Q&A With an Award Winning Book Cover Designer

Book Cover Designer

How to Find the Best Book Cover Designer?

The old saying warns not to “judge a book by its cover,” but it is well known in the publishing world that many potential customers do just that. For self-publishers, it is important to understand how important your cover is as a part of your marketing approach, and even more importantly, how to design a cover that will make people want to read your book.

What better way to start than by gaining an understanding of how major publishers go about designing covers?

We wanted to know more about the process that the “Big 5” publishers use when it comes to designing an engaging, dynamic, and attractive cover for books. We sat down with one Art Director who is an award winning book cover designer from a major publisher to get some answers.

Book Cover Designer Process

Izzard Ink: The major publishers always seem to come out with the best-looking covers. How is this done?

Art Director: It is a process that starts with using the right tools and talent. Most covers are created with Adobe Creative Suite. Book cover designers that are in high demand will cost more. Even the large publishing houses budget $2,000 to $3,000 just for the designer. Next, finding the right image is critical. Stock art can range up to $1,000 or more.

II: When do you first learn about the book you will be designing the covers for?

AD: There are three seasons or lists. As of May 2017, we are working on the title slots for the summer of 2018.

II: What kind of information do you receive about each book before the book design process begins?

AD: We start out by getting a title information sheet or TI sheet. This has all the core information such as the title, subtitle, author’s name, BISAC category, retail price, and books specifications such as word count and size. Some publishers even include a short teaser (something like a tagline for a movie poster,) an elevator pitch, a three to four paragraph description, selling points, comparative titles and other information to get a good idea of what the book is about.

Starting the Design Process

II: How do you approach the design process with each of the designers that you direct?

AD: I tell them to design a book cover that makes you want to pick up the book.

II: How many cover concepts (rough proposals for cover ideas) do you usually expect from the book cover designer?

AD: It is expected that the book cover designer comes back with 3 to 5 cover concepts. Some very well-known and famous designers may only submit one cover.

Time Frame

II: How long does it take to get the initial cover concepts back from the designer?

AD: It usually takes two to three weeks.

II: Once a final cover is chosen how many revisions usually happen before the perfect cover comes out?

AD: There are a lot of back and forth with revisions. Sometimes it is three or more revisions going back and forth to get the details down. What is interesting is even the industry second guesses their own decisions. We want the author and agent to ultimately have a cover they are proud of.

Final Cover Process

II: What happens after you have picked out the final cover for the book?

AD: Two to three weeks after the cover has been approved we look at slides of the cover as well as print outs. We want to make sure the cover really pops a strong message. We want it to speak from the inside.

II: After a new book has been selling well and is picked up as a paperback do you keep the same cover design or is it time to redesign?

AD: Book covers that are designed well do help sales. When going to paperback we do reassess, and sometimes even redesign the cover.

II: If you have a title that has been selling well for 10 to 15 years do you stick with the same cover or do you refresh the cover?

Update Back List Titles

AD: We take a look at our back list and we do like to refresh the covers of books that are selling well every 10 to 15 years to keep their look current.

II: If a major publishing house is going to publish a book does the author have any say in what the cover looks like?

AD: Authors do not have a say in the cover process. But we do want them to have a cover they are proud of and that they want to go out and promote. We really do our best to make the authors and agents very happy.

II: Are you always happy with the concepts that you the designers give you?

AD: Every once in a while, we take a chance on a book cover designer that comes back with covers we just cannot use. But for the most part the process runs pretty smoothly. The top book cover designers know what needs to be done to find a suitable cover for the book and we almost always get the right cover for the book.

Common Mistakes

II: What are some common design mistakes made by amateur book cover designers?

AD: Not relying on a specialist who knows why and how book covers sell is a major mistake. Picking the wrong font, color, or making the cover too complex and not knowing the genre you are designing for. Also, putting everything on the cover, putting too much or the wrong copy on the back cover and hardcover flaps.

I was in a strategy session once about the cover for a baking book. The cover was black with an apron on it. It was flat and you could not tell what the image was – the cover did not match the book. We went back to work on that cover.

Book Cover Trends

II: What is an example of a current trend going on with book covers?

AD: Fifty percent of all books are now sold outside of conventional bookstores. That means a lot of online purchases are happening from a computer or phone. Because of this we have stopped using metallic or foil with our covers. We also take a look at how the thumbnail size image of the cover would look on Amazon.com and other web retailers.

II: How often do design trends change for book covers?

AD: In 2016, yellow books were big. Design trends change about every year to year and a half. We recently had about a year and a half long trend of having handwritten type being used on book covers.

The world of book design is ever-changing, but certain fundamentals remain key to attracting readers – create a dynamic, appealing cover that communicates to potential readers what makes your book worth reading. As a self-publishing author you should think of your cover as one of your best opportunities to help your book stand out from the rest.