News room: How to Create A Crime Fiction Cover

How to Create A Crime Fiction Cover by Jessica Barrah

If you’re writing a murder mystery or thriller, then the cover needs to be instantly recognisable for that genre. Read our quick guide to discover how to create a ‘thrilling’ cover for your self-published book with CompletelyNovel.

In this blog post we’re going to show you how to create a book cover for a contemporary thriller so that your book will:

a) be instantly recognisable to readers as part of this genre.
b) look eye-catching even as a small thumbnail online on Amazon.
c) look good in a bookshop.

Of course there are different types of murder mystery, and this type of cover would not be suitable for something like a ‘cosy’ mystery set in 1940s or something with a more humorous tone. Look carefully at the books that are most similar to yours in style and tone, and analyse the elements they have in common.

Here are a range of covers for inspiration in the thriller genre we’re looking at.

1. Find Out Your Book Dimensions

Firstly, you need to know the dimensions of your book. This is easy if you’re publishing with CompletelyNovel. After you’ve uploaded your manuscript, go to the ‘Cover’ tab in your Book Creator. Scroll down and click on ‘Manual Upload’. There you’ll find all the dimensions you need for creating your book cover.

We’ve uploaded a book named ‘Murder: Uncovered’ by that eminent crime fiction writer, ‘A.N. Author’.

Here we have the template for this particular book:

The front and back cover will stay the same size, depending on the printer and the size of book you’ve chosen, but the spine measurement changes according to the amount of pages in your manuscript. If you have access to Photoshop or another graphics programme, you can create one image for the whole cover. Alternatively, you can upload separate front cover, back cover and spine images on our Cover Creator programme.

Currently in our cover creator you are only able to use the Arial font, so if you’d like to use another font, you need to add this to your JPG file image before you upload it (saved as a bassline standard file).

If you don’t have Photoshop or another graphics programme, you can add text and elements such as shapes or coloured backgrounds by using websites such as Canva to create images for free before uploading to the cover creator.

If you have any problems uploading your JPEG images in the cover creator then just contact us at for help.

2. Choose Your Cover Image

The easiest way to create a cover is to start with a good image. You can find royalty free images on sites such as Pixabay.

Here we’ve put in the term ‘industry’ in the search bar to get something suitable industrial and bleak – and found this image.

The empty chair suggested potential for kidnapping and torture in an abandoned factory – ideal for our crime thriller. We’re going to use the image for the front, back, and spine.

3. Choose A Suitable Font

Contemporary thrillers have typically used a large blocky font, although more recently designers have been using a slimmer style font, as in the cover above for ‘The Girl on The Train’. Also popular are slightly distressed, eroded fonts as shown in some of the sample covers above.

You can download free fonts on, although always check to see if the font you choose is free for commercial use in the terms and conditions. Google fonts is also a great place to go for free fonts.

Colours are also important when the lettering is such a large part of the cover. Thrillers usually have strong contrasting colours. Dark colours such as black or dark red or cold icy blues are popular as a background, with contrasting lettering – red or white stand out well, and recently a neon yellow seems to be popular too.

We’ve tried out a blocky red font here, called ‘Anton’ for the front cover:

And then decided that the thinner yellow font looked more ‘on trend’ and modern. This is in fact the ‘Arial’ font that is very easy to find on programmes such as MS Word, and you can use in our Cover Creator.

Where you position the writing is important – you need obviously to be within the boundaries of the ‘bleed’ so that the writing isn’t too close to the edge, or it might get chopped off by the printers. You also need to make sure that it is positioned so that the background image isn’t fighting against the font. On this occasion we’ve added a small blue box behind the writing and made it semi-transparent, to make the writing stand out more, and not get mixed up with a lighter area of the photograph.

Then we added some extra text to make it look more like the kind of books you might see in the bookshop. You could add a strap line, or a short complimentary review. This would be too small to be seen on a thumbnail image online, but could be seen if a customer clicks to have a closer look.

We moved down the title so that the strapline would fit in, then added a small yellow circle for contrast, and put a little review in there.

4. Finishing Touches

We used the same image for the back cover and the spine – we used the section to the right of the chair, but this time placed to the left hand side. We added the spine text in the same font and colours as the front cover, then added the blurb and barcode to the back.

If you have a paid subscription plan with CompletelyNovel you can access the barcode for your book after you upload the manuscript and assign the ISBN. After that, you can download it from the ‘Manual Upload’ section on the Cover Creator page.

You could also add the price of the book, a small picture of the author and any author website or contact details to this back section, or pick out elements of your text with a larger font, italic font, different font or a different colour for emphasis. Again, look at real life book covers to identify which elements you need to add to make your book look as professional as possible.

Author Services

We hope this has given you inspiration for making your own cover for your self-published book.
If you need more help but have royalty free images and text ready to go we can help you with design and uploading your CompletelyNovel cover for £35 per hour.

If you’d like us to source the images and design the whole thing for you, then get in touch by emailing with your ideas – it’s £175 for a complete cover service.

Read more about our services for authors here.

Further reading:

15 Posts

Purple_arrow_down-0d1dfe1ae10f7ada403ca338a776f4e2 Latest response Purple_arrow_down-0d1dfe1ae10f7ada403ca338a776f4e2 Most popular response
Purple_arrow_up-53af132e228e5075307be4092eb6fda7 First Post

Your comment



Written by
Jessica Barrah
Published on
Book cover, Design, Crime, Genre, Thriller, Self-publishing, and Publishing