How to create a book cover (#nanowrimo or otherwise)

1. Write a book.
1. Think about the book you are going to write. (if you’re not allowed to write until Nov. 1, like I am)

2. Think about who you want you book to appeal to as they are walking past the display in the bookstore. Men, women, young, old? Want it to have a take-me-seriously look or a read-this-between-checking-out-the-pool-boy vibe?

3. Brainstorm a title, or at least, a working title. Typography is key here, and knowing what you are going to say will make it so much easier.

4. Determine the information you would like to see on the front – most likely a title, an image, author’s name, and maybe a subtitle or a very brief lead-in.

5. Determine the information you’d like to see on the back. A synopsis of the book, a blurb about you, and make sure to leave room for the ISBN (yep, I forgot that in my excitement to create my own; whichever cover I choose will have to have some redesign done to the back.)

6. Set up a document of the appropriate size. How thick your spine is will be determined by how many pages the book is, so if you have not written it yet, you will have to guess. Don’t worry, you can always change it later. I use Adobe InDesign for all of my page layout (this is professional graphic design software, if you are surprised by the price tag). Determine the size of the document by using your printer’s guidelines. My book will be a 6×9″ and the dimensions for that are 12.25″ (+ spine) x 9.25″. If you need a publisher/printer, check out my recommendation here. They are a self-publisher who digitally prints (meaning no minimum order – you can order 1 book or thousands of books. Offset printers use a printing press, meaning setup costs and minimum orders but are cheaper overall if you are ordering high volume.)

7. Create a graphic for your book. In lieu of studying graphic design or photography, hire someone or research stock images. Or bribe a friend with a lifetime supply of coffee.

8. Choose colors for your book. Keep in mind colors can be tricky; what it looks like on your screen will almost certainly not be what it looks like on the final product. What it looks like on your home printer will mostly likely also be not what it looks like on the final product. What to do? I use my handy Pantone Bridge swatches to color match – think paint chips, but for the computer. They will give you the formula needed to get the color you are looking at on the Pantone swatch. Colors can also set the tone – so choose these keeping in mind what you decided in #2. Make sure you are using the color specs your printer is asking for (RGB, CMYK, Pantones – better you convert yourself than allow the printer to convert, to make sure it is the color you want and to avoid extra fees)

9. Lay out all of the elements that need to go on your cover. Text, photos, graphics. Position your dominant element first. This could be the image or it could be the title. Place everything else around it, being careful not to let your items compete with each other. Simple is a good rule of thumb.

10. Select a font for your title, keeping what you decided in #2 in mind. Fonts can really set a tone, and don’t choose a font simply because you like it. Make sure it is making the statement you want. (Quick hint: I will not read your book if the title is in comic sans.)

11. Once you get everything positioned on the page, with fonts, colors, graphics and images, you are almost there. Export your document into the type of file your printer requests (likely a .pdf; make sure you create this properly as to not have any missing fonts). Viola!

12. If not Viola!, of if you’re like “WTF is this girl even talking about?”, you can always contact Melissa Oyler Designs for all of your graphic design needs. Discounts for my NaNoWriMo buddies!

13. Write your book!