Are you considering hiring a book cover designer but you’re not sure how to work with one? Knowing how to effectively collaborate with your designer will help speed up the process, avoid any misunderstandings, and get your vision closer to reality. In this post, we’ll share tips to help you get the most out of the partnership. You’ll find out:
- The benefits of investing in professional book cover design
- What information you should include in a cover design brief
- Dos and don’ts for communicating with a book cover designer
We’ll also show a real-life example of what the process of creating a book cover looks like from start to finish.
Let’s dive in!
Why work with a book cover designer?
A cover designer is an experienced specialist who knows how to create a marketable cover for your genre and what works in your literary niche. They have an eye for well-balanced composition. They also have access to the high-resolution images and professional fonts needed to produce the highest quality package for your book. Here’s an excellent example of the importance of investing in a book cover designer.
Glen Dahlgren created the cover for The Child of Chaos (the first book of his Chronicles of Chaos series) with a friend. While this friend was a talented artist, neither of them had experience in designing book covers. Glen admitted that he tried to cram too much into the picture instead of exploring what worked for his genre and target audience. That’s why the cover didn’t work as it should. Here is what it looked like:
After writing the sequel, Glen decided to redesign the first book. He wanted the new design to become the basis of the look of the entire series. The author turned to MiblArt for help. We created a simpler cover based on the writer’s wishes and market demands. Sales increased as soon as the new book cover appeared online.
Without further ado, let’s look at what the cover design process entails.
What should a brief for a book cover designer include?
Successful collaboration with a book cover designer begins with a brief. A good brief consists of two parts: technical information about your book and descriptive information to assist the design process.
Technical information includes:
- The title and author’s name. You can add a subtitle, tagline, series name and book number, or other descriptors if available.
- Book dimensions, number of pages, and self-publishing platform. If you are unsure about this information or have not yet decided where to publish your novel, a book cover designer can manage without dimensions at this stage but will need them eventually. Your self-publishing platform will not allow you to upload a cover that does not meet the specified measurements.
- Format. Are you going to publish in paperback, hardcover, ebook, audiobook, or more than one format? Each one has specific formatting and technical requirements.
- Blurb, reviews, or author bio. Include at least one of these for the back cover if you’re publishing your book in print.
To assist the design process, you might include:
- Genre. Each genre has its own personality: distinct colors, imagery, typography, etc. Readers expect to see these cues when looking for books to read in a particular genre.
- Target audience. This will help your designer cater to the unique tastes and trends of your market.
- A summary of the narrative. This will assist your designer in choosing images, symbols, and other elements to make it clear to readers what your book is about.
- A description of the protagonists. This is vital if you’d like a character-based design.
- Story setting. If your book is a work of fiction, is it set in a particular era or location that could be conveyed on the cover?
- Series info. Is your book part of a series? In a perfect world, all the books in the series look harmonious. Even if you haven’t yet finished the whole series, it makes sense to think about how it will all tie together.
- Examples for inspiration. A few examples of book covers you admire can help the designer better understand what you’re going for.
The more detailed your brief, the better the results. Let’s look at an example from one of our clients and the final book cover.
- Title: City of Whispers
- Subtitle: Imperial Assassin Book 1
- Author’s name: Katt Powers
- Size, self-publishing platform, and format: Ebook, 287 pages; IngramSpark paperback, 305 pages; IngramSpark hardcover, 320 pages
- Genre: Adventure fantasy/assassin fantasy
- Will this book continue as a series? Yes.
- Description of your book: Dhani Karim was once the Empire’s most feared assassin. Framed for a murder she didn’t commit, Dhani is exiled to a remote desert city and forced to work alongside former spy Parvan Gorshayik, a broken man hiding a deadly secret. Yet even as Dhani locks horns with her prickly partner, dark forces gather, planning to overthrow the city’s rulers and begin their quest to conquer a kingdom.
- Description of the protagonist: Dhani Karim is approximately 5’11’’, 28 years old, with ash blonde hair that falls to mid-back length. Her build is lean and athletic-muscular shape. Dhani has jewel-green eyes and coppery tan skin.
- Setting: A medieval desert city like Khiva, Uzbekistan.
The author also shared several examples of favorite book covers:
Here is the final book cover we made:
However, it took more than a brief to get this result!
Tips for effective communication with your book cover designer
You’ve created a detailed brief, but is it enough to get the cover of your dreams? Unfortunately, not on its own. The key to working effectively with any book cover designer is transparent and clear communication. In our experience working with authors, we’ve developed a few top dos and don’ts we recommend.
- Be generous with feedback! Whenever you have doubts, changes, requests, or additional information, share your thoughts with the designer. Unfortunately, they can’t read minds. It’s never too late to share any details you might have forgotten.
- Discuss the deadline and the designer’s terms of service at the very beginning. For example, how many revisions are free? What does the copyright include? What hours are the best for reaching out? Establishing these terms early on helps to avoid any communication breakdowns.
- Specify the goal and mood you want to evoke. Maybe you want to inspire your readers to travel or make them laugh and feel optimistic. This information is helpful for building the cover’s composition and choosing the color scheme, objects, and characters.
- Familiarize yourself with different book cover styles. There are several types of book cover design authors should know: stock photo manipulation, illustrated, 3D modeling, and original photography. Remember that each requires a different amount of effort, time, and money, so choose wisely.
- Share reference images if some objects on your book cover are unique. You are the expert on your story.
- Trust your book cover designer, especially if it’s your first book. They know what works in your market. Remember, your designer is your partner: You are both interested in the success of your book cover.
- Expect the first version to be perfect. The first version of the cover is usually a concept that guides where to go next. Your cover will go through several revisions, and even the final draft may require corrections and clarifications.
- Expect that the designer will read your book. They only need to know the genre, your target audience, and a short description of your book to create a marketable book cover.
- Micromanage. Remember that the book cover designer is a specialist in their field and knows what works for your genre. Feel free to make suggestions, but avoid taking charge of the designer’s work and try to listen to their advice.
- Incorporate complex ideas. First and foremost, the book cover is a marketing tool. Leave complex concepts for the plot.
A sneak peek into the process of a book cover designer
To demonstrate what we mean by effective communication, we want to share a case study of the entire process of creating a cover for a client’s upcoming release. We’ll show the initial brief and revisions we made based on communications between the author and the book cover designer.
Here was the initial information:
- Title: The Spirit Demon
- Subtitle: The Spirit Spear Saga
- Author’s name: Ariel Rose Danus
- Size, self-publishing platform and format: 5×8, 322 pages, KDP, Kyrun Publishing
- Genre: Fantasy
- Will this book continue as a series? Yes.
- Description of your book: This is a long epic fantasy series about a clan dwarf, Flint Ironhelm, who gets caught up in a war between elves, dwarves, humans, and the supernatural world. Flint is a married family man with a young son named Lyall. The first book has Flint trying to reach the ancient Elvis city of Arborlorian. The dwarves in this series are the focal point.
- Description of the protagonist: The main character is a clan dwarf. He’s about 4.5 feet tall, red beard, red hair, and green eyes. He looks about in his late thirties and is dressed in medieval travel garb. He has a red scarf and carries an oaken staff.
However, this is not all the information we received. After we accepted the project, the author sent additional ideas:
- One of the protagonist’s companions is a monk with brown hair, a bald crown on his head, and a trim brown beard.
- The characters are heading to the White City of Arborlorian.
- The frame for the book cover can include iron or trees.
- Trees and vines are crucial to the mythology of the world.
- It would be great to put Book 1 (in roman numerals) in the title.
With all the data in mind, we created this first version:
The author liked the general concept, so we were moving in the right direction. However, she had some notes:
- The dwarf, as the protagonist, should be the only character on the book cover.
- We should change the fantasy castle in the background.
- The dwarf’s hair and beard should be longer.
- The color scheme should be more contrasting.
The writer also attached references to what the castle and dwarf should look like:
We updated the first concept according to the client’s feedback. We collected a few possible images of the castle we could use for the background. However, our designer also created a version with mountains behind the main character. In the end, the author realized that the castle didn’t need to be in the background. So, this is what the revised book cover looked like:
This time, the main character was perfect. But the author wanted to improve colors. She liked the brighter blue-green of the stones. However, she missed the bright metallic gold of the leaves and the lighter-colored wood of the shields of the previous version. This was the next version:
We were almost there. The last request was to change the font of the author’s name to match her other series. The writer shared her other book, Telmuth’s Flame, as a reference.
And here is the final book cover, which our client found stunning and eye-catching:
As you can see, a detailed brief is an excellent basis for a book cover. It will save a lot of time in designing the first concept. But the perfect cover is also the result of some back-and-forth between the author and the designer, with clear feedback throughout the revision process. The end result would not have happened without both.
To sum up: Don’t expect everything to be perfect on the first try. Almost all covers require editing and improvement. To avoid misunderstandings, talk to your designer about their particular process before you get started, provide references, and share clear and generous feedback.
We hope these tips help ensure a smooth experience!
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