The Dos and Don'ts of Getting the Most Out of Your Book Cover Design
*This article first appeared in The Writer's Block as a guest email.
Do your research. Find the perfect designer.
Take some time to search through your book’s genre on Amazon. Clicking a book’s Look Inside button will take you straight to the book designer credit in the front matter. Follow that up with a quick Google search, and you’ll find the book designer’s website with their portfolio, packages, pricing, and contact information.
It’s fine to shop around and talk to multiple designers about their process and availability before committing. You’ll find out fast if they’re quick and responsive to your inquiries and whether they’re straight forward about their business practices. If you feel at ease after speaking with them, you might’ve found your designer.
Don’t forget the discount!
If you can, do plan on having your print cover and ebook cover designed at the same time. You’ll usually get a pricing discount from the designer. Most designers, including myself, will allow you to order a print cover/ebook cover combo, with the intentions of having the print cover designed later (if you’re not quite ready yet).
Do give your designer a synopsis.
Or even better, give them the whole book! Designers probably won’t have the time to sit down and enjoy each client’s read before a project, but it sure is handy to have while in the middle of the design process. How do you describe your main character, what does your environment look like, what is the overall tone? All of these and more help the designer create you a truly custom cover that reflects your story.
Don’t hold back.
If you have a vision, please share this with your designer. They’ll let you know if it’s feasible and may even develop it further into something spectacular. Sending your designer links to book covers you admire is helpful, too. But also try to keep an open mind when your cover designer pitches you other cover concepts—you might find yourself face to face with a winning design.
Do think about where you’ll have your book printed.
Will you use CreateSpace, Ingram Spark, both or neither? CreateSpace and Ingram Spark have different printing requirements—CreateSpace is happy with an RGB cover while Ingram Spark requires CMYK with a 240% total ink limit. Paper thicknesses vary, too, which will in turn change the spine width—you’ll need a different cover for each platform.
Upload your manuscript to your print-on-demand vendor of choice to verify the page count once formatting has been completed. This is the number you should pass on to your designer.
And always, always, always order a proof copy before making your book live. Take the opportunity to look over your interior file and book cover for any issues. Double check everything!
Don’t focus on one scene.
Remember that your book cover is a representation of your story as a whole and not its parts. Steer away from replicating specific scenes from your book.
Do capture the overall emotion/action/premise of your story.
Catching your reader’s eye with a standout cover requires thinking outside the box and persuading a reader to have an emotional response to a visual cover. Depending on your genre, your designer can do this with color, typography, texture, or other design elements.
Don’t accept a design you’re not happy with.
Let me preface this by saying that The Thatchery offers unlimited rounds of revision—I want you to have your perfect cover.
However, for many design agencies, it’s standard practice to put a cap on the amount of revisions they’ll allow. Keep this in mind when shopping for a designer. Due to limits on revisions, it’s so important that you communicate clearly and concisely throughout the entire process. If your designer has a cap, and you’re still not satisfied, let them know anyway. They might be willing to work with you—no one wants an unhappy client.
Do think ahead.
Will your book be a part of a series? Tell your designer. You’ll want to maintain consistency throughout the series. It’s your brand! If you’re featuring a character on your covers, your designer will make sure there’s plenty of stock photography of your chosen model. Or they’ll create a stand out title treatment to carry the series through multiple books. Either way, it’s great if you can give your designer a heads up—they like to plan ahead.
Don’t limit your branding to your book cover.
Take it one step further. Include elements from your book’s cover design into your website. Maybe it’s the font or color palette from your book’s cover—whatever it is, make your website feel like your brand’s home base. Go ahead and snoop around the websites of authors Ellen Smith and Keith R. Baker for ideas. (Both sites designed by The Thatchery.)
Remember to brand yourself with your social media banners, your Facebook and Bookbub ads, your newsletters, your blog post graphics, your landing page, and your Instagram account. Presenting your brand in a cohesive manner makes you and your books unforgettable.
Do market your books with 3D covers.
If your designer doesn’t provide you with a few free 3D book covers for marketing purposes, it’s easy to do with the right software. First, visit CoverVault and download the free mockup you’d like to use. If you don’t have photoshop, visit Adobe.com select their Photography plan (includes Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC) for $9.99 a month. You’ll even get a one month free trial so if this doesn’t work for you, you’re not out any money.
If you’re new to Photoshop, I’d give CoverVault’s tutorial video a quick watch. Simply double click the smart object titled “Cover” in the layers palette, drag and drop your book cover to the new window, and hit save. If you go back to your original tab, you’ll see your nice brand new shiny mock up! Don’t forget to save again (both the psd file and a jpeg). And if you want a 3D cover with a transparent background, you’ll need to deselect the background from the layers palette and save your image as a png. You’ll have an extra step for mockups with spines so steer clear of those until you feel comfortable with the process.
P.S. All clients of The Thatchery receive complimentary 3D book covers with both design packages.
Don’t neglect your cover if you’re on a budget.
I get it. There might come a time when hiring a professional designer just isn’t in the cards and even the pre-made cover is out of reach. While I don’t recommend going the diy route, I’m happy to share some cost saving tips for those that have no other options.
Create your own book cover in Canva. It’s free to join, and you’ll have instant access to their selection of ebook cover templates, most of which are available for a small fee. Canva’s user friendly interface makes it easy for even the inexperienced designer to design a nice book cover.
Another option is PicMonkey. Like Canva, it’s free to join, but you must pay a monthly subscription fee of $7.99/month to access their premium tools. And although they offer templates, the ebook isn’t among them. If you’re savvy enough though, you can use their tools and how-to videos to create something nice.
For the adventurous author, download the free alternative to Photoshop, Gimp. Their website offers a plethora of tutorials to get you started. Or you can just go with the Photoshop subscription I mentioned earlier in this article.
With most of these, you’ll need stock photos, and if you’re on a tight budget, free might sound nice. Head over to Pexels for thousands of beautiful photos licensed under the Creative Commons Zero license. This means you’re free to use them for personal and commercial use.
Find free fonts and other goods in your email every Monday from the Creative Market. Signing up is free—just be sure to check the licensing of each free item you download. For more open source fonts, head over to Font Squirrel or Google Fonts.
Do have fun.
Whatever route you choose, whether it be designer, template, or your own creation, enjoy the process. You’ve written this amazing book, and it’s satisfying to see your words come to life in a visual way. Show it off, flaunt it, have a huge book cover reveal party, create a million graphics with your cover and share them everywhere. Make readers remember your book. The book cover is your calling card. Pass it around!