The Evolution of a DIY Book Cover

While I 100% support hiring cover designers, I also dabble in design, so I wanted to make the book cover for the BFRB Guide myself. Or, rather, with the help of Canva.com.

As I discovered while brainstorming and writing the BFRB Guide, I’m a do-it-yourself-er. I not only healed my dermatillomania on my own, but (though I thank my first readers!) I also brought the BFRB Guide to life on my own, including the covers—the many, many covers.

I’ll start from the beginning so that by the time I reach the end, you may be impressed (if by comparing this to the final). Here’s a rough sketch/mock-up followed by my first attempt:

Did I show these to anyone? Absolutely not. These efforts were followed by…something better and worse all at the same time:

Did I share this with anyone?

Unfortunately, yes. And that person (my mom) showed my aunts and uncles. At the time, I thought it was good, solid. Now I can tell it just looks off-putting.

In retrospect, while the final cover (stay tuned) is what I wanted, it took me so long to get there because I didn’t have the professional experience of a cover designer, who could see issues right away. I had to let the cover simmer for weeks, before obvious flaws stood out to me.

I love typography (the art and placement of letters and fonts), but it took me a while to realize the title placement could be improved if I aligned it:

Though I like to think I have an eye for color combinations, white space, and other key design elements, I can be stubborn, so I rigidly followed ideas while making the cover, such as using the silhouette of a person and sticking with pink and red.

Aside from lacking hierarchy (what gives readers a clear direction of what to view next), a problem I kept encountering, sticking rigidly to my vision as I was—the cover was extremely crowded. As far as colors, I adore this; as far as the overall design, only some elements work:

Looking back, I can tell this didn’t solve the issue of crowding or hierarchy (did I mention I was stubborn while designing?), but it might have been the final cover if not for the fact that I decided to change the name of the guide. One of the first titles was How to Heal Your Compulsive Skin Picking or Related BFRB: 4 Steps to Stopping). The word “Related” didn’t make sense.

These disorders fall under the umbrella term body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) because they’re related; this is implied. To make a new name fit, I realized I had to let go of my vision. No more silhouette.

I shifted my focus, trying out something more professional. I had resisted “professional” because, unlike my endeavor as a professional freelance editor, this was a chance for me to engage aspects of myself, such as artist and writer, that I couldn’t use to their full potential in that position.

I wanted to come up with a cover that, yes, would have appeal to others but which, importantly, I truly loved, something even a bit weird that might have caught my eye when I was surfing the web as a teen in the 2000s, in the wee hours, googling how to stop skin picking to no avail.

Still, I tried “professional” (but kept the pink):

While acceptable, and possibly marketable, this cover wasn’t it. I kept fiddling, trying to find balance between marketable and what I truly wanted. And then I got it.

Or so I thought.

Can you spot the problem?

While readable, I made the cover crowded again. And my vision became rigid once more. I was now dead set on including flowers:

And yet, I knew the letters were off, so I changed the entire cover. (Oh, you think these are the only versions? For every version, a million spin-offs and tweaks exist.)

So I tried a different layout, realizing I often had to shake it up entirely to make progress and that doing so was not a bad thing:

And then:

I liked this. It was unconventional, but pleasing to me, and I thought, it would be to others. Till I showed it to a friend for feedback. My friend, color-blind, said he couldn’t see the “BFRB” well—the white letters didn’t “contrast” well against the yellow background.

He was right.

But anytime I tried to replace the white of “BFRB,” I threw the entire book cover off, so I sprinted off in another direction.

I loved this!

The feedback became more positive, and this time, my color-blind friend said, “I think you’ve found the one.” Others liked it too. Most importantly, it felt good to me.

Then I showed it to my mom.

She made a strong motherly case for me to put my full name on the cover, and add her “Bloise” (where I’m from, Dominican Republic, children get two last names, one from their mother and one from their father). Truthfully, the placement of my shortened name in the vase’s water was one of my favorite things.

Losing steam, I pushed in an entirely new direction.

But I was coming to the end of the design road, having visions of hiring a professional. I was tempted to just settle for a cover. But that’s not who I am, and by this point I worried a professional wouldn’t capture what I wanted. Or, worse, they would, and then I’d look at it in a few weeks and want to change it, having to pay for an entirely new design.

I kept fiddling. And just when that cover felt done, I couldn’t shake the question, what do flowers (particularly a large, dominating vase) have to do with BFRBs?

That’s how I landed at the final cover.

While I was creating my cover on Canva, the site kept displaying this quote:

“There are three responses to a piece of design—no, yes, and wow! Wow is the one to aim for.”—Milton Glaser

It remained in the back of my mind. Even though I enjoyed some of the recent designs, I had never gotten a Wow.

Till this. The final cover of the BFRB Guide got a wow, along with other great feedback. And looking at it months later…I still love it.

Book cover for "How to Heal Your BFRB: 4 Steps to Stopping Compulsive Skin Picking, Hair Pulling, and More"

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