I wrote about the value of having a professional cover made for your book last time. Now I want to get into the nitty gritty part of how to find a cover designer, where to start, what to look for and what questions to ask to make sure you’re completely satisfied with the experience.
Where to start?
Here are some first steps to make it a little easier for you:
- Research Your Genre – I always scoff at this one a little. There is a part of me that screams at mimicking the trends of the books surrounding yours on the shelf, be it physical or digital. The solution? Use this step as a primer. Look at trends and then look at the outliers. See what seems to pull you in and figure out why.
- Look at Amazon’s Bestseller Lists – Much like researching your genre, use the bestseller lists as a primer. See what speaks to you as an author. See what images are used. What figures are prominent on the covers selling well? Are similar fonts implemented? Ask questions and find the answers to better prepare you for talking to your cover designer when the time comes.
- Online Resources – Resource guides are a good place to start to come up with options. Writer’s Digest offers an extensive list in their Guide to Self-Publishing. Look at the listings offered. See what options are available. Who prefers your genre?
- The Google Machine – Search endlessly. It is the most time consuming and the distractions and advice are endless, but it gives you an overview of the process and the options available. “Knowing is half the battle.” (Man, I feel like some classic G.I. Joe cartoons now.)
- Look through your own books – I know this might sound simple and it really is. Still, it took me weeks to figure this out. This is actually how I found the cover designer for the Greystone series, Kit Foster Design. A cover design credit should be listed on the copyright page of a novel and it offers a great starting point.
What to look for?
- Cost – No one wants to admit that this is what they think of first but it is always in the back of your mind. Always. Cost plays a huge factor. Planning accordingly, having adequate expectations on your return on investment makes sense and should always play a factor in your decision.
- Revisions – Does the cover designer offer endless revisions? Do they only offer one? Or do they fall somewhere in between? This probably won’t end up being an issue. Cover designers are very intelligent and savvy with their work. But what if their vision doesn’t line up with yours and there is no chance at a compromise? Should you have to compromise is an even better question? This is your cover after all. Having the chance to make it perfect (or multiple chances) can make for a more satisfying experience.
- Bells and Whistles – Does your designer of choice only offer ebook covers? Do they only create print covers? Cover designers should be very clear with what they offer and the cost involved with each piece. Do you want a social media banner? A 3D image of the book for promotions? A poster-sized image of the cover to hang on your dreary basement office wall?
- Communication – Gone are the days of driving to a local vendor and hammering out details in person. Hell, even phone calls are dead to most of the world. We live in an e-mail world. A contact form world. Does your cover designer respond quickly and efficiently to these? Do they have a website? Has it been updated recently? Are they on social media? Do they set clear guidelines and expectations for you to look over before committing your time and resources to a failed endeavor?
Questions to ask your cover designer:
- Availability/Timeline – Very important. Can your cover designer of choice start right away on your project? If you are behind schedule is there a rush option? Or are they booked for the next six months? When they start a project, does it take weeks or months?
- Information required – Do they need an excerpt from the work? Just the back cover description? Specific images to be used? Knowing all of this ahead of time helps both you and your designer in the long run.
- What is received in the end? – Do you have full control of the final product? Is the cover effectively yours to do with as you wish? Or is there more to it, involving licensing? This can make or break the agreement. Make sure this is clear before starting any project. You need to own the final product. This leads to the final question:
- What does your cover designer expect in the end? – Is a credit on the copyright page sufficient? Do they expect some form of royalty for each sale? (Ridiculous, I know, but it came up with a potential designer for me. He did not get the gig.) This should be made crystal clear before any payments are sent or agreements signed if necessary.
Take your time.
This is not a fly by the seat of your pants process. Take your time. Look over your options. List out potentials and then widdle them down to the ONE for you. Have a backup in mind. Just in case. It takes some of the pressure off when things fall through and inevitably something always does in these situations, unfortunately.
Set your own expectations and timelines. Know what you need and communicate it clearly to your cover designer. This is your project first and foremost.
And enjoy it. Getting that first cover in your inbox is the greatest moment of the journey.
Thanks for reading.
P.S. Don’t feel like putting in the time and effort to find a designer? Go to Kit Foster Designs. The man is amazing and you’ll love the finished product. Don’t forget to tell him Lou sent you.