(This article was updated on 15.08.2017)
You can’t judge a book by its cover. Still, people do it all the time.
Some authors on the market could sell a book with only their name printed on a black cover, but let’s be honest: we are not there yet. For mere mortals, covers are just as important in marketing as the catchy title and interesting blurb. You can try and design it for yourself or pay a pro to do it for you. Here are the pros and cons of 2D and 3D book covers, and some of the most popular cover design websites.
Advantages and disadvantages of 3D book covers
A 3D cover is an excellent thing to have: makes your book look “real” – and you feel like a real writer! With the help of the right software, you can easily create images that look like photos of printed books. If you would like to use your cover for marketing purposes, a 3D rendering of your 2D cover is necessary.
Your 3D book cover then can be used in your author email signature, share it on social media platforms and websites, and create amazing looking banners.
3D book covers work well with any genre: authors from all over the sprectum, including fiction and non-fiction use them.
However, you cannot use 3D covers in most online shops: they would not only look out of place on a virtual bookshelf, but are forbidden. The iTunes guide explicitly says (12.9): “The art can’t be a setup shot, three-quarter image, or a 3D representation of the book. Don’t use photographs of the book’s physical cover as cover art.”
So impressive as they look, you shouldn’t use 3D covers anywhere else than on your website and social media.
Hire a professional
I consider myself fairly creative: I’m a person of words. When it comes to design, however, I can’t tell good from bad.
Thankfully, it is not difficult to find a professional designer for designing a 3D cover. If you don’t have a friend who is a pro in InDesign or PhotoShop, pick one of the following websites to do the job for you. (If your favourite website is not on the list, please tell us about it in the comments.)
Ebooklaunch.com offers a full service. You can select a package consisting of either an ebook cover or both ebook and print cover, then share your ideas about what you would like to see (they also help you out, if you have absolutely no idea), pay by Paypal and receive your cover by email within 14 days. If you are not satisfied, they change it for you or give a full refund. The ebook only package costs $349, and it even includes a 3D book cover generator for marketing purposes. Still not convinced? Check out the full portfolio here. (We’re not affiliated with them in any way, just really like the service.)
If you are looking for something more affordable, Vila Design can do pretty much the same thing, but for a fraction of the price. Starting at $45 and increasing with the number of stock images used and photo manipulation required, their covers are beautiful and available for everyone.
They also offer a 3D cover service and can design a whole marketing package including Facebook banners and bookmarks.
Fiona Jayde Media provides plot help, layout design (page setting), cover design (with the possibility of a photoshoot with a professional photographer!) and a video trailer (yes, book trailers are on and trending). The options are endless: for $50, she generates 3D books from your cover, for $100 extra she gives you the banners and avatars necessary for your branding. Pick the package that is right for you or ask her for a quote.
Make it for yourself
If you are at least a bit more visual than I am, you can set out making your own book cover. There is nobody to know your book and your ideas better than you anyway.
This guide is specifically focused on designing 3D book covers, but we already have articles on book cover fonts, book cover sizes and book title punctuation:
- The Complete Guide to Choosing Your Book Cover Font with Examples
- Complete Guide to Book Cover Sizes – Why Do They Matter?
- A Guide on Book Title Punctuation
On Canva, you can design your own book cover for free. With a simple Google or Facebook login, you can use it either online or on your iPad.
I spent a good 25 minutes playing with it and creating the design below: it is quite simple to use and offers tons of free or cheap pictures, fonts and layouts. You can also upload your own pictures (just make sure that you’re only using loyalty free pictures on your cover).
Some pictures appear to be free at first glance, but if you are planning on selling your book, that counts as commercial use. Make sure that you don’t get yourself in any trouble: take your own photos or pay for a license.
Once you are done, you can also share your cover or simply embed it into your website (like I did now with the cover of this imaginary book I could’ve written). There is also a “Share this link” mode, where you can invite your friends or coworkers not only to see, but to edit your cover. The only downside of it is that it doesn’t offer 3D book cover generator – you can easily transform them though. I’ll tell you how in the next chapter.
3D book cover generators: make your own
If you find PhotoShop complicated, purpose-built software, like Boxshot 4 can do the job for you. Starting from $79 is a bit on the expensive side (but with a free demo version); it can’t only design book covers but groceries, magazines, and other 3D objects. They also operate a free online service: you just upload your front and side, set lighting and reflexions and render.
The BossEye 3D Box Shot Maker can do considerably less, but it is free. You just set the side and front image, and it gives you the 3D book cover. You can even set a shadow!
If you would like something which looks more like a book and less like a box, Adazing.com works simply from the browser. You pick your style, upload your image, enter your email address and are happy with the result: the picture above was made using Adazing.com, and I can hardly believe that this book has never been written. The only backside is the spine: normally you would have the title and author there, but Adazing keeps it black.
Creating your 3D book cover: a step-by-step guide
The aforementioned 3D book cover generators are all amazing, but they offer limited customization options. If you would like to have something very special, you can also have a go and do it yourself.
You will need:
- your book cover in good resolution,
- a 3D book cover template (you can get one easily from any stock photo database),
- your spine in a separate image (if you are using a template with spine),
- a photo editor, like PhotoShop, Gimp or Pixlr,
- and a lot of time.
The spine is extremely simple to make: you just need to write the author’s name and the title vertically upwards (on downwards, if you are American) in front of a white background or the background colour of your book cover. If your color is a picture, you could pretend that the picture continues on the spine, like here:
If you are good with PhotoShop, or at least not afraid of it, there are plenty of guides and templates out there to teach you the how to. If you feel like spending around 30 minutes creating your 3D cover, you can follow this guide. They show you how you can create your 2D cover from nothing and how to simply 3D it.
Since not everyone can afford PhotoShop, you can also use Gimp and Pixlr. Pixlr is also great if you don’t have acces to a desktop computer or prefer to work online. If you are using Pixlr, just open the file with the cover template, insert your cover and drag the corners until they match. You can do the same with your spine.
So, go and grab your mouse or wallet and get yourself noticed by the cover.
Also, feel free to share your own book cover in the comments.