When I hired someone to design the cover for my novella The Darkest Curse, it was all completely new to me, so I wanted to write a blog post about working with a book cover designer. If you’re thinking about doing this yourself or you’re just curious about how it works, I’ll be going through the process!
I assume that not all cover designers work in the same way, and it might depend on things like how much money you’re investing, the style of cover, and how detailed the designer’s service is. But this should give you a rough idea of what to expect.
Step 1 – Research
The very first thing I did was research. I had a look at existing books in my genre on Amazon to get an idea of what type of designs are common in my market (I typed in things like “fairytale retelling”). You might think you need to be experimental, to have a cover that doesn’t fit with your genre so you can be unique. But from a marketing standpoint, this isn’t a good idea.
Readers need to be able to look at your cover and know exactly what they’re going to be getting themselves into when they read your book. If they look at your book and think “thriller”, but read a magical fantasy book, they’re going to be disappointed and that could lead to bad reviews too.
When I was researching books in my genre/similar books, I made a mental note of common themes and styles. This can be as simple as something like “a woman on the cover”. I stress that the point here isn’t to try to copy these designs. It’s market research: know your genre and what the covers typically look like.
Step 2 – Finding designers
Before you start working with a book cover designer, you need to actually find some to choose from! But how? There are a few methods. What I did was use the Look Inside feature on Amazon. When you visit a book’s page on Amazon, you should see the “look inside” text hanging over the cover at the top right – here’s an example:
If you click on that text or the cover, Amazon will open a preview of the book. It usually opens on the first chapter. What you want to do is SCROLL UP to the copyright page. There, you should see things like the ISBN number, copyright details, and so on. In indie books, authors include their cover designer – and sometimes their editor and other people involved in the book – on the copyright page. This is what I did in mine – you can see how I included Asterielly Designs:
You can find cover designers using this method, which is what I did. Have a look in some indie books in your genre and note down who the cover designers are.
There are other methods you can use to find designers too (I haven’t tried any of these):
- Directories: Reedsy, ALLi’s Self-Publishing Services Directory
- Design communities: 99Designs
- Art communities: DeviantArt
Step 3 – Contacting a designer and getting started
When you first contact your chosen designer, you’ll want to include some basic information such as your rough time frame, genre, and details about your book. As with editors, a lot of designers book in advance so make sure you allow some time.
Asterielly Designs replied to me very quickly! She sent me a questionnaire to fill out. It included basic things like my genre/subgenres, author name, book title, and series title, as well as my publishing platform. There were also more detailed questions I had to consider:
- Tropes (one of mine was “girl in a tower”, since it’s a Rapunzel retelling!)
- Recurring symbols in the story (flowers/thorns were important to mine, so that was mentioned)
- Things I’d like to include on the cover (people, symbols, settings, colours or textures)
- Any animals/species
- Physical traits for human characters
Along with all that information, I was asked to include some examples of existing covers I liked, and what exactly I liked about them such as fonts or poses. Then I had to include some covers I didn’t like and why. The questionnaire was extensive!
Step 4 – Working with a book cover designer
When the questionnaire was done, Asterielly Designs got to work on some rough drafts. I was sent two. They were quite different in terms of composition and concept. I chose my favourite, and was also able to give feedback on anything I wanted to change, or any ideas I had for revisions or new compositions.
I loved one of the designs, so I sent some minor feedback to add a few more design elements and some changes to the font. The designer then made the changes and sent me an idea of what the “full wrap” would look like for the paperback (the front cover, spine, and back cover together).
At this point I had the opportunity to give a bit more feedback so I asked for a design change to the spine, and a couple more tweaks to the font.
When that was done, the design was finished! For me, I had to wait a while for the paperback to be finalised as my formatter was still working on some of the finer details such as the page count. But the design was done!
This was the finished product for The Darkest Curse after working with Asterielly Designs. Isn’t it stunning?
After working with a book cover designer
You’ll need to upload your cover onto your publishing platforms when setting up your book – your designer should send you an ebook version and a paperback version for your chosen platforms if you need both – and then you’re all done!
Some book cover designers offer other services too. My designer offered to do a promo pack for social media, which I was glad to do to save myself some time creating marketing images!
If you’re writing a series, it’s helpful to work with the same designer across all of the books. That way you can make sure they’re consistent and matching. This is what I plan to do, and I can’t wait to work with Asterielly Designs again!
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