Publishing a Book? Then You’ll Need a Eye-catching Cover

Publishing a Book? Then You’ll Need a Eye-catching CoverIf you’re self-publishing your book, using a good book cover is one of your most creative important decisions.

A compelling book cover will help you sell more books on stores like Amazon, while an amateur book cover will put potential readers off.

Over the past three years, I’ve designed a book cover, worked with a friend to get a book cover I liked and used the popular crowd-sourcing service 99designs.

For my new book, I decided to find a book cover designer online and commission them to create a cover for me.

In this post, I’ll explain what you need to know about working with a book cover designer.

Designing Your Own Book Cover

Dear Sarah
A book cover for a short-story I created with Canva

When I was self-publishing my first book, I spent several hours trying to design a book cover using Adobe Photoshop.

What a waste of time!

I don’t recommend this approach unless you’re a designer, as you’re better spending your time and creative energy improving the quality of your book or marketing it.

Also, a professional designer will be able to create something compelling faster.

If you insist on designing a book cover yourself, Canva provides free drag-and-drop templates.

(Joanna Penn also explains in this post how you can use Word to create a book cover).

I used Canva to design a book cover for one of my self-published short stories. First, I selected a Canva template and then I uploaded a stock image.

I didn’t spend much money self-publishing the short story, and I didn’t expect the story to earn much (short stories are hard to sell). In other words, this was an experiment rather than a serious creative decision.

In short: hire a professional.

Finding a Designer

Poor Brother, Rich Brother
A book cover for my novella. I commissioned this in 2015.

Last year, I hired a designer I’d worked with face-to-face. If you already know a designer, this is a good approach.

But, what if you want to find a designer?

Well, here’s what I did recently.

Each month, the Book Designer hosts monthly ebook cover design awards. The winners are designers of compelling fiction and non-fiction ebook covers.

I went through the last twelve months of these awards, picked five non-fiction book covers I liked best and then contacted these book cover designers.

I asked the designers for a price, details about their approach and how long getting a cover would take.

One designer didn’t reply to me, and another wasn’t free to accept commissions until 2018.

The other two designers were either too expensive or didn’t offer quite what I was looking for.

In the end, I commissioned a designer who was within my budget and able to turn around a book cover within 2-3 weeks.

Contacting multiple designers gave me a better idea of what represents value for money and what I could expect.

Researching What You Want

Before commissioning a book cover, spend 30-60 minutes browsing Amazon and other bookstores to see what type of covers popular authors in your niche are using.

Note what the most common images on these book covers are as well as what you like and dislike.

It’s your job to get an idea of what a typical book cover in your niche looks like. For example, a lot of thrillers rely on dark imagery and colours like red and black, which may be inappropriate for a romance novel.

It’s also your job to identify clichéd images so you can avoid using them in your cover. In my case, these were pictures of cogs, brains and lightbulbs.

And the first thing I told my designer?

No cogs, brains or lightbulbs!

Tip: Use Pinterest for Your Research

Pinterest is a great research tool for writers and indie authors too.

First, create a board for covers you like (here’s mine).

Then, when you come across an attractive book cover, pin it to your board. If you build up a collection of appealing book covers, you’ll have something to show your designer later on.

(Need some more inspiration? Buzzfeed compiled 34 great book covers here.)

Preparing a Book Cover Design Brief

Most book cover designers will request a brief from you. In some cases, they may send you a form to fill out while in other cases, you can brief your designer over Skype or even face-to-face.

Typically, you’ll need to explain:

  • the title and concept of your book
  • the genre of your book
  • your target audience
  • the tone of your book (colourful, informative, etc.)
  • book covers you like
  • book covers you dislike
  • a synopsis
  • visual elements you’d like included in your book cover (tell your designer not to go over the top).

It helps to prepare all of this in advance before you commission a book cover designer.

Here’s an extract of what I included in my brief for my new book, alongside a 300-word synopsis of the book:

What is the Genre?

Non-fiction, creativity, self-help

Who is the Target Audience?

New writers, artists and musicians

What is the Tone of the Book?

Colourful and informative

What are the Main Elements?

This is what I need your help with. I’d like to avoid clichéd creativity images like lightbulbs, sparks, brains, spinning cogs, typewriters, etc.

What kind of covers do you like?

The 48 Laws of Power, Daily Rituals, The Creative Habit,

What would you like to see on your cover?

My blog uses the colours black and #D60000. It would be great if you could work in an element on this choices onto the cover. However, sometimes I find the red tends to bleed if I over-use red text on a black background.

Agreeing on a Contract

Like with any good business relationship, a professional designer will send you a contract of what they expect from you, what they’ll deliver and how many revisions you’ll get.

The contract should also outline their payment terms and the deadline.

Review this contract to ensure you’re happy with the terms and the deadline.

Before you agree on the contract, consider if you want any extras. For example, do you want:

  • Social media graphics or website banners that match your book cover
  • A 3D mockup of your ebook that you can use on your website
  • A designed version that includes the back of your ebook

These extras may cost more depending on the designer’s approach.

Once you’ve paid a deposit (or the full amount), the designer will go to work.

What To Expect from Your Designer

The Power of Creativity
My new book cover

After an agreed period, your designer will present you with two to three book covers to review.

I recommend showing the book cover designer’s concepts to friends, family members, colleagues or beta readers with a good eye.

Ask them to suggest edits or improvements and combine them with your own.

Because you’re self-publishing, it’s up to you to pick the design that appeals.

Once you’ve explained your changes, your book cover designer should update the cover and send you back a final version (there may be some backwards and forwards depending on the level of changes you want).

Once both parties are happy, ask your designer to send you the source files and not just the image of the book cover.

Even if you don’t ever edit the source files yourself, having them will enable you to commission changes later on.

Finally, pay your designer whatever is outstanding.

Judging Your Book by Its Cover

Your cover represents an investment in your book. It’s the face you show to the world, and it should look good.

The beauty of self-publishing is that you have full control over your book, and you can change the book cover down the road.

However, if you work with a professional book cover designer and you do your homework, you shouldn’t have to worry about changing the cover later on.

Instead, you should end up with a book cover that works.

And a book cover that works will intrigue potential readers, convince them to buy your book and help you earn a living from writing.

What questions do you have about getting a book cover? Let me know in the comments section below.

Publishing a Book? Then You’ll Need a Eye-catching Cover

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10 thoughts on “Publishing a Book? Then You’ll Need a Eye-catching Cover”

  1. Bryan–Thanks for the tip on using Pinterest. If I don’t find an alternative that I can afford, I’m thinking of using 99 Designs (roughly $270) which is about $100 over my budget. Did you contract with the Book Designer designer work out much cheaper than that? How long did the process take you?

  2. Morten Haugland

    Excellent and insightful article. I also think premade covers are an alternative today. Personally I have used services such as http://www.bookcoverzone.com and have been fairly satisfied so far. For 3 of my 4 published books I used this site, and it’s, as far as I’ve seen, the best pre-made cover resource out there. The plus side is that they have created a system where you can automatically generate and buy your cover without waiting for a graphic designer to implement the changes you want to see. Of course, authentic covers made by famous designers is always alluring but in all honesty I believe you’ll have to pay at least $1000 for a really good cover. A good premade cover, on the other hand may look equally professional and will cost less than $100. Just an idea worth sharing. 🙂

  3. There are so many parts to this self-publishing world I’m entering, that sometimes it’s paralyzing. You’ve just put one more piece into the 5000-piece puzzle for me. Thank you, Bryan!!

  4. Good designers are hard to find. I’ve used pre-made covers but now I only use Limelight Book Covers. In the end, you can’t beat custom covers.

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