There are a bazillion articles on good book cover design out there. Funny thing is, much like with editors, book cover designers all have different ideas and opinions about what makes a good cover. You’ll even find contradictory statements in the articles.
That’s because book cover design is an art, which means judgment is opinion-based. Subjective. Granted, the marketing aspect means that sales can also reflect a good or bad cover. However, if there were a perfect formula to generate sales, we’d all have the perfect cover for our books.
Which brings us back to cover design is an art just like writing a book is an art.
So…how do you find a quality cover designer who fits you–your story, your style, and your vision for the book?
Instead of thinking about this in terms of a book cover, think about it in terms of a tattoo. Imagine for a moment you’re getting a tattoo (one with actual thought put into it and not a drunken dare). If you want a tattoo of a flower, you’re not going to go to the guy who specializes in skulls. And if you want fancy lettering, you’re going to search for a tattoo artist who does great lettering.
With that in mind, let’s talk about what to look for when searching for your cover designer.
Of course you can Google cover designers and start sifting through their work. That’s perhaps the fastest route to take. You will probably get lucky and find someone you like that way.
However, we recommend you do more than that. Start looking at covers in your genre. Search on Amazon and click on those which stand out for you. Ask yourself, “What about this cover do I like? What caught my attention?” Those questions become relevant when you start narrowing down your choices of designer.
Then, as you find covers you like, try to track down the cover designer. This can take a bit of digging. Assume that if the book is not self-published, the designer was hired by the publisher. A bigger publisher might mean the designer is in-house (exclusive to them). But many publishers hire freelance designers. Some list the designers who work for them on their website, or even include the cover designer’s name in the copyright info. If the book is self-published, and the author doesn’t thank the cover designer by name in their acknowledgments, go to the author’s website and try to see if they state the designer. Even email the author and ask who their cover designer is.
By taking this approach, you’ve already narrowed down the designers you’re looking at to those who create covers you KNOW you like and are effective (they grabbed your attention after all).
Now that you’ve got a list of designers time to really look at each closely. First, double-check that the designer hits the “basics”. Based on reviewing over 50 articles online, we’ve narrowed our list down to “all designers agree on these rules” – and it’s not a long list. 🙂
- Title of the book must be large and easy to read
- Cover must look good in thumbnail format
- Limit the # of fonts used & be careful of fonts used
- Avoid clutter–too much of any element is…too much
- No clip art or personal photos (unless you’re a professional photographer and the book is about your photography)
The genre is key. A non-fiction self-help book would not work with a cover meant for a romance novel. Does the cover artist specialize in your genre(s)? Do you like their portfolio in the genre your book falls under? Do their covers in your genre reflect the genre well?
You’re probably not going to want a cover in all pink with lots of hearts for a thriller. What mood or feel does the artist tend to portray with their previous designs? Even an artist who specializes in the romance genre can still tend toward a particular mood–darker, lighter, mysterious, sensual, cute. Does the artist’s leanings fit with your book?
Does the artist specialize or focus on certain elements? Some artists really love to make the text stand out and are fantastic at it. Some focus more on the images being blended, or on a crisp single image with lots of white space. Does this artist focus on elements which are important to you or which would reflect your book well?
Just like in the world of books, the world of cover design is constantly in motion. Is this artist a “one trick pony” with similar designs for all their covers? Or do they truly make something unique for each book? Do their designs evolve as they go along?
The following are a few logistical questions to consider:
How Custom Is Custom?
Does the artist use stock images? Do they reuse any images that went into your cover? Are the stock images they use showing up on a ton of other book covers?
This one is dependent on you and your budget. You are usually paying for both the images and for the artist’s time. So if your design is fairly simple, it might be less. Does the artist charge by the cover or by the hour? Can they estimate hours before they start?
What do you get for the fee?
Some cover artists include both eBook and Print format in their fee, or charge you separately? Some include a bookmark design or banners for your social media? Are there any “extra” you’d like? How much do those cost? What rights do you have?
What is the cover designer’s schedule? How fast can they create your cover? If they are busy, sometimes this can be months. Make sure you’re planning ahead if you want to release at a certain time or do a cover reveal.
# of Proofs
Do they do a few design concepts for you to choose from? Is there an extra fee involved for changes? How long do those changes take?
Your cover is often, if not always, the first impression a reader has of your book. This is why almost every “self-publishing tips” article out there stresses that when deciding where to spend your money as a self-published author, the book cover is one of the places to do so.
Hopefully these tips will help you find that perfect cover designer for you. Of course, we hope you’ll consider Authors On A Dime. Check out our portfolio and pricing options. Let us know if you have any questions. And happy cover designer hunting!