How to Design a Book Cover

Making Book Jackets for School Projects

Books with office supplies

Utamaru Kido / Getty Images

A common assignment given to middle and elementary school students is to design a summarizing book cover. Why? Many teachers are partial to this literature assignment because it contains elements of crafting, allowing more room for creativity, and provides students with a new way to summarize the plot and theme of a book.

Elements of this type of book jacket usually include:

  • an image that hints at a book’s contents
  • a summary of the story
  • a review of the book
  • a biography of the author
  • publication information

When designing a thoughtful book cover for a novel, you must know a lot about its author and story. This is because creating a book cover is a lot like creating an advanced book report without giving away too much of the story. You cannot be successful in designing an appropriate cover for a book with which you are unfamiliar.

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Designing the Whole Jacket

Standard book cover layout

ThoughtCo / Grace Fleming

To ensure that your cover or jacket will have room for each element you wish to include, you'll first want to plan a basic layout. This should show where each piece of your project will go and how much space you can devote to them. For example, you might want to put the author’s biography on the back cover or the back flap and you know you will need at least half a page for it, wherever it goes.

Play around with a few different formats until you settle on one you like and use a rubric to make sure you don't leave anything out. Start with the arrangement in the image above if you don't know where to begin.

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Preparing an Image

Boy drawing in a sketch book

Fabio Principe / EyeEm / Getty Images

Your book jacket should contain an image that intrigues potential readers by giving them a taste of what's to come without spoiling the whole plot. Just as publishers do when designing real book covers, you should devote a good deal of time and energy to creating the perfect visual representation.

One of the first considerations for your image should be the genre and theme of your book. Your cover should reflect this genre and symbolize this theme. For example, if your book is a scary mystery that takes place in a haunted house, you could sketch an image of a spider in the corner of a dusty doorway. If your book is a funny tale about a clumsy girl, you could sketch an image of shoes with the shoestrings tied together.

If you are not comfortable sketching your own image, you can use text (be creative and colorful!) and/or public domain images. Ask your teacher for advice if you intend to use an image created by someone else to avoid copyright infringement.

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Writing Your Book Summary

Girl writing in a sketchy book

 

Maskot / Getty Images 

The next piece to start working on is the book summary, which is usually found on the inside flap of book jackets. Because the intention is still to capture your readers' attention, this summary should sound a little different from a book report summary and give less of the plot away. You need to “tease” the reader with hints and examples, never telling them the climax. Instead, make them wonder what will happen.

In the haunted house mystery example, you could suggest that the house seems to have a life of its own. You could go on to explain that the house's inhabitants are having strange experiences within the house and end on the open-ended question or cliffhanger: “What is behind the odd noises Betty hears when she wakes each night at 2:00 a.m.?” The goal should be for readers to want to read to find out.

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Writing the Author’s Biography

Boy writing in a notebook

alvarez / Getty Images

The average author's bio is fairly short, so yours should be too. Limit the biography to only the most relevant information. When researching, ask yourself: What events in the author's life are connected to the topic of this book? What makes this author particularly qualified to write a book like this.

Optional pieces of information include the author’s place of birth, number of siblings, level of education, writing awards, and previous publications. Use these only as needed. Unless otherwise instructed, keep your biography to two or three paragraphs long. These are usually found on the back cover.

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Putting It All Together

Little girl crafting

chudakov2 / Getty Images

You're finally ready to put it all together. To make sure that the dimensions of your jacket are perfect, you'll need to first measure the size of your book’s face from bottom to top to find its length then spine to edge to find its width. Cut a strip of paper six inches longer than the height and fold it over each side, trimming until you are happy with the size. Measure this new length. Repeat for the width.

Now, multiply your book's updated dimensions by two (you may need to multiply its width by more than this depending on the thickness of your book). You can start cutting and pasting elements onto the cover once the jacket is fitted and secured. Use the template you made earlier to organize these pieces and remember not to glue anything down until the placement is just right.