Book Design: Everything You Need to Make a Stunning Book
A: Book design is the art of arranging text, content, formatting, and visual assets into a single cohesive product that elevates a manuscript, paper stock, and its cover design into more than the sum of its parts.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright famously said that “form and function are one,” meaning that design shouldn’t be a compromise between how something looks and how it works. While Wright was speaking specifically about building, his mantra perfectly sums up how we at Reedsy think about book design: that it should be both aesthetically pleasing and serve a greater practical purpose.
On this page, we’ve collected the best of Reedsy’s articles on book design. For an in-depth greater understanding of how book design can delight the senses, streamline the reading experience, and sell more copies, start here.
Book Cover Design
When most people talk about book design, thoughts immediately turn to the front cover (or ‘dust jacket,’ if you’re gaga for hardbacks). The most iconic covers have become classic designs in their own right — not only for their visual appeal but also for successfully encapsulating the author’s vision.
In combining form and function, a great book cover must:
- Visually stand out in a crowded bookstore – or as an online thumbnail;
- Legibly state the title and the author’s name (you’d be surprised by how many covers fall at this hurdle);
- Communicate the book’s tone and genre.
This third point is crucial to commercial success. Readers know what kinds of books they like. If they enjoy fast-paced Florida thrillers, they’ll pick up your page-turning Miami mystery novel as long as your cover conveys those elements.
Professional Cover Design
The most reliable way to get a beautiful, commercially viable cover is to hire a professional. This is someone who understands current genre trends and knows how to leverage them while also producing an original design. No easy feat.
The posts below will give you a good idea of how a professional cover designer works, what they can add to your book, and how to hire one. (They’re not as pricey as you might expect!)
- How to Design a Book Cover That Stands Out In 6 Steps
- Revealed: The Real Marketing Value of a Professional Book Cover
- 6 Tips for Writing the Perfect Cover Design Brief
- What to expect from your book cover designer
- Book Cover Designer: Find Your Perfect Professional
Making your own book cover
Hiring a professional cover designer is often the best investment an indie author can make. However, not everyone’s budget can stretch a few hundred dollars further, which is why a lot of authors will choose to dabble in design themselves. If you are considering a DIY cover, here are some essential resources to help you on your way.
- How to Choose the Right Book Cover Dimensions
- Book Cover Maker: Which DIY App Is Best for You?
- 20 Royalty-Free Stock Image Sites to Source a Book Cover Picture
- The Back of a Book Cover: How to Build One That Actually Works (with Template)
Cover Design Inspiration
Need to know what’s hot and what’s not in the world of cover design? We love writing about book covers and with new exciting designs dropping every year, we’re not running out of inspiration fodder anytime soon. Take a peek at the best-of lists below and prepare to swoon.
- 2020's Best Book Covers: 45 Designs to Feast Your Eyes On
- The 50 Best Children’s Book Covers of 2019
- Reedsy’s Book Cover Art Gallery
- 68 Book Cover Ideas To Inspire Your Next Book
- 50+ Cookbook Covers Guaranteed To Make Your Mouth Water
Book cover critiques
One of our regular live (and completely free!) events at Reedsy is our book cover critique, where we invite a professional designer to review covers submitted by indie authors. The advice our guests provide is always practical and engaging — and will give you a fly-on-the-wall peek at how professional cover designers approach their craft, as well as the considerations that go into things like typography and color palettes
- Cover Critique with David Provolo
- Cover Critique with Natasha MacKenzie
- Cover Critique with Michaela Alcaino
- Cover Critique with Annamieke Beemster Leverenz
- Cover Critique with Patrick Knowles
- Cover Critique with Joel Tippie
- Cover Critique with Anna Woodbine
Many readers assume that book designers are also illustrators — but in the publishing world, they are very different jobs indeed. When it comes to books that require illustrations — picture books or cookbooks, for example — publishers and indie authors will turn to specialists. The resources below will open your eyes to the sheer range of illustration styles, and show you what it’s like to have an artist work on your book.
- Book Illustration: 25 Beautiful Examples
- 20 Amazing Children's Book Illustrators (and How to Hire Them)
- Work with a Professional Children’s Book Illustrator (Webinar)
- Book Illustration: 100+ Illustrators For Hire
Returning to what we said about form and function, a book’s interior design — how its content is presented between the covers — is critical to a reader’s experience and enjoyment. In the articles below, we dive into design decisions that are often overlooked by many first-time publishers. From the size and shape of the book to elements like type and layout, you’ll learn what it takes to transform a manuscript into a professional book.
- Parts of a Book Explained: Front Matter, Body, and Back Matter
- What Are the Standard Book Sizes in Publishing?
- What is Typesetting? Your Guide to Interior Book Design
- Book Layout: 8 Key Tips from Professional Designers
- How to Format a Book (the Free and Easy Way)
Of course, no conversation about book design is complete without mentioning the printed word itself. Having long since evolved beyond working with mechanical printing presses, the art of type has now entered a glorious, digitally-enhanced golden age. In these articles, meet the people who have dedicated their careers to making letters beautiful and learn the ABCs of typography.
- What is Typography, And How Can You Get It Right?
- Typography: Cover Design Masterclass (Webinar)
- Hire a professional typographer with Reedsy
Creating a book
Book design mostly takes place on computers these days — but at some point, you’re going to have to turn those digital files into something people can read. Whether you’re looking at rustling up some printed copies or instantly reaching a global audience with ebooks, here are a couple of articles that will get you started.
- Print-On-Demand vs Offset Printing: Which Wins?
- EPUB vs mobi: Is Amazon's mobi Format Now Dead?
- How to Make a Book: Binding a Hardback in 5 Simple Steps
With these articles as your starting point, we hope you’ve seen why we value book design as much as we do. As authors, one of your goals should be to put wonderful things out into the world — expressions of creativity and ideas packaged in a way that’s both practical and beautiful.
Brought together, a focus on form and function will help you create a unique book that deserves pride of place in the homes and hearts of your readers.
[Updated: 12/15/2020 UTC]