5 Steps To Develop A Bestselling Book Cover Design

What makes a great book design cover?

Better yet, what makes a cover that makes a bestseller?

Don’t get me wrong here, just because you have a bestselling cover doesn’t mean that you have a bestseller. Full disclaimer, I can ensure you that if you follow these steps in this article that your cover will have what it takes.

Now, if the cover lines up with the writing, then we got a bestseller!

According to Canva, in their article “How To Design A Book Cover” they said…

“…Think of your cover design like a movie trailer. Sometimes you see a trailer and come away feeling like you’ve seen the entire film in two minutes because they’ve showed just about every major plot point. Other times, the trailers are a little more mysterious, they hint and give sneak peaks to the film’s contents, but you’re left wanting to see more.

Try to make your cover like the latter trailer, hint at elements of your story, but don’t give the whole game away just yet.”

I’m going to show you how you can do this, but before I do that, let me show you what book cover designs use to be like i.e; these book designs don’t do as well these days.

They use to include plot lines, lead characters, and full out scenes from the book as you can see to the right…

Book cover designs like these worked 50 years ago, however, I’m going to show you a 5 step process in this article that’ll help you avoid designing a date cover, or better yet a cover that isn’t relevant to your genre.

Why is learning how to develop a book cover design important or relevant to book sales?

Well, whether your book is on the bookshelf of Barnes & Noble or on Amazon your cover is the first thing that entices people to click, or take your book off the shelf.

A well crafted book cover design can be like a salesmen constantly selling your book without you having to be involved.

A great book cover design can produce passive income for you.

Don’t you think that’s reason enough to convince you that you need to understand how to develop a great book cover design for your book.

I’m going to show you a 5 step process that you can use for all of your book cover designs, and how you, or a hired gun can implement these elements in your book cover design, easily.

*No tech skills, no problem. This 5 step process that I’m teaching you in this article can be implemented by anyone, I promise.

Here’s the 5 steps that we are going to be covering:

  • Step 1: Find Relevant Book Cover Ideas
  • Step 2: A Simple Guide To Understanding Cover Fonts
  • Step 3: Using Elements That Convey Your Genre
  • Step 4: Formatting Your Cover For Different Marketplaces
  • Step 5: A Simple Tutorial: Design Your Cover With Canva

Step 1: Find Relevant Book Cover Ideas

The key to finding a relevant book cover design is by considering the genre that you are writing for i.e; a book cover in the “Mystery and Thriller” genre, as an example…

Is going to look a heck of a lot different then a Romance novel, to the right…

Consider the following questions before you go out and do research for book cover design ideas:

  • What genre are you writing for?
  • What platforms are you publishing on?
  • Who’s your audience?
  • Where do they hang out online?

Use Amazon Or Other Marketplaces

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on researching for a book cover design on Amazon.

1. Jump onto Amazon and just type in “Mystery Thriller” Or the genre, or proposed genre of your future book and type it into the search bar.

2. Click on the first book that you see.

*keep in mind that what you will see might be different dependant on where you are in the world, and whether or not your are logged into your Amazon account.

I’m in the great white north of Canada so this is what I see.

3. Now on the right hand side, if you are on PC, or Mac, you should see a “Add To Wishlist.” This is how I keep track of book covers that I like. Click it and add this book to the wishlist, and any other book cover designs that you are inspired by…

Now, keep this tab open on Amazon, as I will be getting you to come back to it in “Step 3: Using Elements To Convey Your Genre.”

Step 2: A Simple Guide To Understanding Cover Fonts

The design elements that decide the mood that your book cover design will evoke to your audience is usually the first elements that catch their eyes:

  • Title -Specifically the typographical features like font family, size, and spacing on the cover.
  • Hierarchy – Like weight and size of the title, author name, and subheadings indicating which type should be seen first when your audience glances at the cover.
  • Contrast – Which decides how easy it is for your audience to read your type amongst the background photo, illustration, colour, or other visual element i.e; black text on a dark blue suitcase won’t work.

    However, this book cover here created by professional book cover designer Matt Dorfman works because there is contrast between the black oil drenched suitcase and the bright red text.

Whether it’s you designing your book cover, which I’m totally going to show you how you can even if you don’t have any technical design skills, or it’s a hired gun, make sure you follow these design rules I just mentioned.

Now that I’ve empowered you with what design elements you should look for in a book cover, have a look at these Mystery/Thriller book covers. What’s similar about them that represents the Mystery/Thriller Genre?

Step 3: Using Elements To Convey Your Genre

It’s easy to want to get caught up in fancy designs that you personally like but it’s important that you are deliberate with your design, and that you stick to covers that consumers are use to buying in your genre.

With the recommendation I just made, it might be a good idea to check out book designs that are actually selling in your genre.

Wanna learn a quick shortcut to get to top performing books in your genre?

Of course you do…

1. Go back to Amazon.com again in the Mystery/Thriller list…

2. Now this time click the dropdown menu on the right corner “sort by”, if you are on PC or MAC, and select “Avg. Customer Review” and it will start with the books with the most reviews…

This will give you a relative gauge on the book cover designs for the best performing books in this genre.

What do you see that’s similar amongst all these books?

What’s similar about the main title, subheadings, author headings, colours, and other visual elements?

You are probably thinking “which one of these things is not like the other” alluding to the game that they use to play on Sesame Street…

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m probably way older than you but you can see what I’m talking about by watching a little excerpt…

Coming back to the book cover design…

Let me pick out a few design elements that I noticed that are carried throughout book covers in this genre that I can see and that you may be able to see as well:

  • The antagonist, or protagonist characters are featured
  • A core part of the plot is revealed, which if you remember is a design no-no in a lot of other genres but is used extensively to which evoke a sense of nostalgia. This is a key emotion that you may want to represent that’s featured in a lot of Mystery/Thriller books.
  • Overall the dark colours, and the ominous character outlines of the designs evoke a sense of secrecy, mystery, and curiosity for the reader.
  • Look at the type: huge main title, medium-sized subtitles, and small type for the author name. Remember Hierarchy, what should your readers see first?

Step 4: Formatting Your Cover For Different Marketplaces

How your book cover design looks in different marketplaces is one of the key elements of enticing readers to click and buy your book.

After all, your book cover design thumbnail is the first thing that your audience sees when they search, or are recommended a book in most of the marketplaces where books are sold online.

It’s sometimes a pain creating the properly formatted sizes for each book marketplace you are publishing on, therefore, I’ve put together this neat little table for you to reference back to…

Step 5: A Simple Tutorial: Design Your Cover With Canva

Ok, so we’ve done all the theory of what makes a killer, and hopefully profitable book cover design.

Now, let’s jump in and create a cover design with a tool I use called Canva.

Disclaimer: If you can login into Facebook, or use a computer you can design a book cover with Canva by following the recommendations in this article.

With Canva there are already created templates that are great starting points for a non-designer, non-techy person. I highly recommended because it’s what I use for everything.

Let’s get designing your book cover!

1. Go to Canva.com and sign up for a free 30 day trial.

2. Login, and it should look like this…

3. Click “Find Templates” on the left-hand sidebar…

4. On this page under the menu that starts with “Browse Templates” click “Book Covers.”

5. In the search menu at the top of the book cover page enter “mystery thriller” and click enter…

6. Do these Mystery/Thriller book cover designs look similar to what we seen on Amazon for this genre? “Why yes it does Shaun” you say…

Guess what, you get to use any of these designs. Of course, I recommend modifying but the design and layout is here for you. Super easy, right?

7. Ok, so let’s modify a design. I chose this design…

8. Let’s change the text, I’m going to call it “Woman Undone” as a placeholder…

Just double-click your text and enter in your title…

You can also click, hold, and drag the text to wherever you would like it…

9. To add a new background image, head over to pexels.com and download a new image.

10. To add the image you just downloaded head over to the menu bar on the left-hand side of the screen, select
“upload” and you will see a big green button that says “upload your own images” click it and upload your image…

11. Now, click the image you just uploaded and it will automatically be added to your cover. If you click on the image and drag it around the screen it will be added as the background image…it should look like this…

12. As you can see here the image looks weird, just double click it and you will have the ability to re-size it in the background…

Then you can move it around or re-size it. Once you are done just click the checkmark or the x if you don’t want to save your changes.

13. Make any final adjustments with the text, and the background image. For mine I’m just going to change the text to all white for the subheading.

This is what mine looks like…

Pretty simple, hey?

Keep in mind that you have many templates to choose from, try doing 5 or 6 different book cover designs using different templates to find the one that you like.


When considering designing your next bestselling book cover design maybe you are intimidated that you can’t design a great cover, or you are thinking that you have to hire a designer to design your cover.

This article proves that you can easily design your own professional looking book cover design.

If you are stuck for inspiration, and you are designing your book cover, or your hiring a designer, please use this 5 step guide to make your next book cover design a bestseller:

  • Step 1: Find Relevant Book Cover Ideas
  • Step 2: Using Elements That Convey Your Genre
  • Step 3: A Simple Guide To Understanding Cover Fonts
  • Step 4: Formatting Your Cover For Different Marketplaces
  • Step 5: A Simple Tutorial: Design Your Cover With Canva