How To Communicate With A Cover Designer

Last week, we discussed how you should prepare to contact a book designer. So this week, we’re talking about cover design! While pretty much anybody can create a cover to their book with any art program that came pre-installed on their computer, readers do judge books by their covers when they’re deciding what to read. It’s wise to consult a professional if you don’t have prior design and illustration expertise.

But it can be scary to leave the cover of the book you worked so hard on in someone else’s hands. So how do you make sure the end result is something you like? Prior research and proper communication!

Here are some questions to keep in mind before you contact someone for cover design…

What’s in the designer’s portfolio? What are their conditions and limitations? Unless all you need is an illustration so that you can do the rest of the design work yourself, you should specifically be seeking out cover designers rather than (or alongside) general artists. Just because someone is a good artist doesn’t mean they’re also a good typographer! Another thing to keep in mind is that if the designer isn’t a known jack-of-all-trades, and if they don’t have prior experience with your genre of story or aesthetic vision, then they may not be a good fit for your project.

Above all else, you need to contact someone trustworthy. Do your research before you put your money down! Most cover designers have a website or portfolio available on their social media. They should be willing to show their prior work, and it’s a also good sign if they have reviews from prior clients.

What size do you want your novel to be printed at? How many pages will the story have? Is this going to be hardcover or paperback, or is it both? Is it just an ebook? Your cover designer will probably ask you this, since all of these questions will affect the cover sizing. Because of the second question, you may want to design the interior of the book first. The spine size will change depending on how many pages the book is. Trust me, the spine size needs to be very accurate if you don’t want to experience printing issues down the line.

If you’re just going straight to ebook though, there’s less to worry about. Ebooks don’t need spines or back covers — but you might want the front cover sized correctly for a print release in case you decide you want one later.

(And as with the interior, your size options will be limited based on what your publishing platforms offer. Again, some typical industry sizes for novels are 5×8 in, 5.5×8.5 in, and 6×9 in. Measure the books in your house to get a feel for the size that you prefer, and research your publishing platforms!)

Where is the artwork coming from? Will the cover designer supply all the artwork themself? Are you hiring an artist to make some artwork? Or are you banking on a more simplistic graphic design style? If you’re using photographs, did you take them yourself, and if not, what’s the copyright on them?

Remember that it’s usually a good idea to credit the assets in your cover if you didn’t create them! This is often done on the copyright page of your book, or on the lower left corner of the back cover.

What text is going on the cover? Like with a manuscript, you’ll want to have all the possible textual details figured out beforehand. Not everything may end up on the final product — maybe your designer had to cut that cool quip to make the title more readable, or perhaps three reviewer quotes was too much for the back cover to handle — but it’s still good to have everything on-hand anyway.

You should give your cover designer the title of the book, the name or pen name you’re going by, your editor’s name if they want to be credited, any reviewer quotes you might want placed on the cover, the summary of the book (you could offer a longer and a shorter version for them to test ideas with), and the barcode for the book’s ISBN or ASIN. (I’ll cover the subject of barcodes in a later article.)

As I said earlier, most books also have a little text on the bottom-left corner of the back cover. Traditionally published books tend to put the cost of the book and the publishing company there, but as a self-published author, it’s a good little corner to credit some of the people that helped you, and plug your website if you want. See here;

Finally, while we’re on the subject of text, you should also let the cover designer know if you have any specific fonts in mind!

Finally, what aesthetic details do you have in mind? What mood should be conveyed? Is there a specific layout that you want, or are you happy being surprised by what the designer comes up with? Basically, if you have any other ideas about how the cover should look, you should be aware of them beforehand and talk to the designer about them. If they have an objection to one of your ideas, listen to it. You know your story best, but they know their craft, and their prior knowledge of design is why you’re going to them in the first place.

And that’s it for communication advice today! I hope this aids you in your own publishing journey. If you find this helpful, then you can support me as a creator by buying me a Ko-fi. Thank you, and have a lovely day.

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