If you are using a picture or illustration on the cover, make sure it is high-resolution (300dpi at the size you are using it) and in the right format – TIFF or eps files are best. Do not use a JPEG as they are not suitable for print. Also make sure that the text, if it prints over a picture, is legible.
Technical as well as artistic skill is employed in designing a book cover, and if you feel overwhelmed by the thought of doing all this you could always employ a professional designer to look after the cover for you. How would you find one? You may be lucky and know someone who could recommend one. If not, you could try the internet. Google ‘graphic designer’ and add your home town if you’d like to meet the designer face-to-face rather than work remotely. Make sure you choose a designer with plenty of books on their website, as you will need to find one who specialises in publishing. Alternatively, you could have a look at your favourite books in the bookshop and look at the imprint details (usually on page 4 of the book) to see who the designer was. If no designer is credited, the book will have been done by the publisher’s in-house designer who will not be able to take on freelance commissions. Expect to pay £500+ to get a selection of designs and finished printer-ready artwork.
Publishing has changed in the past few years. Where it used to be editorally led, it is now marketing-led. This has it’s good points, after all publishing is big business, and owners and shareholders are in it for the money. It has it’s downside though, as books are much more homogeonised now, and nobody wants to take risks with either content or design.
Take heart though. Although it’s tough, the satisfaction you’ll get from publishing your own book will be immense – and who knows, you could be the next JK Rowling.
For more information, take a look at my related blogs (part 1 and part 2).