13 Crucial Tips for Working with a Book Cover Designer

According to tests conducted by book promotion company Bookbub, a book’s cover alone can make a 30% difference to whether it gets clicked on a listing or not. This is a clear testament to the power of the book cover. In fact, its importance is so widely acknowledged that there are many contests that judge the cover of the year, or month!

If you get the cover right, your sales can improve dramatically, but if you get it wrong, your masterpiece is unlikely to draw the attention it deserves. So make the cover the centerpiece of your book marketing efforts, and give to graphic design as much importance as you would to writing.

If you have a concept in mind, you could learn a bit of design and make the cover yourself using free tools like Canva or Adobe Spark. But if the conceptualization is poor, or if the appearance is amateurish, these judgments will unfairly transfer over to your book.

You can maximize your cover’s potential by hiring a professional book cover designer. To bring to life your vision for your book, work with someone who can visually—and attractively—put forward its essence to your target audience. In this article, we share a few design tips for you and your book designer to create a cover that sells.

Know what’s expected in your genre

You have read many books related to yours, but you have not perhaps examined their covers. The first step is research. Look up the most popular books in your genre and study the covers that you like. What stood out for you in each book cover design? Which elements encapsulate the genre and mood of the books? What impression would these covers make in the minds of your target audience, and what insights does that leave you with? This exercise should give you a fair idea of how you want your book’s cover to appear.

Write a clear brief for your book designer

You may have already imagined your book cover down to its last detail. Or you may be among those who would be happy to have someone else do this for you. Irrespective of which camp you belong to, your designer will need from you an explicit set of expectations. Underestimating or deferring alignment between you and your designer will be time-consuming and frustrating for both. As you prepare the brief, make sure you have the following covered.

  • Share about your book. Describe your book’s plot or premise. Define the target audience and briefly explain why they would want to read the book.
  • Have your title and subtitle ready. The cover will include the book’s title, subtitle, and your name. Write out your name as you would want it to appear on the cover.
  • Share concept ideas, if you have any. As you do so, evaluate each concept from the filter of how your target audience would relate to it.
  • Mention preferences. Share your preferences regarding colors, typography, layout, mood, images, etc. Don’t make your preferences too narrow or specific, or you may curtail your designer’s creativity.
  • Share the big picture. If your book will be part of a series, the designer can create a common design feature to serve as a signature for the entire series.
  • Decide your book formats. Ebooks only have front covers. Print books on the other hand have both front and back covers, and spines. Among print books, hardcover formats can have the same or different designs on the cover and jacket. Given how design requirements change with format, inform your designer about your format choices. If you want print copies, specify the trim size that you want for your book. The trim size will depend on your genre and the options provided by your print-on-demand publisher. For print copies, also give your designer the ISBN, bar code, and blurb for the back cover.
  • Provide references. If you would like your designer to draw inspiration from a few covers of published books, share them as reference material.
  • Be crisp and concise. Avoid writing meandering or effusive descriptions that will obscure what you really want to convey.

Working with your designer

The designer will share a few concepts based on your brief. After you finalize the concept, the designer will develop the cover in collaboration with you. They will share the design, seek your feedback, and implement any changes you suggest. Typically, the fee covers 2 to 3 iterations, and additional rounds are charged at an hourly rate.

The layout of inner pages is an important aspect of book design. Inquire if your book designer will also typeset the inner pages into a print-ready format. Most self-publishing platforms provide templates for inner pages, and if you do not mind the effort involved and the cookie-cutter designs, this is a good way to save some money.

Here are a few other things to bear in mind as you evaluate concepts and finalize your book cover.

9. Ensure all images are copyrighted. When taking images from the Web, use licensed images from paid libraries, e.g., iStock or Getty Images. To save on costs, you can use free libraries such as Wikimedia Commons and give credit as their guidelines require.

10. Use high-resolution images. Images with inadequate resolution will render poorly. If you have any images that you want included, make sure they have a resolution of at least 300 DPI.

11. Get a thumbnail-ready image. Online bookstores display thumbnail-sized book covers. Ensure that your cover design and text are optimized to be clear even at this size.

12. Favor minimalism and originality. A busy cover could appear thoughtless, overwhelming, or even unattractive. Try to convey a lot with little. Avoid the cookie-cutter designs in your genre.

13. Get the blurb edited. If you are considering a print format, ensure that the blurb you give your designer is edited for grammar and language.

If you are unsure about how to choose from among the various options your designer gives you, seek feedback from others. While friends and family are a good resource, they would have an inherent bias, and their feedback may not reflect the views of your target audience. This is where services like PickFu come in. Pickfu helps authors carry out split tests on cover designs and book titles, and the findings can serve as a good indicator of which cover might be more appealing to your target readers.

A big advantage with self-publishing is how easy it is to change a book’s cover. Once your book is published, if you find that sales aren’t taking off in spite of great reviews, reconsider your book’s cover design. It is never too late to change it!