Think buying a book cover is a “grab and run” option? Think again.
Even if you’re just buying a premade off a website, you might want to tweak the font (especially if your title is an unusual length) or get a full wrap (for paperback).
Or maybe with the full wrap, you’ll want to put a logo on that spine and back cover, which means communicating with the designer further.
And then maybe your proof copy comes out with weird colors or the page bleed needs to be tweaked. Also, not sure what “page bleed” means? Your cover designer should.
All of this means you need a solid relationship with your cover designer. So here are 3 Tips for Working with a Book Cover Designer.
Without either of you driving each other crazy. Hopefully.
1.) Know your book and your book’s genre(s) (and make sure your cover designer does too)
Book covers are all about communicating the general mood, tone, and atmosphere of your book using a common visual language understood by readers.
Readers generally know what “looks like” certain genres of books, the same way they know how to identify different kinds of cookies or household cleaners purely from the packaging.
Help out your designer by understanding what genre(s) your book fits into. This helps them understand the particulars of how to communicate what your book is.
Things your designer doesn’t usually need to know: your main character’s name, the specific details of your epic climax, or the exact character arcs featured in the book.
Things your designer does need to know: your book’s genre, the general mood/atmosphere of your book (Dark? Light-hearted? Romantic?), any preferred color schemes, a brief summary (maybe), key symbols/objects, and how close you want to stick to genre trends.
2.) Communicate visually with your book cover designer
One good visual example is far better than a vast quantity of words.
Authors are used to communicating with words–but in the design sphere, a picture is meant to convey those words. This means communicating your ideas using ideas from existing book covers and/or other visual design schemes is far more effective.
For example, which statement below is more useful for a custom cover design:
1.) Can you just tweak the font so it’s a little more goldish and also tarnished but not too tarnished, and maybe with some edges around the corners, but not all the corners?
2.) Can you tweak the font to look more like the font on this book cover *attaches picture of book cover to email* only instead of silver, a little more tarnished gold? And please, make the curls a little thinner.
Answer: Option 2 is way better. It gives the cover designer a visual baseline–aka, the font on the existing cover you reference–and then asks for specific adjustments.
And yes, I’ve totally word-vomited a cover designer in the early stages of my publishing career. Pretty sure I gave something similar to #1. The designer graciously tried to accommodate, but life got so much easier when I “spoke with pictures.”
What doesn’t help your designer: lots of words trying to describe every part of the book cover (without visual context).
What does help your designer: at least three book covers in your genre, along with specific comments about what you like and don’t like about each cover. More is better, because that gives them options to sift through, but always follow the guidance from your designer.
Bonus: a Pinterest mood board or a mood board folder with book covers (including comments), color scheme ideas, and general mood images.
Extra Bonus: you provide stock image ideas from stock photo websites (if you’re going for that kind of cover).
3.) Set boundaries at the start and abide by them (or at least be prepared to pay more and wait your turn)
Your book cover designer has a job and a life outside of working on your book (at least, I’m assuming they do). So it’s important to set boundaries of when the project is expected to be done (so you can hit your release date), and how many revisions your designer is willing to do (because your designer needs to work on other covers, and also, eat/sleep/live).
Sometimes, what you see is what you get. For example, a lot of premade book covers are bought “as is” except for changing the title and author name. Other changes might cost additional money (or might be off-limits, as the designer chooses).
For custom covers, there will be more cover design concepts, drafts, and passes. Pay attention to the package you’re buying (if applicable). If you’re working with an up-and-coming designer or doing barter work with another professional, it’s still a good idea to set some limits so that your designer doesn’t feel taken advantage of, and so that you get the book cover when you need it.
And if you want more work done, or realize you just hate everything and you must start from scratch, be willing to pay your designer for the additional work and respect that you might have wait in line behind other clients.
What you need to set up with your designer: price, type of work, deadline for completion, number of original book concepts to choose from, number of revision passes, what constitutes a full revision vs. a small tweak (those tweaks can take longer than you think–or not, so it’s good to ask), and whether you’ll want additional services (full wrap for paperback, custom banner design, audiobook cover, etc).
What you need to know: whether you might want additional services, the cover design deadline, your expectations for revisions, and a good sense of your budget allotment.
Note: cover designers can be flexible, depending on their preferences, personality, and life situation. I’ve definitely asked for extra give-and-take on projects when the situation called for it.
But if you want someone for an extra tweak or additional service, always be willing to pay and be courteous in your communication. A little bit of straight-forward tact goes a long way, especially over email or text. And if they say “no”, even if you’re willing to pay, respect their decision and chill out.
There are a lot of options for cover designers! Below are just a handful that I’ve found. Feel free to peruse.
Note: what has worked for me might not work for you. Every cover design project is different, with a different goal and budget according to your unique plans.
Be sure to get a good sense of the designer from their portfolio, contact other clients for testimonials, and see if your personalities and styles mesh.