How to make your own Advanced Review Copy (ARC) Cover for Pre-Publication Reviews (Free templates to download!)

If you want to send your book out to major reviewers, you need to send them an Advance Review Copy (ARC), aka “Advanced Uncorrected Galley”, at least 3 months (but preferably six months) before publication. If you’re indie or self-publishing, I wouldn’t recommend it: it’s a lot of extra work and effort that is unlikely to pay off: huge companies and reviewers will ignore your book unless it comes with major backing (famous people’s support), so your ARC will probably get trashed. Meanwhile other reviewers (the ones who will review your book) probably don’t care about ARC’s and would rather get a finished, beautiful book. Trying to play the game the way the book publishers do is a plan to fail; you’re indie, you need to take advantage of your ability to be quick, light and fast. Instead of sending out ARC’s, you could be putting finished books in the hands of key players (popular bloggers, community leaders, etc) who will help promote it.


If you do want to make an Advanced Review Copy, despite my voice of caution, some other book designers charge extra to make one for you, usually over $100. (FYI, I don’t charge my clients for ARC’s).

Luckily you can make one  yourself. The key ingredients of an Advanced Uncorrected Galley, is a tag that says “ADVANCE UNCORRECTED GALLEY”. Simple, right? I’ve made a bunch for you at hi-res, so you can just download one you like and add it to your book, one on the back and one on the front.

 (Click on the picture once to see the big version, then right-click and ‘save as…’)










You may also need to include (it’s a nice idea, not sure if it’s always mandatory) the marketing information, in a new box on the back that obscures the barcode (because this is not for sale).

According to Joel Friedlander of THE BOOK DESIGNER, you should include this info:

  • Prominent box added to brand the books as “Advance Uncorrected Galley”
  • The same prominent box added to the back cover
  • The lower half of the back cover has been reformatted both to make room for the box, and to accommodate the new elements
  • One quote, which was used in the press release that accompanied the ARC package, has been removed
  • Author information has been moved up
  • A new box, “Marketing Campaign” has been added. This box contains critical marketing information. Make sure to include here:
    • A brief summary of marketing plans
    • Bibliographic data including ISBN and subject categories, trim size and page count
    • Pricing information
    • Contact information for your publishing company and your PR or marketing contact person
    • Who will be distributing your book

So I’m also including a few blank boxes you can download and use.

 (Click on the picture once to see the big version, then right-click and ‘save as…’)


Here’s one of the ARC’s I’ve made recently:


I hope these are useful! If so, please share!



How much should I pay for book cover design services?

When I started designing covers, I charged a few hundred bucks and couldn’t believe some designers charged over a thousand dollars for book cover design.

Here are some factors that impact how much designers charge.

  1. They’re process and how long it takes.
  2. Whether they offer unlimited variations and changes
  3. Whether they’re also including promotional graphics
  4. Whether they are working for themselves or outsourcing to cheaper designers
  5. Where they’re from (average cost of living)
  6. Amount of traffic and reputation they have
  7. Specific knowledge of the industry
  8. Marketing experience to know which covers will actually sell books

I started by pricing cheap and have built a profitable business by creating lots of great content. Now I have enough demand to charge enough that I can focus my time on making a handful of clients happy, rather than trying to keep out with the demand at a lower price point.

Pricing is a matter of how much someone is willing to pay for what you’ve got.

In general, $600 can get you a great cover, and you might be able to find a cover for $300 (though those designers sometimes don’t have as much experience and can get things like the text and fonts wrong).

I charge more because I end up being a publishing coach and marketing consultant for all my clients, which is more valuable than just the cover alone. But I also put out cheap or free resources on cover design (including cover design templates and DIY videos) for indie authors who don’t have the budget for professional cover design.

For your first book, I don’t recommend spending too much on a cover until you’ve gotten beta readers in your target market and see how they respond to it (strangers, not friends and family). But, a great cover is also important for all of your marketing… so get the best you can currently afford, rather than going cheap and spending a lot on marketing or promotion, which will fail without a great cover.

Before you hire a designer, make sure to learn the important elements of book cover design so you know what mistakes to avoid. I have resources that will help at

How to make your book cover text stand out on the thumbnail version?

Today I got an email asking a common indie author question: how to I make the thumbnail book cover ‘pop’ but still make the cover look good at full size? Here’s the email:

We have published a book at Amazon’s Kindle eBooks and like the cover image in all respects except one: the main title (Awakening’s Treasure) is not very visible in the first thumbnail one sees when browsing the Kindle catalog page (perhaps author’s name also).

The consideration is how to make it more visible in a way that also works in the larger blowups (when clicking the initial image, and the Look Inside image). This might mean a different color, larger font, different font, etc.

Self-publishing gurus and indie experts keep saying that the thumbnail text needs to be legible, which means the cover has to be really big. First of all, I’m not sure I agree. The thumbnail’s job is to catch the eye and get an emotional response. So it can be quirky, interesting, beautiful, tragic – as long as viewers have some reaction to it. The is not really about the text – it’s about the images and colors; the book cover design (unless your main selling feature is your brilliantly creative title, but that’s rarely the case). They can read your book’s title and info right under the thumbnail anyway, so why does it need to be big enough to read?

If there’s a compromise to be made, I would always shoot for a good looking full size, rather than a good looking thumbnail. The email came from John Enzo, about his book “awakening’s treasure”. Here’s the thumbnail.

He’s right, the text is hard to read – but that’s not really the problem. I could make the text huge and clear, but the title doesn’t generate any interest. What’s really important in this cover is the maze, and the rose, which is actually pretty well done (here’s the full cover).

In the full cover, we can see that this is actually a very polished and clean design. I like it. I might fix up the font/text a little, but the main thing about the cover has to be the images; the text just needs to be built INTO the picture in a subtle or complimentary manner. So, while I would pull the text down from the top a bit, and make it wider and bolder, what I’d really want to do is zoom in on that rose and maze, maybe make it take up most of or all of the cover (then I could put bands of orange yellow across for the text).

I would probably also change the title font to something a little more dreamy/romantic… to go along with the feeling I get from the images.

If the cover looks great and has a good ‘feel’, you don’t need to be able to read the text on the thumbnail, so don’t stress it too much (the majority of professionally published books actually have very small text, only thrillers have huge cover text).

Book Cover Makeover

I went ahead and redid the text. I tried some script fonts but this is what we ended up liking the best.

The author writes:

When I compare your work with the original image, such a difference…..the original is so subdued but your work revitalizes it. One of our small Blue Mesa team wanted me to convey that it looks exquisite.

What a difference a few changes can make. 🙂


How to design your own amazing, cheap and easy book cover

Do you absolutely need a book cover designer? No. You can probably do it by yourself, if you follow these simple steps:

1) Resist the urge to put everything INSIDE your book on the OUTSIDE. The book cover is about getting interest and creating an emotional response. Sometimes, human figures/faces can do this very well. But so can a beautiful landscape. The trick is to find one amazing photograph that can represent a scene, object or person in your book, and stick with it. DON’T try to put all of the important things on the cover (ie the jobs of each character, all of the main scenes and places, and everything that happens.)

2) Get an awesome, royalty free image. There are lots of great sites to find excellent stock photography. Keep in mind that the most interesting/unique photographs will probably be used by other Indie Authors and will be easily recognized. So go for something more subtle (maybe cut out the model’s face, stick with her side/arms). Get a photo that matches the mood of your book – light, dark, funny, mysterious, etc. You can find photos on flickr under the creative commons, or get a friend to take something.

3) Use a simple, clean font. It can be a free font, but the more unique and bizarre it is, the more likely it will stand out (in a bad way). Find something subtle and crisp. Avoid basic free fonts. Do a search for fonts that fit your genre (mystery fonts, country fonts, action fonts, etc) and download a few. Avoid all text effects, like drop shadow, gradient, stroke… place the text in parts of the picture that make it stand out naturally (put white text in dark areas, dark text in light areas). It doesn’t even really matter if it doesn’t stand out that well. (Check out all of the books being published these days, that use small, minimal contrast text, like white text on light backgrounds.

4) Forget about the thumbnail!
Authors always tell me that the text or certain little details can’t be seen from a thumbnail and that this is a problem. If you’ve chosen a beautiful photograph, that photograph will still be beautiful as a thumbnail. If the cover is too detailed and complicated, and it ONLY looks OK when you can see the whole thing closely, it’s probably too busy. Yes, your thumbnail is important – it should be nice enough to make them want to click and see what it is. Readers don’t have to actually have to see/understand your thumbnail clearly though, there should just be some nice bold colors or intriguing picture to make them spend that extra second to see it up close. Again, the best way to have an excellent thumbnail is to start off with a beautiful royalty free picture.

To sum up. ONE amazing picture, with a little bit of text on it in the right places, equals a beautiful cover.

How to make a sci-fiction book cover in photoshop

I’m finishing up a science fiction book cover for Cameron Mcvey’s “Nova Sol” – it’s fun to see how far it has come since the initial mockups. Based on the description (a moon crashing into earth/green planet, with lightning, maybe a person watching) I came up with these:

Cameron liked the 3rd one, so I reworked it into these, adding detail and text effects, and changing the man:

(I really love this one of the road, but maybe I’ll use it for something else).

The following will probably be the winner:


What do you think?


My most challenging book cover design project yet!

Tonight I started working on a book cover design for David Keith’s “It was 1975: Rages to Riches and Sometimes Voices”. David has put together a very detailed montage/sketch of his book cover vision, as well as a highly complex set of directions.


The title of the book is: IT WAS 1975 (Rags to Riches and Sometimes Voices).  I want the cover design to replicate the attached design I made.  The story is about a long struggling journey, which includes hitchhiking across the U.S. in the character’s early twenties.

  • I want the backdrop to be a foreboding desert landscape, with a smaller saddened hitchhiker wearing a green army jacket and his white small dog (30 pounds) near his side.  Maybe have a couple buzzards circling above. 
  • A few years later the character has a religious experience but it is not the main theme of the book so on the right is an almost faded country church that has some illumination. 
  • The present day middle aged man with my likeness bursts through the canvas and behind him peering out and one trying to reach for him are two ominous dark shadowy people (eyes seen), who have been the voices in his head for years.  The backdrop inside the tear has micro-fine red random words of doubt or ridicule, some of which over lap outside the tear.  
  • The man has an overjoyed expression as he finds a mountain of riches (can be money, jewels, gold, etc.). 
  •  I would also like somewhere in the cover an iconic representation of the 60s/70s, such as a peace sign.  Better yet, next to the road where the hitchhiker is, have a tilted road sign with a peace sign sprayed painted on it

Now normally, my first instinct would be to say “Your idea is waaaay too busy. There’s no way to pull this off.” But instead, I want to see if I can exactly replicate David’s cover, and manage to make it look awesome. I think sometimes the effort that goes into designing a cover like this – finding all of the perfect elements and blending them together seamlessly – is vastly underestimated… so I want to show the process of how a book cover gets developed from a very specific plan like this into a real cover.


This is a rough mock-up based on the images I was able to find. It is pretty busy, but it’s not too busy. If this design gets the go-ahead, I can clean everything up and blend it together so it looks more realistic. Some problems:

  • Couldn’t find a hitchiker in a green jacket
  • The church doesn’t fit into the background, because this scene bends down rather than up as it recedes.
  • For the same reason, I can’t put the church that high up (it would be too far away to see) so it has to go lower, but then the center tear-demon-gold elements has to be in the middle. May be able to fix this with a different background.

Updates coming soon!


How big should my book cover title be? Designing book covers for kindle and ebook readers

Here’s the common advice – book cover titles should be AS BIG AS POSSIBLE to be easily read as thumbnails. If you can’t read it clearly when it’s TINY, then it fails as a book cover.

So many indie authors heed (and demand that I heed) this advice that I generally follow it automatically. But that doesn’t mean I agree! If you look at the book covers that win book cover design awards, the most important thing is the overall aesthetic impression – all the text elements should be small, hidden or smoothly flowing within the picture; they should be part of the picture, not jump out at you. Legibility is not really the key issue. The point of a book cover is NOT to introduce your book’s title to your target reader.

The point of a book cover design is to make an emotional reaction. You want someone to look at a cover and feel those intense interior emotions that good artwork invariably causes. So the first thing you need is a brilliant, beautiful picture/cover design to hook attention. The title doesn’t really matter at all, as long as it looks cool, fits the rest of the design and the genre.

You might say “Well big publishers can afford to be stylish, but we indie authors need bold text to stand out.” FALSE – in fact, since you’re selling online, everybody will immediately be able to see your book’s title in the description ANYWAY – you want them to click on your tiny thumbnail because it invokes interest, not because of the title. And then, the title and subtext will be clearly written on your book’s sell page. So actually, self-published authors who don’t have to worry about grabbing attention from a shelf across the bookstore, have even more leeway with cover design. Take risks! Be daring! Find an amazing, beautiful picture, and add the title simply and strongly where it fits. You don’t need to bevel, drop shadow, or outline text – it should stand out naturally from the placement contrast.

I predict that as indie publishers continue to use bigger text and fonts, “real” book publisher designers will increasingly make simple, small and elegant titles.

What size should my ebook cover be? Best ebook cover size for kindle, amazon, barnes and noble, etc.

After finishing a recent project, the author read an article  by Natasha Fondren about optimum size specifications for amazon kindle, bn, nook, ibookstore and ipad formats.

Based on the advice of this article, the author asked if I could resize the ebook cover for the specifications of each ebook site.

The original article says “Again, 600px x 800px will pretty much cover your bases, so if you choose one size, I suggest that one.”

Here’s a handy chart to prove this point true:

  • EC = Embedded Cover (give to ebook formatter to embed)
  • CC = Catalog Cover (you’ll upload separate from ebook)
  • n/s = Not Specified
Format Size in px Resolution File Size
Kindle CC JPG, TIFF min 500px max 1280px 72 dpi n/s
Kindle EC JPG 600 x 800 167ppi – 300dpi 127kb
B&N/Nook CC JPG, GIF, PNG 600 x 730 n/s n/s
B&N/Nook EC JPG, GIF, PNG 600 x 1024 170 ppi 300kb
iPad EC JPG, GIF, PNG 600 x 860 132 ppi 200kb

Is 600×800 the “right size” for ebook covers?

This is fairly good advice – just make sure you tell your designer at the beginning of the process of you want your cover to be exactly 600×800. Many designers however, myself included, don’t use a default maximally optimal look good everywhere width-height ratio. Why not?

A) Each cover is unique. I could, and probably should, cram all the cover elements together to make them fit a standard output. But all my covers are a little different. They range usually from somewhere between 600×800~600x900px. I focus on aesthetics, not format.

B) Personally, I don’t like 600×800 – it looks more like a box than a book. Yes, it might fit snugly into every px of space allowable, but you’ll still get a box shaped, ebook-looking cover. Real book covers are tall and narrow.


What difference does it make?

On my Kindle Fire, different books have an assortment of different size ratios. I hadn’t even noticed until just now, when I picked it up to check. Some are lean and tall. Some are fat and square. My covers are lean and tall – this makes them look, in my opinion, more professional than the bulky/shorter 600×800 ones. Most of the ugly, obviously self-published books have strange little square covers.

Truth is, it doesn’t matter. Big publishers aren’t worrying about this – why should indie authors? If you have a vaguely book shaped cover that looks good on your computer, it will almost certainly look fine across most of the ebook devices. What you need to worry about is having an amazing book, with a beautiful cover, and getting lots of reviews.



Original article here:

179 beautiful, interesting or creative book cover designs for inspiration

You can probably tell a lot about a book cover designer by the book covers that they like. So here are a few of my favorite book covers, in a variety of genres. These appeal to me for different reasons; some only have elements I like. If you need a book cover design that’s anything like any of these, (not exactly alike of course, just slightly similar) it’d be my pleasure to work on it.

PS) This collection is outdated; I’ve started adding my favorite covers to a Pinterest board instead, which you can find here.





Cover design secrets that sell books

If you need help, make sure to download my free guide!

I’ve helped design over 1000 book covers, including hundreds of bestsellers – download my free book to learn all the insider secrets I use to sell more books. Click here to get it now. I’ll also share some of the advanced book marketing tactics I’ve used to make a full-time income with my writing.

How to set up a publishing imprint for your self-published book (and how to design a logo)

If you’re self publishing a novel or non-fiction book, you may get stuck on what to list as your publisher or imprint. Although this issue is largely avoided if you go the ebook-only route, when you’re preparing your full book cover for print with Lulu or Createspace, that little space on the bottom of your book spine, which usually features the publisher’s logo, may seem loudly empty. If you don’t want your book to look obviously self-published, you need to put something here. But what?

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter. Make up a company/publishing name, and a simple logo. You don’t really need to register it, or make up a fake publisher’s website, or anything like that. It’s just a quick cosmetic fix that makes your product look more professional. After you’ve picked a name, you can use that rather than ‘createspace’ or ‘lulu’ as the publishing imprint (you may need to pay a little extra to have this option; you should also try to get your ISBN listed with this information.)

How to make a publishing imprint logo

One of my clients sent me this photo and asked if it might work to make a logo.

It took me about a minute to turn it into this:


Which I could then add into the print cover:

I don’t really like the white square on black; so I’ll probably invert the logo and make the text bolder:

It’s a small step; not necessarily the most important, but worth doing if you’re trying to do things right. If you need a logo design or publishing imprint made, contact me for details.