away from darker imagery. If you’ve written a tear-jerker, you will likely want to refrain from using bright colors and cartoonish illustrations.


Pay attention to the details.

Lighting, shading, image treatment, text hierarchy, layering…these are just a few of the details that can take your book cover design from mediocre to eye-catching.


“Your book cover design isn’t a place to cut corners. You want to make sure every detail of your cover positions you as the capable and professional author you are.”

—Chris Payne, 99designs


The subtle (and not-so-subtle) details are what will make people want to buy your book.


Follow the rules of design.

Design is a creative field, but there are still several rules in place that can help grab your readers’ attention. Text hierarchy can emphasize important text (like your title) and contrasting colors can make certain text pop on the page. In addition, color psychology can be leveraged to create a specific emotional response


Have a distinct style.

Yes, we just told you to follow the rules…but you still want your book to stand out on the shelves! Creating your own distinct visual style can help grab your readers’ attention and build your author brand at the same time.



Consider working with a professional.

If the above sounds daunting, that’s okay—we can’t all be good at everything! Consider collaborating with a design professional to bring your vision to life. Your book cover is a reader’s first impression of your book and paying a professional can be treated as an investment towards future book sales!

If you don’t know where to start with the “rules” for book cover design, you can try IngramSpark’s free online book design course or consider hiring an expert to design your book cover.

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Book Cover Design Ideas

Book cover design is constantly evolving, but there are several key trends and themes that appear in popular book covers. Let’s take a look at some of the top book cover ideas!

Cover Design Basics

6 Book Cover Design Ideas



A popular design approach is minimalism, distinguishable by clean and straightforward designs. 



Flowers are finding their way onto the covers of books written by both men and women and across many different genres.


Intertwining Text

These days, more covers are laying images or drawings over and between the title text—making the imagery part of the font itself.

Intertwining Text

Real Photos

Real-life photos are a great option for cover art. They range from historical to modern, from black and white to sepia toned to vibrantly colored.

Real Photos

Double Exposure

A double-exposure cover offers an outline within the backdrop of a bigger picture. The overall effect is really impactful and can be interpreted as surreal or even frightful.

Intertwining Text

Big and Bold Typography

A theme across modern book covers is big, bold typography. The newest book fonts being used are blocky and clean with long lines—Lydian and sans serif are two popular options.

Real Photos

All six cover designs by Ebook Launch

For more book cover design ideas, check out our blog post: Top 10 Book Cover Ideas (and Examples!)

DIY Book Cover Design

We’ve covered the basic elements of a book cover, the top book design tips, and the top book cover ideas. Now it’s time to talk about how to make a book cover yourself!

Cover Design Basics
book design

“The beauty of technology is that it helps you craft, finalize, publish, print, and distribute your book. Book publishing and self-publishing is a business, and when time and budget are limited, it’s helpful for independent publishers to enlist technology and industry experts for help.”

—Julie-Ann Harper, Founder of Pick-a-WooWoo Publishing Group

There are several tools to help you with a DIY book cover design—let’s look at a few.

Educational Book Design Resources

At IngramSpark, we believe knowledge is power and indie authors deserve access to it! Over the years, we’ve created several FREE resources to help you learn more about how to make your own book online.

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Book Design Online Course

Learn how to design a book cover and interior with book design tips that will help your book reach more readers. This IngramSpark Academy course reveals important publishing industry standards to keep in mind for your book design, whether you create your cover and interior yourself or work with a professional book designer.

Start Course

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Book Design Blog Posts

Over the years, several well-respected industry experts have shared their expertise with the IngramSpark author community, and we have an entire section of the blog dedicated to book design posts.

Read More

Recommended Book Design Tools and Templates

IngramSpark’s Book-Building Tool

IngramSpark’s Book-Building Tool allows you to create your own book online from your IngramSpark account. At no extra cost, you can choose from pre-designed book layouts or customize your own front book cover design and interior design—automatically formatted to meet IngramSpark’s file requirements.


Canva offers a free, simple design program that enables you to become a book designer. It contains templates and predesigned drag-and-drop elements in an easy-to-use interface for designers and non-designers alike.

canva book cover templates

Premade Book Cover Templates

There are several companies that offer premade book cover templates that are sold once and then removed from the website. These book cover templates are a great way for indie authors to affordably self-publish their work!

Before purchasing a premade book cover template, make sure to double-check that you’ll be receiving a file that suits your needs–whether that’s a print book, ebook, or both!

Uploading a Book Cover with IngramSpark

When you upload a book cover with IngramSpark, there are several file requirements to keep in mind.

File Requirements for Book Covers

  • Must be uploaded as a separate PDF from the interior
  • Barcodes are mandatory on all covers; 100% black only and placed on a white box/background
  • Resolution: 300ppi
  • Printed Line Screen: 175 visual equivalent
  • Color Space: CMYK
  • Bleed: 0.125” (3mm) on all four sides except hardcover files, which require a 0.625” (16mm) wrap
  • Type safety: 0.25” (6mm) minimum on all sides
  • Spine Type Safety:
    • For page counts below 48, spine text is not available
    • Spines 0.35” and larger – 0.0625” (2mm) left/right sides
    • Spines smaller than 0.35” – 0.03125” (1mm) left/right sides
  • Text that is 24 pt. or below, please use 100% black only
  • All spot colors with/without transparencies must be converted to CMYK

Check out the File Creation Guide for complete information on files accepted within IngramSpark. All the information on the front cover, back cover, spine, and flaps (if you have a dust jacket) needs to be assembled into a single PDF. To ensure accuracy, we recommend that you use our cover template generator. Simply fill in the required fields and a custom template (barcode included) will be emailed to you!

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The beauty of self-publishing is that you have full control over your creative decisions. You can be the writer, editor, designer, publisher, and ultimately—the owner of your work! However, time is money, and your book design is an essential piece of discoverability and sales—so a lot of self-publishers still opt to enlist the help of professionals. If you’re interested in hiring an expert to assist you with book cover design, we’ll cover everything you need to know in the next section.

Hiring a Book
Cover Designer

Your book cover is a reader’s first impression of your book, and often the best way to design the cover of your dreams is to hire a book cover designer!

Hiring Book Cover Designer

We highly recommend publishing a book in multiple formats (both print and digital), so it’s important to consider your publishing goals before you hire a book cover designer. If you’d like to publish in both formats, you’ll save money by having a designer create the print and ebook cover files at the same time.

Questions to Keep in Mind

There are several things to keep in mind when you hire a book cover designer. Before hiring someone, you should always ask to see his or her previous work. If a book designer’s portfolio of cover designs isn’t interesting or appealing to you, explore other options!

If you have a strong concept for your book cover design, it’s important that you communicate this with your cover designer. Also, make sure to discuss what the feedback process looks like:

  • If you don’t like the first concept, are they willing to go back to the drawing board?
  • How many rounds of revisions are allowed?
  • Will revisions cost you extra money?

Hiring a Book Cover Designer

IngramSpark has a list of several recommended experts to help you with the book cover design process! They’re located on our Experts page under “Book Cover Design” and “Full Service.” Here are a few of our highly recommended experts:

  • 1106 Design researches your book’s specific genre, then creates three unique versions for you to choose from. Their design team works with you to go through however many rounds of designs it takes until you’re 100% satisfied.
  • Ebook Launch offers exclusive book cover design packages to all IngramSpark authors and works with several large organizations in the indie-publishing business.
  • Pick-a-Woo-Woo Publishing is an Australian author services company that provides original, customized, and professional book cover design.
  • Reedsy is an online marketplace that lets you browse through thousands of vetted book service professionals, including award-winning book designers.
  • The Book Cover Whisperer creates visually stunning covers your readers will love, with unlimited changes until you’re 100% satisfied.

If you’ve made it this far in the publishing process, congratulations! You’re one step closer to publishing the book of your dreams.

To learn more about the entire book design process—including the best font for books and book layout basics—download the free expanded guide today: The Ultimate Guide to Master Your Book Design!

Once you’ve published your work, be sure to tag us in your #SparkUnboxing on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for a chance to be featured—and check out some of the best #SparkUnboxing moments below!


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