Some people think that book cover design happens in just a few moments, but that’s not the case.

Before the designer can even begin, he or she must spend time researching other books in your category so that your book’s design will fit in as well as stand out. If that sounds like a contradiction, it is. Your book must look like it belongs with others of its type, but it also must look better, and more interesting, so that people will buy your book and not someone else’s.
A cover designer will also talk about your target market, so that the design will appeal to the people most likely to read your book. Age, income level, profession—all of these must be considered in the design. There is no such thing as a book that will appeal to “everyone.”
That’s the science part of cover design. Next comes the art part. While it’s true that a designer will start by quickly sketching the first ideas that come to mind, an experienced designer will almost always reject these first ideas and strive for something better and unique. A good designer will find the right images, combine them in creative and eye-catching ways, and show you at least three very different designs to give you a clear choice. Then, he or she will collaborate with you on changes until the cover is everything you imagined. After that, the cover design is back into “science” mode — creating the digital file correctly for printing, so that what you see is what you actually get from your printer. All of this takes between twenty and thirty hours.

If you look at the samples of low-cost cover designers critically, you can see that they have used a “cookie cutter” approach—changing a photo here, a typeface there, but not offering the client a creative new look.

To find a designer, it’s useful, first of all, to review the Web sites of various designers to determine the styles you like and those you don’t. However, don’t reject a designer if the samples aren’t in the same genre as your book. Look for the underlying design skill, which a competent designer can apply to any topic. Second, ask your friends if they know a skilled designer. Third, attend local publishing group meetings, where you have the opportunity to meet several designers. Chances are, if you like each other in a social setting, you’ll be successful working together as well.

When you have identified a few designers whose work you like, describe your project in detail in writing and ask them for a quote. Designers who ask a lot of questions are probably more experienced than those who ask few or no questions. Make sure that they respond with the number of concepts that are included in the price and the number of hours of changes that are included. Also, make sure that you will own the rights to the cover design, as well as any licensed images that may be used when the project is complete.

Pay attention to how long it takes the designer to respond to your request for a quote. Slow response times may mean slow service times later. Most of all, avoid designers who are impatient with your questions. Design is a service business, and you’re entitled to a reasonable amount of the designer’s time as the project proceeds.

Prices that sound too good to be true can mean that the designer is going to give you only a very small amount of his or her time. When comparing designer quotes, be sure to ask how many concepts the designer will present for the price quoted. In the “good old days,” it was standard procedure to offer multiple concepts. Now, many designers offer just one concept and revise from there. This takes less time, of course, but it won’t give you an opportunity to decide which approach is more eye-catching.

One final note: when a designer follows up with you after sending you a quote, please don’t ignore his or her communication. Even if chose to hire someone else, it’s nice to acknowlede the time and effort that was spent in developing a quote, and the designer learn from your reasons to adjust his or her business practices accordingly.

What do you want to know? What topics should we explore together? How can we help you along your publishing journey? Everyone here at 1106 Design wants to help. Post your comment here or email us using the Contact Us page.

Michele DeFilippo, owner, 1106 Design