How to Work With a Book Cover Designer
Disclaimer: This blog post was originally published on authorpreneurpodcast.com
So, you’ve finished writing your first or next book, and you’re working with an editor. But you’ve realised that you need a book cover. And you’re on a budget, so you’ve started browsing premade book covers but can’t find something that suits your story. This led you to commission a custom book cover, even though it’s a little out of your budget.
So, how do you ensure you get the best possible cover designed for your book?
Like most things, preparation is everything.
As a designer, I don’t recommend simply finding a cover designer within your budget, then shooting them an email with a brief description of your story then asking for examples of their work. To work well with a cover designer, you need to provide more information than that for a design to start working on a design for your story.
In this blog post, I will share tips on how to work with a book cover designer so that you can get the best possible cover for your book.
Check Whether the Designer is Open to Custom Cover Design Jobs
Yes, I know this is an obvious step, but a few months ago, I removed the customer cover design option from my Etsy store because I wasn’t attracting clients I could work with. But I still get vague enquiries where I have to tease information out of the client or a person expecting me to create a custom cover for free before deciding on whether they want to work with me. Yes, there are people who expect me to do hours of work for no pay. So, I politely pulled down the listings and only accept custom book cover commissions on my website. It’s simple this way.
So, please ask a designer whether they are available to do a custom book cover.
Look at the Designers Portfolio and Sold Covers
Before you fill out any forms or send off an email, look at the designer’s portfolio and premade book cover listings to get a sense of what the designer has worked on before. Have they designed covers that are in your genre? Are the covers similar to other books in your genre? And do you like their style?
I can’t tell you how many times people have asked for examples of my work when I have 26 remade book cover listings available to purchase and a menu item that says “portfolio.” As a designer, I turn these clients down because I’m concerned they aren’t prepared to work with me. This behaviour tells me they’re going to treat me like a machine that will do everything for them.
And that’s not how the design process works.
I need my clients to show me they know what they want and are prepared to do the research. If you can’t find a designer’s portfolio, then reach out and ask, but first, I’d use the search feature on their website before reaching out.
Make a Good First Impression
When you reach out to a designer, it’s important to consider the impression that you’re giving them. Are you asking them something that you could easily find yourself after looking at their website for a minute or two? Consider how you’d respond if you were getting a few of these emails a day.
I realise that’s not your problem, but I’m trying to show you what it’s like behind the curtain so that when you find a designer that’s right for you, you’ll make that all-important good impression.
Know Your Genre Expectations
Everyone judges a book by its cover.
Yes, I managed to throw that cliche in this post. How could I possibly resist? But back to the tips on how to work with a book cover designer.
Before you do anything, you need to know your genre. Browse the best-seller charts for your genre on Amazon and find five authors who write books that are similar to yours. Make sure you weed out the covers that are stuffed into categories that aren’t right for them.
For some reason, when I look on Amazon, I keep finding Romantic Suspense novels with man chests on the cover in the Thriller and Suspense categories. There is a distinct difference between Romantic Suspense and Suspense, and the readers of these two genres are unique and want particular stories and will be disappointed if they don’t get what they are after.
Ideally, you want your cover to look like it belongs in the genre because readers tend to buy what’s familiar to them.
Give the Designer All the Necessary Information
By now, there’s probably a question floating around your mind. What information does a designer need? I’m so glad you asked.
Below is a basic list of all the necessary information you need to provide your cover designer.
- Pen name as it appears on the cover
- Co-author name
- Book Title
- Sub Title
- Series Title
- Book position in the series
- Your Book’s Synopsis
- Description of your main character
- Whether you want the main character on the cover (not all genres have this element)
- Examples of covers of books in your genre (include title and author and links)
- Level of humour in your story
- Elements that are important for your cover
- Cover formats (ebook, audiobook, paperback, hardcover etc.)
- Trim size of paperbacks *
- Page numbers for paperbacks and other physical editions *
- Publisher logo for the spine *
The last three items on the list don’t need to be provided right away, but the designer will ask you for these items during the design process, but it’s always good to be ready.
How to Give Feedback
Once you get the first version/s of your cover from your designer, it’s important to point out that it would be wise to respect the designer and their knowledge of design elements. And you should understand that the goal of the cover is to entice the reader to click and buy, not to recreate a scene from the story or to embody a particular idea.
But, if you don’t like the design, you need to be specific about what you don’t like. For instance, you might want to see a different colour palette or change the colour of a particular item on the cover. Or perhaps you like an element from one design and another from the second design.
It’s important to give specific feedback instead of asking for a redesign. If you don’t like the design, it’s important to explain why and what type of cover you were expecting. But if you do the research in the previous step, then you’ll most likely avoid this scenario.
Remember, both you and the designer what the same thing—the best cover for your novel.
Discussing POD Printing Issues
Please note that sometimes you’ll have issues with the placement of text on print covers, which will often result from the print-on-demand printers and the way they slice the book. Sometimes the book cutting during the print stage will not be accurate and thus create a minor alignment issue—this is why the bleed margin exists in print-ready PDF files; it gives the printer a bit of grace.
As a designer, these alignment errors drive me mad too. It’s essential to show the designer these issues but understand not all of these issues can be fixed—it’s a downside of POD.
Honestly, I wish I could fix these problems for you, but it’s not always possible. So, remember to be kind and respectful when reaching out to your designer because there are some things that are out of their hands.
I hope this blog post shows you how to work with a book cover designer so that you can get the best cover for your novel. Please remember, the designer is actually on your side and wants the same thing. But in order to achieve this, you need to do a few things before you commission a quote or start the design process.
Hi, I’m Amelia Levillain! My last name is French and isn’t pronounced the way it sounds. It’s pronounced “Le-vi-lla.” I’m a London-based book cover designer specialising in affordable book covers within the cozy mystery, romantic comedy, and thriller genres. For new designs, deals, and coupon codes, sign up for my newsletter. It’s the best way to make sure you never miss out on new designs and specials.