Publish & Prosper

Cover to Cover: Getting Your Book Design Right

April 17, 2024 Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo Season 1 Episode 21
Cover to Cover: Getting Your Book Design Right
Publish & Prosper
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Publish & Prosper
Cover to Cover: Getting Your Book Design Right
Apr 17, 2024 Season 1 Episode 21
Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo

In this episode, Lauren & Matt take a look at best practices for book design. We’ll review key design elements that often get overlooked on book covers, what to include inside your book, and whether or not we think it’s worth the cost to pay for book cover and interior design. 

Dive Deeper

💡 Download Lulu’s Free Guides & Templates

💡 Check Out the Professional Designers on Our Hire A Pro Page

💡 Read These Blog Posts

💡 Watch This Book Formatting Playlist on YouTube

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [10:15] “I do think that if you're a very creative individual and you're using a tool that doesn't have a steep learning curve, you could probably create a cover that's good enough. But again, if this is something that you've put a lot of time and effort into chances are you don't want something that's just good enough.”

🎙️ [26:09] "Something to keep in mind as you're figuring out your cover design and figuring out what you want to do with that, consider how it's going to look with the rest of your books and consider how it's going to look with your own professional branding." 

🎙️ [35:27] “I think one of the most important things you can include, especially for those of you who have not been listening to us, or everybody else out there right now, about trying to sell direct. Back matter is the perfect place to try and drive people to your author platform, to sign up for your email newsletters or whatever that might be.”

Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Lauren & Matt take a look at best practices for book design. We’ll review key design elements that often get overlooked on book covers, what to include inside your book, and whether or not we think it’s worth the cost to pay for book cover and interior design. 

Dive Deeper

💡 Download Lulu’s Free Guides & Templates

💡 Check Out the Professional Designers on Our Hire A Pro Page

💡 Read These Blog Posts

💡 Watch This Book Formatting Playlist on YouTube

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [10:15] “I do think that if you're a very creative individual and you're using a tool that doesn't have a steep learning curve, you could probably create a cover that's good enough. But again, if this is something that you've put a lot of time and effort into chances are you don't want something that's just good enough.”

🎙️ [26:09] "Something to keep in mind as you're figuring out your cover design and figuring out what you want to do with that, consider how it's going to look with the rest of your books and consider how it's going to look with your own professional branding." 

🎙️ [35:27] “I think one of the most important things you can include, especially for those of you who have not been listening to us, or everybody else out there right now, about trying to sell direct. Back matter is the perfect place to try and drive people to your author platform, to sign up for your email newsletters or whatever that might be.”

Send us a Text Message.

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.

Lauren: Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of Publish & Prosper. Today we're going to be talking about something very important that's not controversial at all. And it's going to be how excited we both are for the eclipse this afternoon.

Matt: I can tell you right now, I just had this conversation in my office with Lali. I have zero excitement for this solar eclipse. Zero. Like I couldn't care less. 

Lauren: I completely understand. I know. 

Matt: In fact, I'm tired of hearing about it.

Lauren: I, I - yeah. I’m sure. 

Matt: Hit me again in 2044 and maybe I'll feel differently if I'm still alive. 

Lauren: In theory, this episode comes out after the eclipse has long passed. 

Matt: Right, yeah.

Lauren: So I'm sure we've all been very excited and survived and incredible things have happened. 

Matt: What, what if though, however, most people didn't survive and there's only a handful of people hearing this podcast - which would be normal, by the way - but this time they're only hearing it because they're survivors of whatever happened today? 

Lauren: What if this is the timestamp of the before times? We're just about to be in a complete cultural reset. Seems unlikely.

Matt: I don't, I don't, I don't like the direction this just took. 

Lauren: Okay. Well, why don't we talk about something else that is actually important and something that we probably are more excited about than whatever's going on with the sun in the sky? And that would be interior and cover design best practices for your book. 

Matt: I'm not sure everybody would agree with you that that is a more fun topic than what is going on outside today. But again, since what is going on outside today will not be going on when this drops, then I guess by default, this will be the more exciting topic. 

Lauren: I genuinely think this is more exciting, so.

Matt: I think we've already established why you would think it was more exciting. I'm actually a big fan of this topic, believe it or not. 

Lauren: I think it's important. 

Matt: And if you talk to anybody on our design team, they'll tell you that I obviously think it's a fun topic and I drive them crazy with it. 

Lauren: Well, it's not just a fun topic. It's also like a really - like a great creative opportunity with your book. This is probably like - other than the actual, you know, writing a book - this to me is the best opportunity to like be creative and have fun and make something really cool with your book and do something that's really going to be eye-catching and get everyone's attention and make your book stand out for the right reasons and not the wrong reasons. So I think this is something that's just really fun for everybody. And I've said the word fun like 17 times already in the three minutes of this podcast recording. 

Matt: And knowing you, you won't edit them out. 

Lauren: Oh, watch me.


Matt: But okay, you just said something, make your book stand out for the fun reason and not any other reason. What would the other reason be that your book stood out? 

Lauren: If you make really terrible design choices. 

Matt: Gotcha. 

Lauren: So like one of my favorite hills to die on is people that don't use the spine on their book correctly. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Which, I totally understand why people very often don't do that because it's the most complicated thing to like calculate and get it just right. But it drives me crazy when I see books come in that I'm like, this book has a great cover. Everything looks really good on it. It's all, it's so cool. And then I turn it over and either the spine is completely blank and there's nothing on it, or the text is going the wrong way on it. And I'm like, what, what are you doing? What, like, what, you just literally stuck a sign on your book that says ‘this is self-published and not professionally produced in any way.’ 

Matt: I definitely see a lot more where the text is upside down or going the wrong way on a spine. We definitely do also see many come through with nothing on the spine. I understand that sometimes you might create a book that has a very thin spine. So maybe it's a journal or a notebook of some sort or even like a comic book. And in that instance, if it's saddle stitch, obviously you can't put anything on there. For those of you who don't know, saddle stitch just means it's got the staples in the spine, like an old school comic book. But if it's perfect bound, meaning paperback, and it has even the smallest of spine, then you should really try to get something on that spine. And you should try to have it pointing the right direction. 

Lauren: Well, not only should you - 

Matt: Or, reading the right direction. 

Lauren: I mean, not only should you, but it actually could be the reason that your book doesn't get picked up in a brick and mortar bookstore. That's a reason that I've seen bookstores turn books down, is if there's nothing written on the spine or if it's a coil bound or a saddle stitch book that there is nothing available on the spine. Because people browse bookstores by looking at spines. 

Matt: Right. 

Lauren: So like you might actually if that's something that's interesting to you, if that's something that you like actually want to see your book carried in a bookstore at some point, or even just the possibility of it, you might be shooting yourself in the foot by not including the relevant information on the spine. That is the very long winded answer to your question of why would your book stand out for not good reasons. And it's something like that. If I see a book on a shelf that has nothing written on the spine or the text is facing the wrong way on the spine, I'm immediately going to be like, that sticks out like a sore thumb, but not for a reason that makes me want to pick it up and look at it. 

Matt: Gotcha. 


Lauren: So I guess maybe one thing that I want to get out of the way, like right at the top of this episode is because we just did our last episode on editing and hiring editing professionals or contracting editorial service providers or whatever. So I want to talk a little bit about that for this subject too. When it comes to both your cover design and your interior formatting - I can't speak for Matt, I'll let him speak for himself - but you know, I said in our last episode that editing services were like the number one thing that I would pay for if I was going to pay for one thing when it came to having my book published and doing all that. An editor would be my number one for sure. Number two would be a cover designer. I think this is the area that if you're going to spend some money on having any element of your book done well, it would be cover design after book editing. I do think that interior formatting is possible to do on your own. It's a tedious and time consuming process if you're not a pro at it, but you can figure out how to do it. 

Matt: To be fair, you can do all of it on your own. 

Lauren: Sure. 

Matt: And there are tools to do all of it on your own. I think the distinction you're making here is the level of creativity and design and skills needed to craft a really good cover that's going to stand out and draw attention and encourage someone to purchase it, versus what you can get away with on the interior formatting. Typically interior formatting is not what sells the book, the book has already been sold and bought, interior formatting just makes it easier for the reader to get through the book. 

Lauren: That's true. That's true. And it's also, I think for interior formatting, a lot of it is that you don't have to make design choices. You don't have to have an eye for design elements, because there are just pretty straightforward… I don't want to say rules, but rules about what you should do on the interior pages of your book. So that's like, you don't have to sit there and agonize over whether your title should be in this color or this color. You just have to figure out how to do the things that you're supposed to do on the interior. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Whereas a cover like actually, you have to actually have some kind of creative talent in some way or another. And not to like weird humble brag on this or whatever, but like, I am a pretty creative person. I was an art minor in college. I've learned how to do all these different design elements and things. I've read thousands of books in my life. I've spent so much of my time looking at book cover design and design elements and stuff like that. And I still think it's one of the hardest things to create is a book cover. There's - I never can get it to look quite what I want it to look like. And that's coming from a background of knowing how to do design stuff like that. So for the average person, I think that's something that's a lot harder than people think it is. 

Matt: But you also just address something that we'll probably touch on a little bit later, which is you're too close to it. Yes, you have some design knowledge. Yes, you've done a little bit of creative work using tools such as probably Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, some of the others, InDesign maybe, things like that. But that doesn't mean that you're a cover designer.

Lauren: True.

Matt: Nor does it mean you should be one. With all of what you just listed out. I would still argue that you should not be a cover designer. You should absolutely help people and help yourself with potentially advice around cover, but you really should let your cover be designed by A, somebody who does it on a regular basis, and B, somebody who's not emotionally invested in your project. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: Because that's a wholly different scenario. And that applies to anything, not just books. When you're, you know, emotionally or sentimentally invested into something, you've put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into it. Sometimes you can't get past that to do what needs to be done to finish the project off, so…

Lauren: Oh, for sure. 

Matt: I do think it's important to recognize that. And we talk to creators and authors all the time that are like, no, I'm a creative person, you know, I've done all these things, I can do this and how hard can it be to learn Canva and I can make a book cover in Canva and then bring it over to Lulu. Which you can, but at the end of the day, it still doesn't mean you're the best person to do that and you probably shouldn't. 

Lauren: Yeah. I mean, I think it is possible, and we've seen some incredible covers designed by people that I know are doing it themselves. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Like not everyone that publishes with Lulu pays a cover designer, a lot of people make their own and they do a great job. They do a fantastic job of it. So it's definitely possible. But I mean for me personally, I would definitely - this would be the thing that I would want to hire somebody else for.

Matt: Yeah, and I think ultimately I'm agreeing with you - for the most part - as we talk about cover and interior formatting, and I think we have obviously very similar and probably close to the same opinions here. I do think that you know as we talked about in the editing episode there are ways you can go about it to save your budget, but we all agree that you should have some set of editorial eyes on your project if you're extremely motivated and serious about putting good work out into the world. And the same goes for cover. I do think that if you're a very creative individual and you're using a tool that doesn't have a steep learning curve, you could probably create a cover that's good enough. But again, if this is something that you've put a lot of time and effort into chances are you don't want something that's just good enough. And again, you may not be able to see that it's only just good enough if you're too close to it.

I do think it's another area where if you can afford it you should absolutely get help with the cover. Because if somebody doesn't know who you are, whether that's, you know, in a bookstore, at an event or online, like people don't think about that. And you're using that book cover to promote your book in ads online. Like, people see the thumbnail, the photo of your social posts before they read the caption. So no matter how clever or witty you are in the caption or how well you targeted your audience on social media to attract new buyers or readers, if that thumbnail, if that image doesn't capture their attention and make them feel some sort of way, then you're already 50% losing the battle. If you're lucky enough that they continue on to read the caption, maybe you're clever enough to get them to click, but cover is everything. 

Lauren: Yeah, no, I completely agree. It's absolutely the first impression that your book is going to make. And it's arguably the most important because it's the thing that's going to get people to either click or pick up your book. 


Lauren: You know, not to repeat too much information from where we've already talked about here and in the last episode on editing. But if you are going to go about hiring a professional designer - whether that's your cover design, your interior formatting, or both options are going to be pretty similar with the editorial services. You can look for freelancers on a marketplace like Fiverr. You can look for companies that specialize in book design. So not necessarily a hybrid publisher, which is, I guess, cutting ahead to the third option, you can always contract a hybrid publisher to do your publishing for you, which will usually include cover design and interior book formatting and design. But you can also then look for a company that instead of an individual freelancer would be a company that you hire that will do that probably bundled together cover design and interior design for you. 

So we have a few companies that we've recommended in the past listed on the Lulu resources site. So we can definitely link that in the show notes, but yeah, just some easy options, not easy options, some different options. The big difference probably for hiring a designer like this versus hiring an editor is that you're definitely gonna want to look into what kind of covers these designers have created in the past if you're hiring them for cover design. This is much more like along the lines of scheduling an appointment with a tattoo artist. If I want a watercolor tattoo design, I'm gonna look for a tattoo artist that specializes in watercolor, right? If I want an illustrated romance novel cover designed for a book, I'm not gonna contract somebody who has historically made covers with realistic photos and black and white text on them. 

Matt: Yeah, I think that's a really important thing to note and probably one of the most important things to note. You're basically interviewing somebody for a job. So your analogies are correct and I appreciate the tattoo one.

Lauren: I thought you might. 

Matt: But essentially, yeah, you treat it as if you're interviewing somebody for a job. Your job is the cover and have they created covers like the one that you need for your genre or some of the other specifications. One of the other things you can do besides going to a freelance marketplace, like Fiverr or 99 Designs or there's some other ones out there obviously. Another thing you can do is you can do a creator exchange. So if you're friends with other authors or creators, maybe one of them actually does have a design background and they do design book covers and maybe you can exchange, you know, some copywriting or copy editing work or something like that to them. And they would in turn create a cover for you or something along those lines. And by that same token, this is where, you know, when we talk about on several episodes about making friends with other authors in your genre and going to events to network and meet these people, having a circle or network of other authors and friends that you could reach out to because maybe you like their book covers or their last book cover and say, Hey, who designed that cover? Who did your cover for you? And then reach out to them and say, Hey, you design so-and-so's cover. I really liked it. I'm looking for something similar for my next book and here's what my -  you know what I mean? And so again, word of mouth, finding out who designed some of the covers that you like and appreciate I think is an easy way to find a good designer as well. 

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. I want to circle back on a couple of things that Matt just said in there specifically about looking at covers from other people that you've liked. This is a really important thing to do whether you are hiring somebody or paying somebody to design a cover for you or you're going to try to do it yourself. The very first thing that you should do in that situation is, as always, your research. Do some homework. But in this particular case, it's going to be specifically going out and looking at other books. So you want to go look at other books in your genre, like whatever genre you're writing in, whatever niche you're writing in. Go look at the book covers that are really popular in there right now. Look at - and recent ones, not, you know, not the most popular books from ten years ago, but the books that everyone's talking about right now. You are probably going to see some kind of cohesion in the cover design on these books. There tends to be a stylistic trend in books based on the genre. So you're definitely gonna wanna put together a little doc or a folder for yourself that has some comparable covers from your genre, what's popular in your genre right now. 

You're also going to want to go look at just covers that you like. Walk around a bookstore and look and see what catches your eye and look and see like what - when I looked at this display table that has 40 books on the display table, which is the first cover that caught my eye and why did that cover catch my eye? What is it about it that I like? Why did that make me stop and look at it? Or try to pay attention to those details and see if you can find some kind of unifying factor in them that you say like, oh, it turns out I really like covers that have the title embossed on it, or I really like books that have like a single one or two color max color palette to them. I don't like when they're too busy and there's too much going on. Look for those details, put that all together in a doc somewhere, and then if you are gonna be designing your own cover, that gives you a jumping off point for how to get started with your design, and if you're going to be paying somebody else to design your cover, you can give that to them as a reference and say, these are the design elements that I like, these are covers that I like, I want my book to look something like this. 

Matt: Yeah, I love that idea.

Lauren: It's also just, again, a lot of fun. That's one of the fun things that you get to do. What else to keep in mind for cover design?


Matt: Well, so we touched on a little bit about how your cover is, is also one of the most important tools in your marketing arsenal. Your little tool bag of assets and things that you'll use for marketing. And I know that a lot of authors and creators often don't like to think about the marketing component. We've talked about this a lot, but again, like I said earlier, your book cover really is kind of their first introduction, whether that's trying to attract new readers and fans that you've never reached before through some paid social ads or something like that. Or whether you're going to appear on somebody's podcast to talk about your book - that book cover is used in almost every single asset that you're going to create for marketing purposes. And so making sure that that cover stands out and it's something that's going to encourage people to want to read more. I mean, you can write the best story on the planet. And if, if you're marketing it to people who don't know who you are yet, or have never read anything of yours, they're still going to make decisions a good portion of the time, either based on word of mouth or quite frankly, what the book looks like. You know? And if you're at an event or again, lucky enough to get your book on the shelf at certain stores, everybody's buying that book based on the way that it looks. Until they experience the joy of reading your content and understanding that you are somebody that they want to continue reading, they're going based off of looks in many cases. So it's just like, you know, if you don't like my analogy that I made earlier around hiring somebody to do your cover as if it's a job interview, then use this analogy for this particular thing: looking for new readers, being out there marketing yourself. It's like online dating. And so that's your profile pic, essentially - 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: In the world of online reader dating. So they're either gonna swipe left or right when they see your cover and you wanna make sure that they're swiping. Wait, which way is it? 

Lauren: You're asking the wrong person. 

Matt: Oh yeah, me too. I think swipe left is good. But either way, I just killed my own analogy. 

Lauren: I don’t know. 

Matt: Nevermind, whatever. I think you guys get the point. 

Lauren: Yeah, I think you made your point. But yes, no, I- 

Matt: Stop listening to this podcast and just go date online. 

Lauren: Do not do that. 

Matt: Go buy books. 

Lauren: Now that, that's some great advice. But yeah, no, I think that's a really great point. We all like to pretend that we're not judging books by their cover, but everybody knows that that’s true. 

Matt: I don't think people even pretend. 

Lauren: Yeah, I think that ship sailed.

Matt: Every time I'm in the bookstore, not only am I judging a book by the cover, but you can literally look at people's faces - 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: As they look at a book and tell that they're judging the book by its coverage, so. 

Lauren: Yeah, I am shamelessly guilty of picking out books specifically because or picking up a book at least specifically because I really like the cover design. And that's enough to make me pick it up and say like, oh, what's this about? So you want to make sure that you're giving yourself the best possible opportunity for that.


Lauren: Kind of mentioned this already a little bit too, but you might also want to figure out if it's possible, if it's a viable option with whatever publisher you're working with, for you to do a little something extra to make your cover really stand out. It might be something like, I think I said embossed titles earlier, maybe do some kind of like mixed media element on your cover art. There are cool ways to do, we've talked about this - actually don't know if we've talked about this on air, or just in general - getting really popular lately for books to have like a cool art element to it, whether that's like the end paper design inside the book, having some really cool feature on it or like sprayed edges or a little bit of like metallic design elements on the actual cover of the book. There are different things you can do to make your book pop a little bit. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Depending on who you're publishing with. 

Matt: Exactly. I was going to say you should check with your publisher or printer. Not everybody's going to have those capabilities. 

Lauren: Right.

Matt: Most people probably don't, especially print on demand. We're one of the very few that can do some of those things, but yeah. Absolutely, there's a lot of things you can do in that respect as well to stand out and. and you should look into those things. Especially if you're gonna do like a Kickstarter or something to really get started That's an easy way to also experiment with the various different things you can do with print-on-demand as it pertains to your covers.

Lauren: Yeah, like a nice cool special edition. 


Lauren: Something else that I wanted to mention. One of the things that I think people overlook a lot is consistent branding with their cover design. And with the exception that I'm gonna say to that is serial fiction authors. Serial fiction authors have that down cold. They totally understand the idea of - 

Matt: Is that the saying? Down cold? 

Lauren: I don't know.

Matt: I don't know that I've ever heard that before. How would that. They have that down cold. 

Lauren: I actually don't even know what words just came out of my mouth. 

Matt: You said serial fiction authors have that down cold. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: I don't - I don't get the - 

Lauren: I don't either. 

Matt: The reference there. Like I don't. 

Lauren: Well, I guess like -

Matt: Like I’ve heard people say they have it down pat. 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: I don't know where cold came in. Maybe I just don't. Maybe I've never heard that.

Lauren: I mean, I don't think I made it up, but it's very possible that I made it up. 

Matt: Like if you know something like the back of your hand, like you could do it in your sleep. 

Lauren: Yeah, like, you know, something like, you know, something, if you know something cold, 

Matt: Right.

Lauren: You can do it without refresh, without thinking about it. Like you can like I've done, like I've memorized it. It's so rote at this point that I can just do it. I've just do it cold. 

Matt: I've just never heard the cold reference. 

Lauren: I don't know. I don't know. Don't ask me. It's Monday morning. 

Matt: I just want to make sure if I accidentally say it now, like, because if I hear something, oftentimes you guys know this, I'll be in a meeting or something, I'll repeat something I heard. And if it doesn't, you know what I mean? Like I have to be careful. 

Lauren: There are so many examples coming to mind that I cannot say out loud. 

Matt: I know. Don't say the football one. 

Lauren: You know that's exactly what I'm thinking. 

Matt: Don't say the football one. I heard that somewhere and it made sense to me. So I just I like to say it. But this one, I just. Yeah, I'm trying to be better and learn from my mistakes.

Lauren: I definitely have a tendency to pick up little isms from all over the different media that I consume and also definitely merge them together. 

Matt: Gotcha. 

Lauren: For sure. And I know that a lot of it, like, as a teenager, I read a lot of Harry Potter fan fiction, so I picked up a lot of British slang that I didn't know was British slang until it…

Matt: Oh, I bet that was fun. 

Lauren: It was. And then I would, like, say it in front of somebody else and they'd be, what are you talking about? And I'd be like, oh… Okay, cool. Anyway, the point being consistent branding. Serial fiction authors have absolutely figured out how to do this and they do a great job with it where the books that are connected to each other within a series all look similar. That might be something like having, you know, if it is a series that has a logo for the series and every single cover has that logo on it or there's a similar color palette for all of them, you're using the same font. You're using the same design elements on the covers. And that's great. I fully support that. I think it's the most important thing that you could do if you're a serial fiction author is: you want people to recognize, you want your fans to recognize that this is a book of yours before they even get close enough to read the title or the author's name on it. But I think it's also, people tend to overlook that for other books, not just serial fiction. I think that's a great thing to look at if you are even publishing nonfiction, if you are going to be publishing more than one book, it's nice to have some cohesive branding. And that can be… if you're choosing to publish a book because you're trying to grow your business or support your brand in some way. You probably want to consider using the design elements from your brand in your book. If you have like a specific color palette that you use for your brand, if you have a logo for your business or your company, you want those things kind of worked into your book design so that it looks good when it's all together on your website. 

Matt: Yeah, and I do think this is part of a larger conversation that I don't know if we've tackled this in any episodes yet. Maybe we have, but in general, authors have a branding problem. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: I agree with you that I think in the world of serialized fiction, they've started figuring it out for sure and been able to apply, like you said, a lot of those branding elements and standards. There's still a lot of authors out there, fiction and nonfiction, that have not really grasped this idea or this concept of branding and branding yourself. If you plan on ever writing more than one book, you should absolutely be creating a brand for yourself. And this is exactly what Lauren's talking about. 

Lauren: Yeah. So maybe we'll do an episode on branding. 

Lauren: That could be a lot of fun. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: And it is also, you know, not to scare you into thinking that you have to do this if you're publishing your first book. There are definitely very public examples of authors that as their books have gotten more popular, they've changed their branding over time. This is a little bit of a dated one because it's from like ten years ago, but Jojo Moyes was a, or is, a women's fiction author that… her book - Me Before You was the big one that kind of like catapulted her onto the top of the New York Times bestseller list and everything. But it wasn't her first book. The cover design for that one was so popular and so clearly identifiable that her publisher went back and repackaged all of her previous titles and republished them with new covers that matched the branding on Me Before You. And her next like three or four books all had that same branding. So there was a point in time where all of her books had the exact same look.

Emily Henry is another one that is a great example. I am obsessed with Emily Henry books and she's got a new one coming out this month, so, got to shout that out. She is a romance author and all of her books are standalone. They're not - it's not serial fiction. They're not connected to each other, but every single one of them, the cover design is the same. And you can look at them and you would know from fifty paces away, that's an Emily Henry book, because it looks like an Emily Henry book. Something to keep in mind as you're figuring out your cover design and figuring out what you want to do with that, consider how it's going to look with the rest of your books and consider how it's going to look with your own professional branding. 

Matt: Yeah. 


Lauren: Anything else you want to add about cover design before we start talking about the inside of the book? 

Matt: I think the last thing we probably want to touch on real quick is the back cover.

Lauren: Matt just wants to give me an opportunity to get up on my soapbox. This is another one of those things. I wrote a blog post for Lulu a few years ago. That was five visual indicators that your book is self-published. And it was basically just me ranting about mistakes that I see all the time that I wish people would do less of. And one of them is definitely seeing people ignore their back cover. Your back cover is incredibly valuable real estate. If your front cover is the first thing people see on your book, the back cover is the second. 

Matt: That's right. 

Lauren: People are always going to flip the book over before they open it. 

Matt: Yeah. And what are they looking for back there? 

Lauren: They're looking for details like your cover copy with your summary of your book, but they're also going to look at not just that. And I feel like that's the thing that people overlook all the time. If there is back cover design, people usually just put their cover copy and then the bar code that is occasionally required to be on the book. 

Matt: Yep.

Lauren: That's also a great place for you to put, your about the author. Especially if your about the author is a selling point of your book. If your author bio is something that's gonna give you credibility as an expert to say like you should wanna buy my self-help book because I have 25 years of experience as a life coach and you wouldn't know that from seeing my name on the cover but you would know that from reading it in my author bio, you want that to be on the back cover. 

Matt: Yeah, or if you have a very particularly moving blurb that somebody wrote for you. 

Lauren: Yup.

Matt: So again, if you write in the genre, let's say horror, because that's my favorite and you're an up and coming author and you somehow managed to secure a blurb or a testimonial from somebody like, I'll just throw out Stephen King.

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: Like whatever, or Clive Barker or somebody like that. I would put that right there on the back cover. I wouldn't save that for the interior and we'll get to that. I mean, you're going to put those in the interior, but if you had a particularly compelling or encouraging blurb that you knew would help push that book sale over the finish line for somebody who might not have read you yet, but may definitely be into your genre and know of this person, you should put it back there. 

Lauren: I absolutely cannot stress enough the reality of the fact that I have purchased more than one book because of the blurb that was on the cover. 

Matt: Me too. 

Lauren: Because of either who blurbed the book or what the blurb said. So if you have the opportunity to put a review like that on the front cover or back cover of your book, you should definitely do it. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: There are a bunch of other little design elements that you can include on your back cover. We don't need to get into all of them. I would just, again, like with looking at the cover design for the front cover, pick up five books that are in the same genre as the book that you're publishing and look at the back cover of all of them. 

Matt: I've actually found several new authors that way as well. You know, if I'm in the horror or thriller section, whichever I'm feeling that day, and I just start looking at the other like I find what I want and then I start looking at some of the other books there. And that's how I landed on Ryū Murakami, I think I'm probably saying it wrong, but Ryū Murakami writes horror, thriller, suspense novels and same thing. So, picked up the book, cover looked really cool, then flipped it over and was really sort of compelled to purchase that book based on those things, so. Didn't know anything about the author at all at that time. And then turned out really loved the book and have bought all of the other books since. So. 

Lauren: There you go. Straight from us.

Matt: Straight from the horse's mouth. 

Lauren: I wasn't going to say that part. 

Matt: What was the other one? Now you have it down cold. You know what to do.

Lauren: I stand by it. 

Matt: Can we move past this? 

Lauren: Oh no. Yeah, I guess. 


Lauren: All right. Let's talk about opening up that book and looking at the interior. Now that we've got that beautiful cover out of the way, you've gotten people to pick up your book. They've seen that cool cover. They read the title on the spine. They said, I want to learn more about this. They looked at the front cover, they looked at the back cover. They opened up your book. Now what?

Matt: Now, now it's time to read it. 

Lauren: Is it? 

Matt: Wait, you're saying there's more? 

Lauren: There could be more. 

Matt: Oh, man. Yeah. 

Lauren: There's a lot of information to get out of the way before anyone reads a single word. Matt: Yep. That's true. And it should be formatted in a way that is not exerting for somebody to potentially have to read through it. But there's a lot of stuff that should actually be included inside once you open that cover up and Lauren has it so eloquently broken up into two sections, which we'll call front matter and back matter. Front matter is going to be things that are somewhat design elemental in a sense. Your half title, full title. Everybody knows there is a copyright page, right? You can have a dedication or not totally up to you. You can put your reviews or testimonials in the front with your front matter, your blurbs. Those can also go to the back though, be a part of your back matter. So there's some things that you can include in the front matter, but if you feel like it flows better for your book, you can push them to the back. Although I will say there's not much back matter that you can pull to the front. 

Lauren: Right. I would agree with that. 

Matt: You wanna be very careful with that. But at a minimum, you should have a nice looking half title or full title page. You don't have to have both, by the way. Lauren might argue with me on that. But you should have one or both of those. You should absolutely have a copyright page. And if possible, a table of contents, right? I say if possible. 

Lauren: If relevant. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Table of contents tends to be more relevant for nonfiction than fiction. If it's relevant, great, yes, good. 

Matt: Yep. 

Lauren: Also, just in case you're like, you just said half title and full title like four times and I don't know what that means. If you take a look at the first few pages of… a traditionally published book will probably be the best guarantee of getting to see the distinction between them. In both cases it is your full title on a book page. Like it's - I'm not saying write half your title out or only put the main title and if you have like a subtitle not include that or something like that. Your half title page will be a page that just has your title written on it in a regular font. There's not anything else going on on the page. It's just the title, maybe the author's name. And then a full title page will be an actual like, page that is designed. It might even be the exact art that's on your cover that has the title of your book and all the relevant details of your book on it. I know I'm not explaining this well. This is one of those examples of something that is very much a visual medium thing. So I would just say, go look at the first few pages of the nearest book that you can find and you'll see what I mean.

Matt: Also not highly necessary, but. 

Lauren: No, definitely not necessary, but it is - what's more necessary, and what's more relevant, is if you're trying to make your book look as professional as possible, if you're trying to make your book look like something that was professionally designed, produced, published, whatever, nobody's book starts on page one. You never open a book and the very, very first page of the book is chapter one. 

Matt: Well, shouldn’t. 

Lauren: It shouldn’t - okay. Correct. It shouldn't be. 

Matt: We've definitely seen a few that have. 

Lauren: Yes. So if you are following design guidelines for the interior of your book, these are some of the things that you should include in the book.

Matt: Let it be known though, that the last time I opened the book and it literally started on page one, it was also about Flat Earth Theory and it was a return because the address wasn't real. So you do that information as you will.

Lauren: That's the most compelling argument I've heard yet today. 

Matt: They clearly did not have it down cold. 

Lauren: So true. So true. We've also said back matter was the other section of this. And same thing, these are things that could go at the end of your book once the actual content of your book is done. Another about the author, even if you have it on your back cover, there's no reason that you can't include it inside your book too, which is also where you might want to put things like contact info, like your social or your website, stuff like that. If you have any other titles, if you've published any other books, this is a great place for you to just put a list of them together. You might even want to do a sample chapter - generally tends to be more popular for fiction writers, but that doesn't mean that you can't do it for nonfiction, too. If you're like, you know, I've seen a lot of again, I read a lot of romance. We've been very clear about this on this podcast, but I very often see, especially popular in romance, where authors will introduce a character in one book that is ultimately going to get a spinoff book of their own in the future. So like they might have a plug in the back of their book that says, hey, if you were really intrigued by this character, he's got his own book coming out next year, here's the first chapter of it. Or, you know, it's actually easier to do that once all the books are out. 

Matt: I really wish we were doing video right now. If you guys could see how animated Lauren was when she was just saying, like. She was really into that. So I promise video is coming soon.

Lauren: I - yes, it is. We're working on it. I just got over like a sixteen book binge that were all just serial romance books for the entire month of March. So it's like, it's a hot topic in my brain - 

Matt: Were they all -  

Lauren: - right now. 

Matt: Were they all the same author? 

Lauren: No, but they were, it was like, like four different series by four different authors, but all of them were serial. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Which is also kind of then fun to see that and see like how these authors do things differently and what elements kind of unite them all. Great work. 


Matt: I'm gonna get on my soapbox here for a second. 

Lauren: Okay.

Matt: And so back matter, I think one of the most important things you can include, especially for those of you who have not been listening to us, or everybody else out there right now, about trying to sell direct. Back matter is the perfect place to try and drive people to your author platform, to sign up for your email newsletters or whatever that might be. If you're not selling direct, you're obviously losing the opportunity to collect that customer data and continue to build your database and email database. So another way to try and get people to come to you directly so that you can communicate directly with them is to put some information in your back matter that says, ‘hey, come to my website, sign up for my email newsletter. You'll be the first to know about this, this, and the other. You'll get exclusive discounts. My fans always get this first, whatever that might be.’ If you're not selling direct, this is really the only other way - outside of social media, obviously - to drive people directly to your platform and get them to sign up for your newsletters or however it is that you're trying to capture that information to build your own database. Something that is yours owned and not on rented land like social media or a third party retail platform. Make good use of that space when it comes to promoting yourself and your community and building that fan base. 

Lauren: Yep, absolutely. And that is one in particular that - it should be included in print books. You should definitely be including that information in print books, but it is particularly relevant for your ebook. Because you can make those links clickable in an ebook and you can make it super, super easy for your readers to just click directly on the link in your back matter and 30 seconds later or less, depending on how bad their wifi is, or if they're trying to read on a plane like I usually am and have very little wifi available to them.

Matt: You know - 

Lauren: They can be on your website. 

Matt: You know what doesn't need wifi? 

Lauren: A print book?

Matt: Yep. 

Lauren: But you know what doesn't have clickable links in the back that can deliver people straight to your website for you to sign up for their mailing list?

Matt: Oh, I'm sorry. I wouldn't rely on lazy readers for my books to begin with. Who - 

Lauren: Don't ever take Matt's advice. 

Matt: Who need clickable links.

Lauren: We're done giving advice on the podcast. 

Matt: Oh, let me make sure I have clickable links in my digital book that has no pages to turn. 

Lauren: We really got to get to the - 

Matt: And no character and no soul. 

Lauren: Oh, man. You know what?

Matt: No wifi.

Lauren: Oh, you got to do what you got to do. 

Matt: Okay, all right. I'm sorry. I woke up spicy today. 

Lauren: Clearly. It's the eclipse. 

Matt: Yeah, it - maybe it is the eclipse. 

Lauren: It’s the eclipse. It's making people weird. 

Matt: It makes turtles mate. 

Lauren: What? 

Matt: Yeah, I swear I heard that this morning coming into work, on the commute. 

Lauren: I'm going to take your word for it and ask no further questions at this time. 

Matt: It - I also heard it does something weird to goats, but I don't know what they said. 

Lauren: I mean, I think animals in general, it's supposed to. 

Matt: I don't know. 

Lauren: Like, you know what? No, I'm going to shelve this. We're gonna put this back on the shelf with the other books. 

Matt: Yeah I’ll. I'll blame that outburst and that unwarranted attack on ebook readers on the solar eclipse. 

Lauren: That's fair. 

Matt: Don't at me. 

Lauren: Yeah, don't because you don't want to - you don't want to kick start this rant all over again. It's fine. 

Matt: No. 


Lauren: Anyway, once we've got the actual details of your front matter and your back matter worked out, you can do some actual design elements for your book itself. What a concept. We're 50 minutes into this episode and we're talking about the actual content of your book now. There are actually a lot of technical details that you can talk about when it comes to interior page formatting, and I'm not going to. Because like we've already said with talking about the half title and full title page, it's a very visual kind of element to try to explain. Every time that I've ever done any kind of blog post or social content or anything for Lulu that has been talking about the design elements of your interior formatting, we've always included screenshots or step-by-step videos or something like that. It's just not easy to explain over a podcast. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: But there are definitely things that you're gonna wanna keep in mind, things - I'm gonna say a bunch of buzzwords and not explain what any of them mean, but elements like your margins on your pages, your gutter, paying attention to details like bleed and line breaks. If you have footnotes in there, if you have photos and diagrams in there, things like that. Those are all design elements that you need to pay attention to. So if you don't know what any of those words mean and you're working on formatting your own book, now is the time to figure out what they are.

Matt: Well, or make sure the tool you're using handles all of that for you. I mean, a lot of them do, by the way. You're just going to type in whatever the size specs for the book are that you're creating. 6x9, 5x8, whatever. A lot of that will be handled for you. 

Lauren: Yeah. There are a lot of tools out there. We can link to some in the show notes. I think this one is gonna be another one that's gonna have a lot of resources linked in the show notes. So there's software like Atticus, Vellum, the Affinity Suite is a cheaper alternative to like Photoshop 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Or InDesign. You can use those tools that have these design elements built into it that can help you out with that. Lulu does also have free downloadable templates. If you know in advance - which you should for the record, know in advance when you're formatting your book, you should know what size your book is gonna be before you start doing any formatting because the size of your book is going to have an impact on your formatting decisions. You can always go on Lulu's website and download free templates that are already sized to the specs that you are gonna need for that particular size book. And then you can just insert your content into it. 

Matt: Yep.

Lauren: Some other things that you wanna keep in mind when you are working on your interior design or paying somebody else to do your interior design. You can have some customizable choices, things like chapter headers. I have some books that have really lovely, instead of just saying chapter 10, there's a little artistic element to it. It doesn't have to be like this insane over the top illustration, but just something that gives it a little flourish that makes it look nice, you know? You can have fun with the page numbers. This is another one of those things I feel like people don't notice unless you point it out to them or they're really big readers. Most books have the title and author or the chapter title and author on the top of every single page of the book. What information you choose to include there and how you choose to have it there is something that you can design on your own. 

Matt: If any.

Lauren: If any.

Matt: Yep. 

Lauren: Yes. But all of these things are things that you get to decide. You get to figure out how you want to represent them in your book and kind of have some fun with designing that. Even things like fonts. Obviously there are some that are better than others. I wouldn't publish a book in Comic Sans. 

Matt: Oh, I knew you were going to say Comic Sans. 

Lauren: I wouldn't. 

Matt: It’s so undervalued. 

Lauren: Is it? 

Matt: No.

Lauren: No, you're just stirring the pot. 

Matt: Yeah. I'm just trying to get - 

Lauren: Okay. Okay, yeah. There's actually, um. When I used to work at the bookstore, we had an event with Henry Winkler, which was awesome. He was so cool. He was, he was really fun. He wrote a middle grade children's book series and then like an early readers chapter book series. And there was a cause that he was championing that was very important to him. That was - I don't remember if it was like a school or somewhere, somewhere had developed a font that was specifically designed to be more accessible to kids with dyslexia. The way the font was designed, it was like, the actual characters were weighted in a certain way that made it easier for kids with dyslexia to read it. And he was a big champion for that. And all of his kids' books that are published, he insists on them being published in this font so that they can be more accessible to any kid that wants to read it. 

Matt: So we could call him Fontzie instead of Fonzie. 

Lauren: Great job. Great work. 

Matt: You know, that's all I've been thinking about for the last 30 seconds. 

Lauren: I know. You didn't hear anything else that I just said. That's totally fine. It was worth it. It was absolutely worth it. 

Matt: Hey. 

Lauren: But yes, yeah, yeah.

Matt: It’s the solar eclipse.

Lauren: You got that going for you, and he's got that going for him. It is. I'm blaming the eclipse for it for sure.

Matt: Fontzie. 

Lauren: It's a good one. I can't - I can't even be upset about the pun because it's a good one. All right, I'm gonna let you have that but you know stuff like that you get to have some fun with that. You get to have some customization and the design elements of that. Just don't forget about those things because they are things - these are all things that go into your book design and your reader experience. Even something as simple as - we've had this debate, I've had this debate with people for years. I hate when people write in all caps for something. Like if I'm reading, or not in all caps, but like if somebody, if I'm reading a book and somebody will, wants to emphasize a word in the middle of a sentence and they emphasize it by writing that word in all caps, I feel like I'm getting yelled at. Like no matter what the content of the book is, if I suddenly see a word in all caps, I feel like I'm getting yelled at. 

Matt: But you see where people do that instead of putting it in bold?

Lauren: Or italics. Yes. Yes. But that is that's a design choice that you're making. 

Matt: Sure.

Lauren: That is a design, you know, so so - 

Matt: But honestly, I would argue that should have been caught by the editor. 

Lauren: Some editors can only do so much. 

Matt: Well, maybe you should get a new editor. I agree with you, though. I think paying attention to those things is important. I do think that one should have been caught by their editor, but using things inappropriately, like all caps versus bold versus italics. Obviously, those things are important. Some of those things I think are editing catches and then some can be handled in the formatting for sure, but. Ultimately I think while Lauren's done a really good job since she's passionate about this of giving you all of these different options and scenarios and things you can and should not do, I think one of the important things about your interior file to remember is that you also don't want to over complicate it.

Lauren: Sure 

Matt: At that point you've won the reader over, they bought the book because you did a great cover front and back, right? You did some good marketing or they're just a continual reader of yours, a fan. But at this point, you just wanna make sure the interior file looks good, it's readable, and it doesn't have any of the major issues like orphaned words or orphan lines or things that are really, glaringly like really, they couldn't take the time to just shift this over here or do that. Yes, you can pay attention to all these other little things, but be careful how much time that sucks out of your day. 

Lauren: Yeah, yeah, don't get crazy. You know, if a friend recommended a book to me and said this book was really good, you're going to love the characters, you're going to love everything that happens in it. It's got - it's got some formatting issues. 

Matt: Yeah, but.

Lauren: You know, like that's not going to stop me from reading it. I might roll my eyes a little bit at it. I might have a deep, heavy sigh when I open it up and it's not left and right justified, but it's not going to stop me from reading it, especially if it came highly recommended. 

Matt: You know where I'm going to go with this, by the way.

Lauren: Go ahead. 

Matt: You and your friends and the way that you recommend books like that are not the norm or the common.

Lauren: That’s true. That’s a very fair point.

Matt: Now. That being said, that being said, I'm not trying to downplay this at all. I do think all of these things are important. And like I said, use them as you will, try not to let them overtake your project and delay your launch date by any means. And again, some of those things your editor should be catching or suggesting. Some of these other things, you know, whoever's doing the formatting of your book, if it's not you, should also be suggesting and or doing. But what I will say is using a very large combination of these things that Lauren has talked about is probably best served for special editions or things like that, where you really are putting a lot of time and effort into it. And your hardcore readers will know that. And so when your book makes its way into the hands of Lauren, hopefully, she will then recommend it to one of her friends and say, not only is the cover amazing, it's gorgeous, but the story, the plot, the characters, everything is chef's kiss. But ultimately this interior file is amazeballs, like way better than the solar eclipse that's happening outside right now. I'd rather be looking at the interior file of this book. You're gonna love it.

Lauren: I mean, I don't think this is gonna come as a surprise to anybody, but I would literally always rather be looking at a book page than whatever's going on with the sun outside.

Matt: Apparently that's a big deal though, like this solar eclipse thing, so. I'm just saying like there's a scale of - 

Lauren: Yes.

Matt: Of comparison there, and for today, because the solar eclipse is happening and making everybody spicy or making turtles made or goats do whatever they do, like fall over. I don't know. 

Lauren: I hope it is.

Matt: No, those are fainting goats. Never mind. Anyways, my point is again, take note of these interior things. It's not the end all be all, use them appropriately. Pull out all the stops for special editions or when you're trying to impress Lauren, but ultimately make sure you have a really well formatted interior file. 

Lauren: Yeah. Yeah. And I think that's just, it's just giving you the little extra edge. Basically. It's one more thing that you can do to make your book look as good as possible, I think, is ultimately the point. If you want your book to look awesome, consider your interior design elements. 


Matt: Good luck editing this episode.

Lauren: I know.

Matt: How did this one run longer than some of the others that were… yeah? 

Lauren: I don't know. 

Matt: Alright. 

Lauren: I did actually, looked down at the recording at one point and was like, how are we 18 minutes in already? I don't - I feel like we haven't even gotten started yet.

Matt: It's the damn solar eclipse. 

Lauren. It is 

Matt: Maybe it's messing with our equipment.

Lauren: Maybe it's messing with time.

Matt: Could be.

Lauren: Time isn't real.

Matt: Oh god. 

Lauren: We should end this. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Okay, well. If we haven't totally scared you away thank you so much for listening. We’ll be back again next week with another new episode on something interesting, I'm sure. Possibly more interesting. Who knows. Hopefully. But in the meantime you can always reach out to us, send us an email, let us know all your thoughts and feelings on interior formatting or cover design. And I guess I should tell you the email for that, right? 

Matt: That would help, yeah.

Lauren: So you can email us at Or you can always leave a comment on Lulu's social, where we will post episodes of this podcast. Also, they're on YouTube. I don't know if we ever actually said that on here before. They are on YouTube, not as videos yet. We're working on that. But if you want to listen to the audio, if you prefer YouTube to some of the other like podcast audio platforms and you can leave comments directly on the videos there. 

Matt: Yep. 

Lauren: We've gotten some nice comments. So shout out to anyone that's left us a comment on our YouTube videos. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Cool. Yeah. All right. Well, thanks for listening. I hope you all survived the eclipse. I guess we'll find out next week.