• Jacobus Kotze


YES, a book is judged by its cover! If not good you will not sell.

I wrote 62 books at the time of writing this blog. Obviously, I learned a few things which I shared in a series of short video clips for free at You are welcome to look at them. This blog deals with the one named “Designing a book cover.”

Let us look at designing a book cover. Now it is true, don’t deny what is obvious, a book cover is what makes the reader reach for it. A bad cover or a bland one, even worse, and he will walk right past to the next one. Unless you have a major author name this is important because it affects sales.

Firstly, you can design your own cover if you have some artistic abilities. There is excellent free software online available, I use Canva, which is fantastic. I am lucky in the sense that my wife and co-author is a terrific designer. She is also quick. So, our method is for me to search for a good quality picture and from there she will design the cover for us. If you cannot design something that says “wow” I will advise you to spend money and have an artist do so for you (not us, we don’t have time). But don’t spend hundreds, it can be done cheaply.

There is also in this series two clips on the legalities of book publishing. As a legal man, I know the pitfalls and especially copyright infringements. You would do well to listen to those videos. You cannot just use any name or any picture for your book. You need to either have permission to use a cover picture or use a royalty-free one. There are many websites available to download “high quality free to use royalty-free non-attribution pictures” for your cover. See the list below in no particular order, they all are good:

Where you have to attribute, that is to acknowledge the photographer/designer, then do so by saying inside the book (see the video on “Book Format – Technical”) that “The picture used on the cover was taken by WHOEVER. Used with permission, downloaded from www_____________. Thank you.” Usually, the attribution/credit is described fully at the website – a message appears, “you have to credit the photographer” and an example is given. Besides being good manners this is a legal requirement. You don’t need to do so with your own pictures which is not the same as “taking” your wife’s – technically she must agree first. Note also that no child or face of a real person can be used without written permission (if not on one of the websites for downloads). Even so, I will advise you to never use a child’s picture on your cover.

Now the other thing. You must (this is not negotiable), you must have the same name as the author and the book name on the cover as what would be inside the copyright page of your book. Exactly the same, no changes. Before you upload to Amazon and any other outlet you need to have a description ready (see the video on this topic) as well as a short bio and picture of yourself for the back page. The cover must also be in whatever size the outlet wants it to be or it will be rejected. Amazon is as follows:

For eBooks – jpeg format, 1600x2400 pixels, and 600 dpi with nothing written too close to the sides of the book. As a rule of thumb, at least 2.5 cm or 1 inch above and away but during loading, you will see the cut-off lines in their software. Even if close to them will lead to the cover being rejected. Stay inside those lines.

For paperbacks, the most popular size is 6x9 inches but the actual cover is 6.25x9.50 inches as some is cut away during printing. It can be, you tick the boxes, either in Matt or Gloss finishes. Now be very sure that you select white paper (cheap) and not color (unless you must – say a cookbook) or cream paper (awfully expensive). The dpi must be above 500, I use 600 dpi which works.

The way the design look must show it is your series, that is, the same for all books, same font, same size, the same way. This is for marketing purposes, instantly recognized as your series – as an example look at the GMJ Series of books at They are instantly recognizable as George M James' books. Of course, for a single book, this is not so important. But you will also find out that a series sells much better than a single book. Just a fact of life.

You can always change the cover. That is the wonderful thing about publishing your own works. You don’t need permission or begging. Just do it. You will be surprised how many authors changed a cover and suddenly boosted sales. But the lesson is this, a book is totally judged by its cover and then only for content. This is of extreme importance if you woish to have success.

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