We've all heard the adage, "you can't judge a book by its cover." That's a great philosophy, metaphorically speaking, but when it comes to actual, literal books -- we do judge, to a great degree, the worthiness of what's inside by the cover design.
Rewarding though it surely is, writing your life stories takes a lot of time and effort. You want your stories to be read and enjoyed after all that work. So it's important to put some thought into what you want the cover of your book to look like. It should be immediately interesting and not too complicated, inviting the reader to open the cover and discover more.
Here are three things to consider when designing your book cover:
1. The Title. Some people know even before they begin their book what the title should be. In fact, beginning with a strong thematic title can provide a focus point upon which to build the book; it can help you decide what stories to include and what to leave out. But many others don't decide on a title until they are finished with their narrative, when a theme or story arc reveals itself.
Your title can be long or short, humorous or spiritual, thematic, symbolic -- or even just your name, since it's all about you. Whatever you choose, make sure it fits the mood or tone of your book. If your book has an overall serious or poignant feeling, you may not want to use a joke or pun in the title.
2. Readable type. You've used a simple, sensible classic book font for your book's main narrative (you have, haven't you?). But on the cover, you can use more a decorative font, if you so choose. Just make sure that your type is on a clean background and is not too fussy, delicate, or hard to read. You can also mix fonts on the cover, but don't get carried away: two or three should be plenty. Make sure your fonts don't "clash" -- try mixing a script font with a simple all caps font, rather than two competing script fonts.
3. A clean background. If you are using a photograph or other graphic image on your book cover, make sure it doesn't obscure the type. In the example below, the cover on the left uses two fussy fonts, in a low-contrast color, on a busy background, making it nearly impossible to read. The cover on the right uses the same photo but with cleaner fonts and a simple, high-contrast background.