BE MY GUEST: How to design a Book Cover: Jess C Scott

When you go to a bookstore (even virtual like Amazon.com) to buy a book, the first thing that catches your eye is its “cover”. Sometimes, the decision to buy the book is made in those few seconds and then you read the blurb or flip the pages to see what is inside. So, let’s not underestimate the power of a “good” and “well-designed” book cover. One big positive is that it boosts the sales of the book. Also, who does not like a nice glossy looking book sitting on one’s bookshelf? Let’s be honest, we all do!

To cut the long story short, when I came to know that Jess, an extremely multi-talented artist not only writes books but also makes her own book covers, I had to ask how she does it all. I am sure her write-up will help you in understanding how can you go about designing the cover/illustration for your self-published book and how can you do it yourself using cheap tools available online.

Before you move on and read her article, have a look at the covers she designed. I think they look super-KEWL! Which one of the two covers you guys like the most? Let me know in the comments section below. 

How to design a Book Cover
By Author: Jess C Scott

I’m an independent author/artist/non-conformist, and I write in a range of different genres. All of my book covers are self-designed—creative freedom and flexibility/versatility are one of the things I enjoy the most about being an indie author.

I used an old sketch for the cover of my first book, EyeLeash: A Blog Novel, because I was working with an extremely low budget and wanted to keep costs low (that was in mid-2009). Since then, I’ve continued designing my own book covers, because (1) it is enjoyable, and (2) I like the challenge of creating covers that are both visually appealing and unique.

Book cover design covers three basic elements:

1) Base Drawing / Illustration

2) Fonts

3) Color / Style / Feel

The base drawing/illustration for the cover is the important element, and it’s OK if you don’t have the time or skills to do the drawings yourself—you can look for CC-licensed and royalty-free images online instead (I usually use flickr and deviantART when I “need some help”). Many artists charge reasonable licensing fees for commercial use of images. The one drawback is that you might see the same image being used on several different book covers by different authors (especially if the book falls into a popular commercial genre).

Don’t get too crazy with fonts! You want something that looks simple, nice, and is easily readable and identifiable when the book cover is viewed as a small thumbnail. I like using Urban Fonts and FontSpace for typography (I only use those that are labeled as “free for commercial use”).

The color/style/feel of a book cover’s design are also important—the bottom line is that a book cover has to (1) have visual appeal, and (2) attract the right audience. A loud/strong graphic would be okay for a mainstream/edgy kind of book (which is what I want going for with the above two book covers), though the same graphic style probably wouldn’t work for a historical romance novel (which generally requires a cover with a more “chivalric” feel).

I use an old hand-me-down version of Photoshop to arrange and enhance certain elements of the cover design. If I need any “extras” or cheap/free tools available online, I’ll run a search for “photoshop alternative online” on Google and see what comes up.

If you do want to learn how to draw or improve your design skills, a book that might help you is John Ruskin’s The Elements of Drawing. This book isn’t a step-by-step “how to draw” kind of guidebook, but it teaches you to use your eyes and be observant and appreciative of nature (and that all drawing is “dirtying the paper delicately”). Ruskin’s book is very demanding and requires you to be very dedicated with practicing, but I think the results are worth the time and effort.

Personally, I think learning how to draw is just as important as learning how to read and write. Drawing teaches you to be observant and disciplined, and it’s a great joy to be able to express oneself with words as well as with pictures. The important thing is to keep practicing and learning new things along the way. It is never too late to start.

I’ll end this guest post by thanking Komal for graciously hosting me, and giving me this topic to write about! I hope some of my tips have been useful.

About the Author:

Jess is an independent author/artist/non-conformist who’s dedicated to writing original stories that are both meaningful and entertaining. She works in a diverse range of genres, such as contemporary fiction, YA fiction, poetry, urban fantasy, and cyberpunk. She is currently completing "The Cyberpunk Elven Trilogy".

Website: www.jessINK.com

Social Media: Facebook | Twitter | Blog

Elven Trilogy Book Site: More Info / Excerpts

* Be sure to check out Jess’s newest short story, SKINS (http://www.jessINK.com/skins.htm), where Laer (the dark elf) seeks revenge on a couple of devotees of the exotic skins trade. SKINS is a freebie on Jess’s website!

About her Books:

Book #1: The Other Side of Life

Summary: A thieving duo's world turns upside down when an Elven rogue uncovers the heinous dealings of a megacorporation.

Synopsis: Anya and Leticia are partners-in-crime who steal for a living. Their world turns upside down after a chance encounter with fellow rogue, Ithilnin--the enigmatic leader of an Elven band of thieves.

A scuffle to prove who's "the better thief" transforms into more than Anya and Ithilnin ever bargained for. They retrieve the missing piece of an ancient poem, before getting caught in the secret dealings of a megacorporation. What they uncover threatens to alter the very essence of not just human life, but the other side as well.

Elven intrigue, cyberpunk action, and a deadly dose of danger come together in The Other Side of Life [Book #1 in the (Cyberpunk) Elven Trilogy].

To purchase this book, go to these links: Amazon | Smashwords | jessINK Website

Book # 2 : The Darker Side of Life

SUMMARY: A hybrid elf child combats a dark elf’s scheme to exploit and turn a virtual reality system into a weapon of mass destruction.

SYNOPSIS: Anya is distraught as she copes with being separated from Ithilnin (Nin). She realizes she could get the answers she desperately seeks from Laer—the first dark elf she’s encountered. With Laer’s help, a trip through the elves’ virtual reality system affects Anya more deeply than she anticipated. Laer enlightens Anya on her connection to the deciphered code of an ancient prophecy, information which she dutifully discusses in the dead of night with Nin. The discovery threatens to destroy Nin and Anya’s fragile but intimate ties, as Anya finds herself increasingly tempted to take a walk on the dark side. The plot thickens with jealousy, betrayal, and a noble vengeance in The Darker Side of Life [Book #2 in the (Cyberpunk) Elven Trilogy].

The Darker Side of Life (Book #2) and The Arcane Side of Life (Book #3) will be released in early 2012.

GENRE: Urban Fantasy / Cyberpunk / YA with adult crossover appeal


  1. Great advice on designing covers! I like the way that Jess keeps a consistent look/feel to her books that brand them as her work. Very nice.

  2. WOW! So much talent! Those covers are amazing.

  3. @Amy: I couldn't agree more! "Branding" and creating an "image" is essential in today's techno world of marketing, where things happen so fast and "visual aid" goes a long way in associating customers with the product (in this case, books).

    @Elisa: Ditto!:)

    @Virginia: Yeah, the sketch is just superb! Thanks for commenting!:)

  4. Super advice, thanks for sharing!

  5. Your covers look great--hip, edgy, original. For the cover of my forthcoming YA, I hired a digital painter. I am so tired of formulaic photos of hot teens, and I'm so pro-back to art covers. Yours are a breath of fresh air.

  6. This is really helpful, since I am planning to design my own cover and have been totally lost on what to do. Your bookblog.ning friend

  7. Thank you, Jess. Just what I needed as I am designing my cover just now.

    Of the two covers I like the first one (black and white) better.

  8. Thanks so much for hosting me, Komz! I had a nice time writing the article (and trying to think of "the best points" to include).

    Thanks to everyone for commenting also, much appreciated :)! Am currently trying to clean up one tricky chapter of Book02 (red cover above)......

  9. @Jess: Oh it's a gr8 pleasure to have a guest like you on my blog!* hugs* I am glad your tips are helping so many writers out there who are always looking for new ideas for their book covers. Well, it seems that your "black and white" cover is the current favourite among commentators!:) Thumbs up, Jess!:)

  10. really cool. Definitely the one for The Other Side of Life.

  11. great tips ;) i really like to become a
    ebook cover designer &
    book cover designer
    but im still studying how to become a professional on illustrator.


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