Book Cover Design Hell: Will I Make it Out of this Alive?

I need a book cover, and I need it by the end of the month. I need the agents and editors at the conference I’m attending to take one look at my cover, talk to me for five minutes, and think: “Wow. This girl really has her sh*t together. I want to help her succeed.”

When I began this quest for a cover last month, I tried doing what first came to mind: yellow, because yellow is happy. Some shapes. Maybe millennial pink? But nothing came out looking memorable, or even good.

Obviously first instinct wasn’t going that well– So I decided I wanted to do something a little bit homespun. First, because I don’t have the money to hire a cover designer, and second, because it communicates the personal nature of my book a bit better than something more refined.

I began by accumulating lots of inspiration.

Then, in MS paint or on my phone or with pencil and paper, I tried my hand at a cover of my own. Mostly they were very ugly.

My next idea: a drawing. I needed a better drawing.
 I was happy with this cover. It was balanced, pretty, and it looked as if my hands were holding something precious.
The issue: it didn’t really communicate anything about what the core purpose of the book was. Friends and family said they liked it, but they didn’t love it.
I need a cover people will love.

My latest attempt is this:

I may have to play around with different drawings, but I like the concept I have going now. I just need to make sure it’s pleasing from a design perspective, and I’ll be on my way.

What is your favorite book cover, dear reader? I know we all judge.


I took the advice of my stepdad and decided to make the image smaller and the text bigger – after all, what’s most important about my book cover is the title and subtitle.

I ended up taking inspiration from Kurt Vonnegut. I love the way his book covers combine simple doodles with large text.

I liked the mockup a lot! And so began the process of actually putting the book cover together. I tried out a bunch of different colors, fonts, etc. but I eventually settled on a handwritten india-ink look to match the illustrations inside.

only the cover

This is the final book cover. Looks pretty snazzy, doesn’t it!


Published by Ruby Walker

I'm a 21-year-old writer and artist. My first book, Advice I Ignored, is out now. It's an illustrated account of my experiences dropping out of high school and recovering from self-hatred and depression.

2 thoughts on “Book Cover Design Hell: Will I Make it Out of this Alive?

  1. Ruby – Hello. I talked with you while we were at the convention this past weekend as we sat on the lobby sofa at the Hyatt and had our chat. I have just left visiting your website and found it interesting and in touch. But what do I know – I am just but a 60 year old still depressed individual. The book cover I like best is the one that “interacts with the edge of the book and does the Wallflower thing, but it’s not very… interesting.
    I enjoyed the writing around the edge of the page it drew me in and made me want to read more.
    Your talent is phenomenal and I can only assume that your writings are of the same caliber. I have a 14 year old granddaughter who I feel could benefit from exploring your thoughts.
    Please stay in touch (we live so close) – I would enjoy hearing about your future endeavors.

    Terry Freeman-Morris


    1. Wow– thank you Terry!

      I only just now figured out how to use the wordpress commenting feature, so it’s been more than a year, (OOPS) but thank you. I am so close to having this book ready to publish and your kind words are helping my spirits a lot.


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