10 essential book cover tips for indie authors

From Old Mate Media:

Every book needs a cover and in a world where a million books are created every day, your book cover needs to be outstanding.

Bleed, margins, spines, embedding fonts, source files, layers, swatches and CMYK vs RGB are just some of the design terms we throw around every day here at Old Mate Media. If those words strike you down in an anxious whirlwind of confusion it’s time to calm your heart. You are not alone. Most authors don’t understand all the particulars and intricacies of book design.

It’s awfully important to get all these elements and many more right and your cover is one of the best places to invest your funds in a professional. But here is the kicker. Artists aren’t designers either. They don’t make books and go through the process of converting them into ePubs, Kindles, hardcovers, paperbacks, apps and more.

At Old Mate Media, we create the art, do the book designs and upload the various formats to their storefronts, so we’re across the whole spectrum. But we also complete plenty of books for authors who have had their cover design done elsewhere and it’s astounding how often the file they receive isn’t print ready. We’ve written this article because of the dizzying percentage of authors using our design service that send us cover art that hasn’t been prepared properly.

So how do you make sure your artist delivers you a book cover file that is everything it needs to be? We’ve created this step by step book cover guide to help you ensure your cover artist doesn’t leave you short changed. Whether you end up using our services or not, we believe in empowering indie authors with the knowledge to grow.

Book Cover Tips #1 – What is your book’s trim size?

It’s fair to assume most authors will be aiming to release their book in print. So how big is your book going to be? It is the first thing an artist needs to know to prepare your cover for you and if you change your mind, or are not sure, before you commission the cover, then it will need to be reworked. You can rarely just expand or shrink the image to the new size. Words will be cut-off, characters won’t be centred or your printer will blacklist the cover outright for having elements outside the printable margins.

Also remember that the bigger your book, the more – in general – it will cost to make and post, so don’t go overboard without good reason. For more, visit our list of the most common trim sizes in inches, centimetres and pixels. Just remember that a book cover must include a front, a spine and a back when submitted to a printer.

If we receive just a front cover image, then we will need to complete the spine and back with something more generic. This could end up being a block colour with text and another asset over the top. This other asset could be a photo of the author, or another image from within the book. It’s a totally acceptable solution if you’re left hanging with just the front image, but does take more design work.

Book Cover Tips #2 – Have you considered bleed?

Perhaps one of the most common mistakes we see from illustrators working on covers is that they don’t consider the need for bleed. Bleed is the name given to the part of an image that extends past the trim size of your book. It’s an essential requirement of every printer. The bleed is a minimum of 0.125-inches in width the whole way around your book, and we have a much more extensive guide to the concept here.

Book Cover Tips #3 – Paperback or Hardback (or both)?

Paperback and hardback covers have quite different requirements. Hardback covers require a lot more bleed than a paperback. This is because a part of the cover gets wrapped around into the interior of the book. It’s how the “hard” part is kept contained. So your cover art therefore needs to have bleed of 0.625-inches added on all sides.

If you intend to sell both paperback and hardback, or are unsure, then simply get your artist to make the book with hardback bleed. As it is bleed – excess background of your cover – your book designer can trim it at 0.125” or 0.625” as required.

Link to the rest at Old Mate Media