Positive Writer

Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

Simple Tips for Hiring a Book Cover Designer

Are you in the market for a book cover design? If you are, this post could save you time, frustration, and MONEY!

My new book “Happy Every Day” (coming soon) was designed by the wonderful, easy to work with Ana at books-design.com. I love the final product, but to get it I had to pay more than the original quote.

Next time I won’t make the same mistakes and I will hire Ana again

Happy Every Day book

Book cover design makes a difference

A professionally designed book cover makes a difference, and according to Amazon it makes a big difference. When I uploaded my last book on Amazon there was a “warning” that book covers are important because readers do judge a book by its cover.

So if you’re not a designer and are thinking of doing it yourself or somehow getting one for free or very cheap, you might want to reconsider.

A professional designer’s expertise can mean the difference between selling lots of books and not selling very many.

Save up if you have to!

It can be expensive, but with research and a little scrutiny, you can get an affordable, professional book cover that stands out and makes a statement.

Who to hire?

This is one of the most difficult decisions to make and everyone has different factors that play a role in their choice. Here are three to consider:

1) Hire someone who has a proven track record. This could mean: a) Visiting several different designers and comparing their portfolios or b) Hiring a designer who created a cover that impressed you (maybe you saw it on Amazon or it was a cover of a fellow writer’s book).

2) Testimonials. I recommend sending inquiries to authors who had book covers designed by the designer you are considering. Visit the designer’s portfolio, get a couple author names, visit their websites and send inquiries. Who doesn’t want to talk about their book? You’ll want to know if the designer is easy to work with, open to ideas, reliable (responsive and meets deadlines) and are the authors happy with the services rendered and final product?

3) Is the designer’s website professionally designed? If the website doesn’t look professional then how can you trust that the book covers will?

The website should detail in an easy to read manner what all is included in the design, what factors could increase costs during the project and what type of files you will receive at completion. (.PSD, .EPS, .PDF, .JPG. etc.) Is a 3d cover included for display on your website? Also available on the site should be a portfolio of completed projects. It always makes me cautious when there is only one or two book covers in the portfolio.

Have an idea

I know what you are thinking: If you wrote the book then of course you have an idea.

The reality is it is difficult to come up with a simple idea for a book cover that conveys the meaning of your book as a whole.

Most of us want too much information on the cover and as a result the cover turns out too busy and confusing. You might “get it” but readers could be turned off by the complexity. Trust me, I know, so…

Keep. It. Simple.

Many book cover designers charge by the “concept” – meaning if you don’t have an idea and simply ask the designer to send you concepts, you’re going to pay for each one (or however many are included in your package) and it is possible that none of them will meet your needs.

That means you’ll pay for more concepts, significantly increasing the price of your cover. I learned this lesson the hard and costly way.

Remember, time is money and a designer’s time, like yours, is valuable. So with that in mind, here are some tips:

a) Ask people you trust to read your book, and then brainstorm with them on ideas for what would make a compelling cover.

b) Search bookstores for similar type books and find out what type of colors and images are typically used for your genre. Keep in mind that although you want to avoid cliché, most people expect certain types of books to look a certain way. So if you make your book cover look out of its genre readers just browsing might pass it over.

c) Write down the most important points that you want your cover to convey. Cross out the ones that are vague, then the ones that aren’t critical to conveying the book’s message and eventually get the list down to one or two.

d) Make a list of what text will go on your cover. Keep this to a minimum because more text means the smaller the font sizes and the harder it will be to read as a small image.

This is what is on “Happy Every Day”:

  • Bryan Hutchinson 
  • Foreword by Jeff Goins 
  • Happy Every Day
  • Simple, Effective Ways to Better Days

All of the text is legible at small sizes (see image).

e) Finally, sketch your idea out on paper and scan it, or cut and paste pictures into a program like Power Point to give your idea an image to send to the designer. Don’t worry about copyrights in your concept design, the designer will be able to get licensed images, but make sure this is part of the deal because some designers require you to purchase your own stock images from a site like dreamstime.com.

By having a visual idea ready you can save time and money by sending the designer your makeshift concept. Don’t worry; good designers can turn even the most haphazard looking design ideas into works of art!

Your job is to have the idea and her job is to make it a book cover.

*Why a butterfly? The butterfly has different meanings to different people, and yet, to nearly everyone the butterfly represents the universal meaning of change and self-improvement, and that’s what my book is about.

The blue butterfly is a single image with significant meaning that resonates with people because they already associate it with what I want to convey.

The right picture for your cover does more work than all the description text you could ever hope to squeeze on it.

Be aware of revisions

Once you have a concept graphic created by the designer, you’ll be allowed revisions. Some designers allow unlimited revisions, but others only allow a certain number before charging you for any additional.

Read the fine print. Don’t gloss over it like I did. You may end up paying for this oversight. Again, designers need to eat, too.

Critical for Kindle covers

If your book will only be available on Kindle or in digital format you want a cover designed specifically for that purpose.

Many books designed for hardback or paperback have unreadable text at small sizes when displayed online. In my experience many designers still design digital only covers as they would a print edition, so be sure to test any concepts at small sizes to make sure all text remains readable.

Last, but not least, make sure when your cover is finally displayed on your website that it is not distorted (blurry or grainy etc). When reducing the size of an image it can become pixelated, and you can avoid this by asking the designer to send you specific sizes for your needs.

The bottom line

  1. Have an idea.
  2. Hire a designer you believe will do the best job and has a proven record.
  3. Carefully read what the designer offers in his or her packages. Hopefully you’ll make your decisions accordingly, avoid extra charges and save money.

The tips I shared with you in this post are lessons I learned that I believe will save you money, but there’s a lot more that goes into cover design and my advice is to educate yourself as much as possible before hiring someone.

I am very happy with with my new cover. Let me know if you like it, too. Special thanks to Ana, she did a fabulous job (once I figured out what I wanted)!

Have you hired a book cover designer? Share your tips and lessons learned in the comments.

book cover designer

Click here to see how Happy Every Day looks on Amazon.

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • I like your cover design. I can even read the smaller image on my iPhone. Thanks for the great advice. I’ll check out Ana’s site. Now I just need to get my book written. 🙂

    • Thanks, Anastacia. Glad to know you could read the smaller image on your iPhone. That was important for me to have accomplished. What good is a cover for online use only if you can’t read all of the text?
      I know you will get your book finished 🙂

  • Love your cover Brian, very professional and minimalistic. Being a visual person I do scare away from dodgy covers in book stores or on Amazon. The blue butterfly for me is something I treasure when I see one, it is rare but an awesome thing to see.

    • Thank you, Kath! I used to want too much on my covers, but I’ve learned that less is more 🙂 I love blue butterflies, too!

  • Thank you for writing this post Bryan. I’m finishing my first draft on a Ebook so this topic is very relevant for me.

  • Hi Bryan. Great tips and I like your cover too! It’s very appealing. When I started looking for a cover designer for my first book, I took many of the steps that you described. I first found covers that I loved on Amazon and looked in the books for information. The prices were way out of my league, and long story short, I found someone who has experience with graphic design, but was new to book covers. It’s been a great partnership as he’s designed all of my book covers and we have 4 more future covers in the works. You know he has to be a great guy – his name is Bryan too!

    • Thanks, Stacy. Hey, you’re right he must be a great guy with that name!
      I like you’re book covers a lot! 4 more covers? You’re a busy girl. I love that about you!

    • Mary Jo Froehlich Irmen

      Ok silly questions but how do you find out who does others book covers? Stacy are you willing to share Bryan’s info?

      • Hi Mary Jo, you most likely will need to ask the authors. At the top of this post is the designer, Anne’s info if you’d like to connect with her. I enjoyed working with her.

  • Something else I noticed, Bryan, is the spine. Spine design is critical for physical books, as that’s all people will see in many bookstores.

  • Thank you Bryan.

    I’ll have a book done in ~8 months. I won’t spend what I should to get a good cover because the goal is to sell 500 copies and learn from it.

    But after that, I know it will take either big spending or knowing someone to get the right cover. But I’d rather sell (speaking realistically) 5k copies and make $1/copy than sell 1k and make $5/copy. Better cover = more sales.

    FYI, I heard about this post from Jeff Goins.

    • Hi Matt, I totally understand where you are coming from. 500 copies are a lot of copies! If you consider that most bloggers are lucky to get 500 downloads of their FREE content, then it’s a bit easier to understand how many 500 really is. It’s a lot. If there’s one thing I have come to realize it is that you must alwasy put your best foot forward. That doesn’t mean spending thousands of dollars to make one dollar, but it does mean finding the best solution for what you can afford.

      Let me know how your book does. Be aware though, if you are talking with Jeff, he’s going to make you stretch. You will thank him later 🙂

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  • Yeah, needing a designer with a proven track record. Now that’s hard to find.

  • Mary Jo Froehlich Irmen

    Is anyone willing to share names of who as done their covers? I am also looking. 🙂 Thanks!

    • jd&j

      I work as a cover designer for http://www.jdandj.com and create a wide range of covers, feel free to take a look at the work on our site.
      I hope this helps you.
      Dave

  • Bryan,
    My daughter is a professional illustrator with a degree in art illustration, who has designed book covers.
    We have a pleasant relationship.
    I have always wanted to commission her to do the cover for my book. Do you recommend keeping it in the family like this, or is that dangerous?
    She has done several other commissions for family, such as portraits and murals, and we all still love each other, despite the intricacies. What do you think?

  • Thanks for this Bryan, I’m forwarding it to two writers who are finishing up books and looking toward the horizon for next steps.

  • If you guys need help on your book covers or illustration, please, feel free to let me know and i will try my best to help you!

    Please check out my service and work at :
    http://priabudiman.oldwerks.com

  • James Berry

    I would have to recommend the guys who made mine http://www.jdandj.com they were brilliant!

  • Paul P Rodriguez

    Just yesterday I found these guys on Twitter, http://moneymakingcovers.blogspot.com to be honest I wasn’t expecting great work to be delivered, but boy I was wrong! I recommend them since, before I had my book covers done by craigslist designers

  • Ivana Kratka

    Hi Bryan, I noticed, that you changed your book cover on Amazon. Maybe I got something wrong, but I don’t understand why you changed the cover you were so satisfied with.

    • Linda Martinez

      Hi Ivana, I was thinking the same after reading this article and seeing the different book cover on Amazon. I would be curious too.

      • That’s just me being me. I like change. I also had a new cover designed for “Writer’s Doubt.” The red cover is not the original cover. 🙂 It’s my ADHD acting up. lol

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  • I’m a freelance illustrator — and how I wish all my self-publishing author and indie press clients had read your article before hiring me. A clear idea of where you want to go is essential with a book cover design, and generally tinkering and changing it after the fact is frustrating and often expensive for everyone involved. Keep up the great advice. (And — of course — my online portfolio: http://DuncanLong.com/art.html ).

  • Thank you for this. And I love the cover of your new book! I’ll be checking out your cover designer’s website. 🙂

  • Carolyn

    Thanks so much much for this tips, I was having serious problem with one that used to do book cover for me until I was introduced to a perfect designer who has done many unique covers for me. Here is the link http://goo.gl/UJNye9. You can try her as well if you are experiencing what I experienced.