book cover design templates

There are lots of reasons NOT to make your own book cover:

  1. If you don’t know graphic design, your first attempt won’t be pretty
  2. If you don’t know cover design, you won’t make a cover that sells
  3. If you make it, you’ll like it too much to change later


With that in mind, I also like helping authors publish their books cheaply if they can’t afford a designer (and hiring an expensive cover design doesn’t always mean you’ll get the best quality work).

So I’ve focused on doing a few things to make self-publishing easier.

FIRST – your cover is hugely important, and you need to know how to avoid common mistakes and amateur design elements that will tank credibility, so here’s a cover design checklist:

1. Title font should be special and attractive to readers. Check out this post 300+ best fonts to use for a book cover design.

2. Author name should be about half that size, clean serif or sans serif, with lots of spacing between letters.

3. Series header and tagline should be half that size (don’t try to make EVERYTHING visible as a thumbnail, that’s a cover design myth.)

4. There should be 2 or maybe 3 main colors (usually two contrasting colors and a flesh tone of the main character.) Use a gradient or color wash.

5. Don’t make a collage or specific scene from inside the novel – the cover needs to hint at the genre only. Here are 3 foolproof cover design layouts. Basically, one protagonist (maybe two if it’s romance) and a background.

6. Focus on the EMOTION. I prefer human protagonists on the cover over symbols, because it’s easier to hook emotion with people. Stories are about people, not things.

7. Don’t copy trad publishers – symbolic covers may look cool in the bookstore, but they disappear online. Trad publishers can afford to be cool and mysterious… readers enjoy browsing bookstores, and some designs look better in print. If you’re self-publishing, your cover needs to do MORE work.

8. The genre should be immediately clear from the cover, but keywords in the title can help as well. You don’t need to double-down, so for example if your title includes “VAMPIRE” you don’t really need to show a vampire on your cover. But if the title doesn’t make it obvious, then the cover design needs to.

9. Don’t use any basic text effects like bevel or a hard dropshadow. Your text should be easy to read and have natural contract with the background (which you probably need to make lighter or darker).


how to make a book cover design


Here’s a video to help with your cover design: you can get the rest of my free training and several more videos at


Cover design templates and 3D Mockups

I like to help authors with education, but if you’re not skilled in graphic design and try making your own cover from scratch, you’re bound to make mistakes. So for years I’ve been building tools and templates to try and make things easier – I have some new tools coming out soon that are going to be awesome. Download my free guide and I’ll let you know when new tools are available!


Derek Murphy
Derek Murphy

I'm a location independent book designer (and book marketing genius) working on my PhD in Literature and shopping for a castle to use as a writer's paradise. I write non-fiction and YA.

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