finding and working with a cover designer (1)

With millions of books for readers to choose from, the first “sales pitch” is the cover. If it is not striking enough to draw attention, it will be passed over for something more interesting on either side.   (Jo Linsdell, Why Book Covers are So Important)

Let’s talk about cover design. It matters. It really matters. The money you spend to hire a professional designer will pay dividends for years to come. Trust us.

You want a professional book cover designer, not just a good graphic artist, your nephew who just took an art class in college, or your friend who loves to paint and draw. Book cover design is a specialty, and even skilled graphic designers who haven’t worked in book publishing aren’t a good choice for this crucial task. (Joel Friedlander, Working With Cover and Interior Designers)

Finding a Designer

The good news is that when you partner with a publisher like Certa, the task of finding a designer doesn’t fall on your shoulders. Publishers have connections and experience with all types of professionals. Some of them, including Certa, have expert graphic designers on staff, which can significantly streamline the process. But even if they simply connect you with a known designer, you have skipped over the “is this person the real deal?” conundrum innate in finding a freelance designer. The publisher will also aid (or completely handle) the negotiations, leaving you with less back-and-forth emails and more time for… you know… writing!

Your role

So what comes next? Does the designer expect a gorgeous hand-drawn sample of what you want your cover to look like? Or, conversely, does she want you to stay out of the process entirely? With Certa, the good news is that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. You are the author. Therefore, your input and vision for the cover definitely matter. However, you are not the designer. Therefore, the skill and expertise of the designer definitely matter. This will be a collaborative effort, that if walked out correctly, can be a stimulating experience that will result in a cover so amazing that neither of you could have created alone.

So what does your designer need from you? Lara Willard offers this list in her post Seven Tips for Authors Working with a Book Cover Designer:

  • Saying “do whatever you want” can often be paralyzing to a designer with a thousand ideas.
  • Therefore, give the professional designer direction but not management. Ask for a creative brief, a tool which helps the designer understand what you want. Give the designer a few ideas to get him or her going, and then let the pro do his or her job.
  • It’s often better to say what you don’t like than what you do. “Can we avoid the color orange?” is better than “My favorite color is purple. I want it purple.”
  • If you provide images or ideas, make it clear that they are to inspire, not require the designer to follow them.
  • Create a Pinterest board of your favorite book covers to understand what styles you like. It can also be a useful addition to a creative brief. (Sharing this with your designer will be especially helpful if you hire a newbie designer.)
  • Know your genre. A good book cover gives the reader an expectation of what the pages inside hold.

The designer’s role

After submitting all of your ideas and inspiration to the designer, he or she will spend several weeks conceptualizing a design. They will likely use stock image sites, peruse successful book covers in your genre and look for fonts that tie into your theme. At this point, they will create several covers, which may vary wildly from one to the next. (The number of mock-ups will depend on the contract your publisher has negotiated on your behalf).

What if I don’t love any of the mock-ups?

Often authors will immediately fall in love with a mock-up, make a few small changes and – voila! – the cover is finished. However, if it isn’t love at first site, there are a few ways to further refine the design.

Put it to a vote

Some authors will pick their favorite 2 or 3 designs and showcase them on social media for their readers to vote on. Not only does this serve to promote your upcoming book, it also offers you a peek into the mind of your customer. Don’t be surprised if your favorite cover isn’t the one picked!

Offer specific feedback for revisions

You can eliminate the mock-ups that you definitely don’t like and then offer constructive criticism of the rest.

Helpful feedback sounds like this:

I love the font and the background color, but I’d like the image to be more realistic and less stylized.  

I love the image and mood of the cover, but I would like a less script-y font.

This cover is a bit too serious. I would like it to have a more youthful look like ______________. (specific example of a book in your genre)

Unhelpful feedback sounds like:

I just don’t like these. Please try something else.

It just doesn’t “pop.”

These are too bland.

There will be few sweeter moments in your life than the one where you hold your freshly-printed book in your hand. Gazing at that gorgeous cover, you will surely feel that all the time and effort of working with a cover designer was worth it! At Certa Publishing, we have helped hundreds of authors through the cover design process and we would love to partner with you. Contact us today!


Working With a Cover Designer

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