Tips on Hiring and Working with a Book Cover Designer

From Helping Writers Become Authors:

As writers, we know an eye-catching book cover is vital for captivating potential readers. Recently, I got to work with the talented team at Ebook Launch to update the cover of my portal fantasy Dreamlander. Today, I’m excited to share my experience and insights to help you find and collaborate with the right book cover designer.

First, a little background on this project. As many of you know, Dreamlander was published in December 2012 and has been easily the most popular of all my novels. So it seemed appropriate that for its 10-year anniversary, the book should get a little refresh! I’m incredibly happy with the results, and I hope you’ll love it too!

. . . .

Today, using my recent collaboration with Ebook Launch on Dreamlander as a case study, I’m going to walk you through the step-by-step process of hiring and working with a book cover designer. We’ll explore the process of finding the right designer, budgeting and pricing, preparing for the design process, and achieving an effective collaboration.

(Please note that the links throughout this post are affiliate links. I only participate in affiliations with products or services I personally use and love.)

Finding the Right Book Cover Designer

Finding the perfect book cover designer may seem daunting, which is why thorough research is essential to ensuring a successful match. Consider these key factors as you explore your options:

1. Review the Designer’s Portfolio

Reviewing a designer’s portfolio will give you insight into their range and versatility, as well as their style preferences. When I was searching for a designer for Dreamlander, Ebook Launch’s book cover portfolio immediately stood out, showcasing a variety of styles and genres that aligned with my vision.

You’ll want to find a designer whose style preferences match your own, ensuring a smoother collaboration and a cover design that reflects your story. Make sure the designer you choose offers examples of work in your genre and preferred style in their portfolio, and ask yourself whether their style complements your book’s genre and tone. If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track.

2. Examine Testimonials and Reviews

Check the designer’s testimonials and reviews from other authors. These provide valuable insights into the designer’s work ethic, communication style, and ability to deliver on time and within budget. Look for credible sources of reviews and affiliations with industry associations (e.g. like the Alliance of Independent Authors).

3. Evaluate Availability and Responsiveness

It’s vital to collaborate with a designer who is available to accommodate your book’s timeline and will promptly respond to your inquiries, revision requests, and other concerns. Before beginning the design process, confirm that your chosen designer can deliver both the cover design and any additional marketing materials in time for your book’s launch. When working on the cover for Dreamlander, the team  at Ebook Launch communicated with me solely via email which may not work for everyone; however, they offered timely updates and always addressed my questions and concerns, which made the entire process smooth and enjoyable.

4. Consider Pricing

When searching for the right book cover designer, one of the top factors is finding one that fits your allocated budget while still providing value. Amounts can vary significantly, so carefully compare costs and the value each designer offers, keeping in mind that pricing doesn’t always correlate with quality. Reedsy has quoted under $750 USD on average as the cost from the designers on their website.  Look for clear pricing on the designer’s website to avoid misunderstandings down the line. Don’t forget to budget for additional marketing materials (such as social media graphics or promotional banners) or paperback or audio book versions.

Working With Your Book Cover Designer

Once you’ve found the right designer, you will typically need to navigate a couple of stages of the book cover design process. These include submitting a detailed design brief, receiving and reviewing initial concepts, collaborating on revisions, and approving the final design. In this section, I’ll delve into each stage in more detail, using my personal experience working on the redesigned cover for Dreamlander. I’ve also provided a couple of tips for a successful collaboration at the end.

1. Submit a Detailed Design Brief

The first step in the book cover design process is providing a clear and detailed design brief, which will ensure your designer understands your vision and can create a cover that captures the essence of your book. Most of the book designers I’ve worked with ask you to fill out detailed forms, guiding you to share the information they’ll need from you. Below is some of what I submitted to Ebook Launch for them to work with:

Book Title: Dreamlander

Book Subtitle (optional): What if one day you woke up in the wrong world?

Author Name: K.M. Weiland

Genre: Portal Fantasy

Description of your book:

What if it were possible to live two very different lives in two separate worlds? What if the dreams we awaken from are the fading memories of that second life? What if one day we woke up in the wrong world?

Every night, a woman on a black warhorse gallops through the mist in Chris Redston’s dreams. Every night, she begs him not to come to her. Every night, she aims her rifle at his head and fires. The last thing Chris expects—or wants—is for this nightmare to be real. But when he wakes up in the world of his dreams, he has to choose between the likelihood that he’s gone insane or the possibility that he’s just been let in on the secret of the ages.

Only one person in a generation may cross the worlds. These chosen few are the Gifted, called from Earth into Lael to shape the epochs of history—and Chris is one of them. But before he figures that out, he accidentally endangers both worlds by resurrecting a vengeful prince intent on claiming the powers of the Gifted for himself. Together with a suspicious princess and a guilt-ridden Cherazii warrior, Chris must hurl himself into a battle to save a country from war, two worlds from annihilation, and himself from a dream come way too true.

Describe the key elements you want on your cover:

This is to be a redo for the cover of an already published book.

I’m wanting to update the cover into more a current style. Particularly, I’m interested in styles that evoke mood more than character. Rather than featuring a person on the cover, I would rather something more stylistic and artistic.

The book is a portal fantasy, in which the main character is someone from our world who enters a parallel medieval land that is the “world of dreams.” It’s epic fantasy, with lots of battles and swordplay, but also romance. The cover examples below show more of the style I’m wanting this time around.

I do really like the teal green color palette the existing cover has. I wouldn’t mind keeping it, but don’t want to limit creative options either.

Link to the rest at Helping Writers Become Authors

4 thoughts on “Tips on Hiring and Working with a Book Cover Designer”

  1. Let’s not forget what audience you’re aiming for…

    The last people I particularly expect to attract are the under-30 victim & woke crowd — they won’t like the contents. Thus, I don’t want to look like those book covers, with the latest contemporary volatile trope-du-jour all-the-same styling. Instead, I’m trying to evoke a more classic feel to attract somewhat older readers.

    The whole point of a cover is, in no particular order, (1) to signal the genre, (2) to match other books in the same series, if any, (3) to signal the same author for other books in that genre, (4) to signal (by the professional quality and attention to detail) the professional writing within.

    This includes legibility and an attractive image in thumbnail size, the failure of which are often a sure indicator of lesser quality.

    One thing people often lose sight of when working with a cover designer… take advantage of the situation to request additional styling bits-and-pieces: ornamental scene dividers and chapter ends, title page tit-bits, recommendations for specific ornamental fonts, etc. In one of my series, there is a running theme of a plant or animal that proves to be an important source of magic — for each back cover (and the title page) I use an oval inset of the critter in a lab setting with an open notebook recording observations. These “extras” often cost little or nothing. They’re at their best in the print editions, but a lot of it pertains to the ebooks, too. Anything that elevates the signal of “quality” is a good thing.

  2. I get about the audience, although the author of the OP herself is not woke — at least, she’s never posted such sentiments in the years I’ve been reading her. I tend to avoid the books serving as the cover models, though I do get why several of those covers were attractive. I prefer the old school stuff story-wise (and art wise).

    As to the last, about re-purposing — this is why I advise anyone hiring an artist / designer make sure the art is on a separate layer (Photoshop, Affinity, whatever) from the ornaments, title and byline. A .psd file is better than a .jpg, because .jpgs is “fixed” whereas Photoshop is “flexible” because it can preserve all of the separate layers. Comes in handy if you want those elements for a landing page, newsletter, whatever else.

    I like the page ornament advice, saves so much time than looking for one on iStock / Shutterstock.

    • About that list of traits: OMG. All in one story, over and over and over. And they seem to sell.

      I’m not a psych but a study of that audience might be appropriate. 😀
      A reaction to the world outside or just “teenage pwer fantasies” of a different stripe?

      To each their own but that’s not my cup of hemlock.

      As to covers, I prefer literal functionalist covers over cute art pieces. Covers are marketing and I’m buying a book, not a painting.

      Also, for an established author (for various values of “established”) with a True Fan base, the most important element in the cover is the author’s name. 😉

      • I’ve also been wondering what the target audience is getting out of those books. The YA market is definitely … different … from what it was back in the day. On the other hand, I like the reviews where the reader comes back later and says “I gave this 5 stars when I was a teenager, but now I see it’s crap.” So there’s hope!

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