Cover Design from a Pro’s POV


little boy with scribbles on paperLast week, Diana kicked off this month’s discussion of what makes a good cover. I am a graphic designer, and I do book covers, so I come at it from a slightly different perspective.

Covers Cost Money

A good cover will cost you money. A cover is not sticking up a stock photo, adding the title and your name, and calling it good. Editing and cover design are your two biggest expenses in creating a book, if you are an indie publisher. Whether your barter, trade, or pay cold, hard cash, expect to pay for a good cover. Once you have this mindset, you can approach cover design like an asset in your business.

Your cover is your first and biggest marketing piece. It is what people will see before they know anything about your book. It may be the thing that grabs their attention in the midst of a page of thumbnail images in your genre. It will be what graces every ad and promo piece you do. It’s worth putting in serious money on this. When I worked for a Big 5 publisher, our routine, bottom-line budget for a cover was $3,000. I’m not saying you have to pay that much; you should be able to get a good, custom cover in the $500-$1,500 range.

Finding a Designer

Ask other authors, especially those with covers that you love, who their designers are. Often, authors will credit their designers on the copyright page and/or in the acknowledgments.

You can also go to sites such as 99Designs, Fivver, and Reedsy to find designers who are willing to work on a budget.

How to Hire a Book Cover Designer

You need to prepare a creative brief. This will tell the designer the format, trim size, and genre. Additionally, it should include information like:

  •      Is it part of a series?
  •      Are you looking for branding?
  •      Do you want a back cover?
  •      Will you be including endorsements or blurb?
  •      What other uses will you have for the cover?
  •      What is the theme of the book? Is there an image in the book that represents this?
  •      What is the tone of the book? Lighthearted, serious, scary?
  •      Who is the book’s audience?

The best way to work with a designer is to show him or her images of what you are looking for. Grab covers, faces, backgrounds, colors, graphics, etc. The more info you can give your designer, the closer you will both get to understanding each other and you being happy with the final project.

Look at his or her portfolio to see if it contains work similar to what you envision. Read the reviews and feedback. Make sure you understand the contract. And it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, get a contract!

What You Need to Know About Design

While you won’t be designing the cover, you need to know some general principles of cover design so you can make an intelligent decision as a business owner.

  •    More than anything else, the cover must represent your genre. Covers that don’t follow the conventions of their genre risk being overlooked. Romance readers know what a romance book should look like. It would never be confused with a horror novel. Sci-fi and fantasy have their particular conventions. Make sure you are choosing a designer that understands the conventions of the genre and that you have made it clear to them in the creative brief.
  •   The title and genre must be immediately identifiable at thumbnail size. That means intricately detailed images will get lost. You can get some wiggle room on the title. People don’t expect to be able to read a lot at thumbnail size. But the image must be intriguing enough for them to want to click on it to learn more.
  •   Do not try to convey the whole book with the cover. All you want to do is entice them. The cover needs to sell the book, not tell the story within the book.

Armed with this information, you should be able to hire someone to create a cover you will be proud of.

For more information, check out these articles:
https://blog.reedsy.com/book-cover-design (this includes a great infographic)




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