Designing a Great Digital Book Cover

Readers often judge a book by its cover — so make sure your book cover is not only beautiful, but effective.

A book cover is a visual communication device. Before they read a single word of your book, prospective readers will draw conclusions about its genre, subject matter, style, and message just by looking at its cover. This is why experienced authors and publishers spend lots of time researching, developing, and designing their covers. There are many ways to create great book cover designs, especially for digital books, but here are some things to keep in mind.

Review other book covers in your genre

Before you start designing (or hire a designer), spend some time exploring book covers across your genre, specifically focusing on digital editions. You might look at the titles topping the Apple Books charts in your genre. What stands out to you? Are there similar color palettes or commonly used imagery? Do they feature illustrations or photographs, or just type? Do book covers in your genre employ particular styles of typography? This means analyzing not only the typefaces (fonts), but also the type-styling and the balance of type and images.

Your book’s cover should align with the tone of your book

After you’ve spent time researching book covers on Apple Books and made a list of elements common to your genre, spend some time thinking about your own book. If you haven’t already written your Publisher Description copy for your book, now might be a good time. How are you summarizing your book? What are the key actions, ideas, or settings in your book? These could be inspirations.

What audience are you trying to reach with your book and what do they expect to appear on a book cover? Do you want to surprise that reader and challenge expectations, or do you want to meet those expectations?

What is the overall mood of your book? Try listing three adjectives that communicate the general mood or tone of your book. Is your book suspenseful, romantic, active, contemplative? Use these adjectives as the guides to your book cover design.

Typography and type hierarchy on book covers

Now that you’re an expert in book covers in your genre, you’ve no doubt noted similarities in the fonts authors choose. Different fonts embody different qualities. Some are traditional and formal, some showcase seductive script, and some have a fresh, modern edge. Make sure your font’s personality resonates with the vibe of your book. You wouldn’t use the same font on the cover of a military memoir that you would on a historical romance.

Certain type elements on your cover are more important than others, so your design should reflect this hierarchy. Is your title the most important thing for potential readers? That should be set in the largest type size. Is your author name the most important element for fans because your first book was a hit and now you’re coming back with Book 2? If so, then maybe it’s your name that should stand out in size.

Design your book cover for viewing on iPhone

If you’re publishing a digital book (or “ebook”), you should design your book cover for customers who will be viewing your cover on a digital bookstore like Apple Books. Spend some time browsing Apple Books on iPhone and take note of the sizes at which ebook covers are displayed on the main page of the store, in the Reading Now tab, and in Search results. The type on your ebook cover should be legible in all these different venues and the imagery should be clear and discernible.

As noted earlier, certain elements of your book cover are more important than others, and those most important elements should be big and easy to read even at very small digital sizes.

Use contrast effectively

Make sure the color of your type contrasts appropriately with the color imagery and background elements that sit behind it. High contrast can help type stand out when your customer is browsing Apple Books quickly and you want them to be able to read your book’s title or your author name easily.

Compositions

Be careful about crowding your book cover with too many elements. A busy cover could be hard to read or understand. Make sure every element you’re including on your cover — image and type — is necessary, because if it doesn’t absolutely need to be there, chances are your cover will be stronger without it.

When you’re designing your cover on your desktop computer and you’re viewing at large sizes, the many elements you’ve included on your cover might appear beautiful and intriguing. But try reducing the size of that cover and make sure it’s still just as beautiful when it’s only 100 pixels high. Simple, clear covers are often the most effective on iPhone.

Tools for designing a great digital book cover

Book Brush: With Book Brush’s Cover Creator, you can start from scratch or customize a professionally designed template by choosing one you like and simply adding your own title and author name.

Book Cover Maker: This app is full of resources, including free templates, royalty-free imagery, and more. It’s especially attuned to creating covers for ebooks.

Canva: We love Canva for its user-friendly tools, including great templates for ebook covers. Canva produces great results, regardless of your level of graphic design expertise.

99designs: This is a unique website that allows you to run a contest for designers to compete to create your ebook cover. This can be very effective as you’re able to leverage the input and creative perspective from several different designers to get the best cover for your book.

Reedsy: Reedsy’s network of publishing professionals includes experienced and talented cover designers. You can explore their cover gallery and hire a professional to help with your project.