5 Steps to Creating a Cover for Your Self-Published Book

5 Steps for Creating a Self-Published Family History Book Cover


Oh, the pesky front covers. They can make or break your self-published family history book. Thankfully, there is a lot of hand tips to making a book cover but I'd like to show you the process. In February, I released the book, A Recipe for Writing Family History. This month, I've redesigned three book covers. I'll show you the before and after for these three books later, but first, let's walk through the steps of creating a Book Cover

Step 1: Inspiration

The first step is to find inspiration. For my book, I searched Amazon's for books about the writing process. The covers that caught my eye had a few things in common.

Looking for Cover Inspiration
Books on Writing available at Amazon.com

A Recipe for Writing Family History is a how to book and it's a basic writing book. I wanted to include symbols that emphasized these two factors. However, the area of focus is family history and genealogy. I wanted imagery that incorporated that niche of writing.

After looking through numerous book offerings, I sketched my ideas 'old school' with pen and paper.
Designing A Family History Cover: Step 1 Sketch
Sketching my cover ideas

After creating these book ideas that are heavy on iconography, I moved from pen and paper to digital design using Photoshop Elements.

When you're looking to publish your family history projects, which are more biographical or memoir in nature, you would follow the pre-design step. Review book covers in a library catalog or Amazon.com. Find the ones you like and then sketch out the elements you prefer.

Step 2: Create Mock-Ups

Using Photoshop Elements, I attempted to transform the sketches into a book cover. I found stock graphics online and used many of my digital scrapbooking skills to develop three ideas from the sketches. The other sketches did not appeal after I transferred them to digital. Here are the three designs that first made the cut.

Designing A Family History Cover: Step 2 Mock-Up 1

Designing A Family History Cover: Step 2 Mock-Up 2

Designing A Family History Cover: Step 2 Mock-Up 3


After I created these first digital samples, I showed them to my husband. He's my co-author, so he had a say in the project! He didn't like the cover with the keyboard letters. For the other two options, he was indifferent. At this point, I wanted to have input from folks who support my goals and were not biased.

When you create your cover design, consider using Photoshop Elements or Microsoft Publisher. You can even design a cover using OpenOffice, MS Word, or Apple Pages. The question is how fancy do you want your covers to be.

Step 3: Solicit Feedback

In a few Facebook groups, I posted my two sample covers and invited people to weigh in on their preferences. I also shared this on my newsfeed for my friends and family. I was surprised and fascinated to see the opinions. If I was a psychologist, I would love to have analyzed each person's impressions. Instead, I'm a self-published author and I wanted to see what the overwhelming majority of my network thought about my books.

There was no consensus of opinion, however, the tan cover won out if I would keep tweaking the design. The biggest complaint is that no one could read the recipe card and didn't like the imagery I was attempting to convey. Most people thought the recipe card implied a cookbook, not a writing book. So, I tried again.

When I change the cover I needed to lighten the tan background and change the photo.

Don't be afraid to share your cover design with others. There are times when someone will see something you have overlooked (such as the recipe box implies cooking not writing). Some feedback is not helpful or to you likely. Thank anyone who participates in providing feedback and make adjustments.

Step 4: Adjust Cover Design
The next step was to find a cover image that would emphasize writing rather than a cooking recipe. I kept the keyboard and the recipe basket. Those two symbols were important to me. I printed off a number of family history icons and asked for feedback once again.

Designing A Family History Cover: Step 4 Alternate Photo 1

Designing A Family History Cover: Step 4 Alternate Photo 2

Designing A Family History Cover: Step 4 Alternate Photo 3

Designing A Family History Cover: Step 4 Alternate Photo 4


When I shared these photos again with those who contributed to the first design discussion, most felt the family tree with the ovals was the better graphic.

Designing A Family History Cover: Step 4 Alternate Photo 5


One fan said they did not like how the title was separated by the photo. That comment led me to further research titles on covers and it was correct. I was attempting to be creative but I was creating a subtle annoyance. I don't want to do that!

Designing A Family History Cover: Keep Title Together


After moving the title together, I understood the feedback and was so happy someone pointed it out.

One person also suggested that the colors were too "Christmas-y" for their liking. I really appreciated that feedback. My theme color has always been maroon or burgundy. I threw in green to capture the color most associated with family history. I could not see the Christmas color scheme until someone pointed it out.

Additionally, another recommendation was to kill the script font. It was too dated for cover designs. I wanted a different font so that it added more interest to the cover. As I exchanged comments with the person who made the recommendation, I learned that changing the font size or the color will be just enough of a variation in the title to emphasize "Writing".

Designing A Family History Cover: Change Color Schemes


Designing A Family History Cover: Change Color Schemes 2



After changing the colors of the title to blue and green, I finally fell in love way it looked. The feedback remained positive but a request that the ovals have photos and titles in the boxes below was finally headed. I had hoped to get away with not using photos, but I like to please my fans. So, photos it is!

Designing A Family History Cover: Step 5 Final Cover Design


Finally, the cover conveyed what I intended. It's a book about writing your family history and it's as easy as following a recipe.

When you design your cover, you may correct it after one round of feedback. Hooray for your mad skills if you are that successful or if you don't want feedback. For those who enjoy having feedback so you can create the most well-received book as possible, be prepared to try, try, try, again.


Step 5: Export Your Design

After you create your cover, you need to prepare it for printing. If you're using a service such as Lulu.com or CreateSpace.com to print your books, you'll receive a template that finalizes your book dimensions and informs you what format save your file to in order for the company to use in printing your projects. Follow each company's instructions and never hesitate to use their helpline you don't understand something. The want you to have the best book possible.



You Can Change It Later

I know you want to get the cover correct the first time. However, let's say you have a second edition of a book that you're ready to publish. That's a great time to update the cover of your book. Let me show you the three "How To" Books Andy and I redesigned. I think they're much better. Don't you?

How to Fail English With Style Cover Design

Power Scrapbooking Cover Design

Family History Scrapbooking Cover Design





Those are my 5 steps to creating a book cover. Was it helpful? What steps would you have? What steps do you want to learn more about? Leave a comment below.

To order A Recipe for Writing Family History, visit Amazon.com

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