All Posts by Adrijus G.

Nanowrimo Book Cover Challenge – Making 500 Premades in 30 Days (Finished – 320 Premades Done)

I’ve always admired Nanowrimo and the concept of 30-day challenges. I love how Nano brings authors together too as a community and helps write more. So many success stories!

This year, I’ve decided to join too… but by giving myself a challenge of making book covers not writing. I’ll try to do something that hasn’t been done yet (as far as I’m aware), I’m going for designing 500 Premade book covers in 30 days. Which is insane. But possible I think.

And I’ll keep a public accountability post here with all covers added here daily. It will track progress and probably feature shorts comments on how it goes daily. I honestly expect a meltdown in the middle at days 15-22 and then rush at the end. 😀 But it’s worth it if I can get there as I like to do things that haven’t been done before and I have my eyes on the prize – Microsoft Surface Pro 6 tablet. If these sell well in the first few months I can then upgrade my tech!

To achieve the goal I need to make around 17 covers a day on average. Below you’ll find the designs from each day. You can reserve any cover made too, just leave a comment below or get in touch with me from Contact page.

Day 1 (November 1st)

Premades done today: 17
Total for the challenge: 17

Notes: Excited to start, but also clearly see that this will be hard! Designs will come, but coming up with good titles will be super hard.

Covers:

Day 2

Premades done today: 17
Total for the challenge: 34

Notes: Waking up early and doing these the first thing in the morning is good, feels quite productive to have many done by 10 AM. Kinda winning the day. But it clearly does feel like a ton of work and this will be a big challenge.

Covers:

     

 

Day 3

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 44

Notes: Client work took longer than expected and set me back for today but I do like a lot of the premades made so I’m happy, better do less great ones than many average ones. I’ll try to pick up the slack mid-month.

 

Day 4

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 54

Notes: Swamped but 10 premades a day seem realistic still. Was a bit experimental with the designs, weird colors and shades… I hope this doesn’t backfire haha… quite a few romance premade covers too. One of the genres I do need to make a lot of.

 

Day 5

Premades done today: 0
Total for the challenge: 54

Notes: First day I didn’t get anything done for the challenge. Better be the last…

 

Day 6

Premades done today: 12
Total for the challenge: 66

Notes: Still swamped but getting back on track. Feel like some of these were really nice and should sell well.

Day 7

Premades done today: 15
Total for the challenge: 81

Notes: Today was a good day, 15 is a lot with custom cover work.

   

Day 8

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 91

Notes: Looks like 10 premades a day is a pace I can keep while having customs to work on too. I should be able to catch up once the schedule clears towards the end of the month. Hopefuly. 😀

  

Day 9

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 101

Notes: 10 designs done and I’m quite happy with them, lots of colors, different genres. If these don’t sell I’d be very surprised.

Day 10

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 111

Notes: 10 more Premades done. Had a friend’s Birthday to attend so less work finished.

Day 11

Premades done today: 5
Total for the challenge: 116

Notes: 5 designs done only because I was seriously hungover. Good party… not so good  for working day after. 😛

Day 12

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 126

Notes: Still now 100% completely but 10 more Premade covers done and challenge keeps rolling on. Middle is almost there.

Day 13

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 136

Notes: 10 more designs done. The time for a serious push is right around the corner, or I won’t be able to get to 500. Really hope I can clear a lot of work during the weekend for customs and then focus on these.

Day 14

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 146

Notes: Feeling a little less creative and thinking it reflects on designs. Probably the middle of the challenge thing where it gets the weirdest… it’s come so far, yet is so far away still.

Day 15

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 156

Notes: Mid point! Far off my goal but still happy with the challenge. Still positive I can catch up.

Day 16

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 166

Notes: Friday… don’t want to work but chugging along!

Day 17

Premades done today: 5
Total for the challenge: 171

Notes: Feeling a drop in quality of designs somehow, takes longer to do a good one so made less today. Get some more off time. Dip in productivity is to be expected around the middle of 30-day challenges in my experience so I’m not surprised.

Day 18

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 181

Notes: Finishing the weekend well-ish. 10 more today. Getting close to 200 in a month which is my current record of premades created.

    

Day 19

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 191

Notes: Finishing the weekend well-ish. 10 more today. Getting close to 200 in a month which is my current record of premades created.

Day 20

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 201

Notes: And I made more covers than any month previously now. Previous 30-day record was 200. Now only 300 left to get to 500… in 10 days… Aaaaaaa!

Day 21

Premades done today: 15
Total for the challenge: 216

Notes: Trying to ramp up creation of premades. Custom designs are finally getting close to done for multiple clients so some more time available. Looks like I’ll be pulling all-nighters at least few times over next week.

Day 22

Premades done today: 15
Total for the challenge: 231

Notes: Another 15 designs done. Doesn’t look like I’ll clear up more time for these tho!

Day 23

Premades done today: 15
Total for the challenge: 246

Notes: Another 15 designs finished. Got hit by the realization that I won’t get to 500. Sadly. 🙁 So I need to get to 350-400 premades. That’s still realistic.

Day 24

Premades done today: 15
Total for the challenge: 261

Notes: Getting into the homestretch… it’s getting harder to come up with different covers and not use very similar stocks for the same cliche. Altho most are still likely to sell as people need many versions of the same cliche covers over time but I don’t want to make most of them the same… oh and I’m completely out of title ideas for covers!

Day 25

Premades done today: 15
Total for the challenge: 276

Notes: Really struggling with title ideas for these. Designing isn’t easier but I can make due. Titles are really bugging me, esp. since they really don’t mean anything and will be changed by author most of the time, but I still want to have decent ones.

Day 25

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 286

Notes: Lots of custom cover work still so not an ideal day but keeping on keeping on.

Day 26

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 296

Notes: End of the month brings more work. Keeping pace at 10 daily would be good. Did only Romance covers today.

Day 27

Premades done today: 10
Total for the challenge: 306

Notes: More broad range of covers done today, really love some of these.

Day 28

Premades done today: 5
Total for the challenge: 311

Notes: Tired. Sums up the day pretty much.

Day 29

Premades done today: 5
Total for the challenge: 316

Notes: Almost there… swamped with work so not productive in terms of premades.

 

Day 30

Premades done today: 4
Total for the challenge: 320

Notes: And done. Decided to end on a round number of 320. It’s been fun, hard challenge. To reach the goal of 500 premades done I would have to clear up schedule pretty much completely from other work. Shame I didn’t get to 500 but 32o is still most I’ve ever done.

 

Hope you had a good Nanowrimo month and finished the book! 😉

Best,

Adrijus

12 Book Cover Design Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Book Sales

Your book cover design is the most important marketing tool for your book. Can you tell when a book cover is great, good, or bad?

Now you can take the quiz on how well you can tell a good book cover from a bad one and get scored on itQuiz! Your score should increase after reading this article and re-taking it. 😉

Whether you’re looking to hire a book cover designer or DIY your cover, this is a crucial skill for an indie author, especially if you are worried that your book cover isn’t up to par now or could be the cause of underperforming sales. It could also stall your marketing in different ways, like preventing you from getting a BookBub spot or book bloggers not taking your book seriously and refusing to review it.

Spotting and preventing these book cover design mistakes is important, so without further ado, here are the blunders I’ve observed in seven years as a book cover designer and moderating a cover design critique group on Facebook:

  1. Genre miscommunication
  2. DIY-looking cover
  3. Too much subjectivity
  4. Weak hierarchy/structure
  5. Too many fonts
  6. Boring and bland design
  7. Completely unreadable in small thumbnail size
  8. Too much text and too many elements crammed into it
  9. Low-quality images
  10. Copyright-protected images
  11. Too much feedback from outside
  12. Author name size myth

While some of these are more subtle issues that won’t kill your book sales, others can stall your sales and cause other issues. I see them constantly on DIY covers and even on covers designed by new designers who are still learning the art of book cover design. Let’s analyze them in a bit more detail:

1. Genre Miscommunication

This is a subtle mistake, but a serious one. Your cover might communicate that book is a psychological thriller while your book is actually an action thriller with lots of chases and shooting. The expectations readers have for each are different, and even though they might buy a book, your book may get more negative reviews from readers who are unhappy that they were misled. Not only you’re missing out on reaching the right readers, you will also lose sales because of bad reviews.

2. DIY-looking Cover

This one is often easiest to tell because some covers are just a disaster. Like few following ones.

But some covers have subtler signs of DIY and are often harder to tell (esp. Coming from newer inexperienced designers). This tends to be mistakes of misplaced text (too close to edges of cover), text too small (I’ve done that myself at first), a bad hierarchy of design elements (more on this on this at #4).

3. Too Subjective

This happens when an author’s personal preferences influence the design too much. Instead of designing a cover that fits your genre needs, an author sometimes wants a particular color or visual element on the cover that doesn’t fit the genre or is just a plain bad design choice. Cover designs shouldn’t be boring or too cliché. Adding an interesting or different element can work, but when suggesting ideas for cover designs, don’t get too attached to anything..

A designer should never be dismissive of the author’s ideas and not explain anything. A good designer is not only paid to design but is also the author’s guide to what works and what doesn’t, so the designer needs to at least explain in some detail of why the color or design element on a particular cover doesn’t work.

4. Weak Hierarchy/Structure

Every design should have a simple, clear hierarchy of elements. Whether it’s a book cover, website design, or poster, the way design is laid out impacts how readers perceive it. This is one of those design things that non-designer will not even spot easily, and that’s why DIY covers can suck.
A good reference to understand it easier is to compare it to the hero’s journey. It’s an underlying structure in every great story. It doesn’t always have to be laid out in the same order of events, but it is best when the story features all the elements. So that’s the underlying thing, a structure or a pattern writers can see that readers often don’t. Same here. Design as an art form has it’s own structures and hierarchy options.

Structure

All book covers have text and visual layout patterns which are repetitive once you learn them and recognize those that don’t have them. Not using these layout patterns creates a weak design. Breaking rules for the sake of breaking them isn’t always the best thing. Breaking these patterns can work if they are done by those who already know the rules well. A clever new pattern can result in a worse design than keeping it simple. Sometimes a small, simple tweak of a usual design structure will produce a better result than reinventing the design structure.

Some structure samples and their tweaks:

  

Structure One – Title in the middle and author name below it with the visuals around them.

As you can see, the left one is a standard placement, straight line text with nothing too fancy. It’s a good book cover that does its job well, while the one on the right takes the same structure but puts it at an angle. The title, subtitle, and the figure are not lined up straight, but the author’s name and tagline are, which makes for a nice change and a beautiful cover.

Structure Two – Visual in the middle and the text on top and bottom, title or text interchangeable.

This is a common design structure, probably what most would call a normal cover. Both covers are great and do their job genre-wise and both look awesome. The cover on the left plays with the structure, showing more dimension with the magic energy coming out of hand along with the title being on different layers of paper. Again, a simple tweak creates an exciting cover.

  

There are more structures, like placing the visual on top and the title and author name below it, or flipped version of that, etc. It’s out of scope for this article but I might write something up if you’d like (let me know in the comments).

Hierarchy

Hierarchy is often different on every cover, which means all design elements—title, main visual, author name, supporting visual— are laid out in a way that matches their importance. On the cover for Ruta Sepetys book, the author name is the first thing that stands out on the cover before the eye is drawn down to the visual, and only then do you notice the title. It’s even hard to read in a small thumbnail, but since the author name is the main selling point, that is done deliberately. The main element is the name, and the visual is the secondary element, and the title is last.

It’s not uncommon for traditionally published books to look like this, and it’s less common for indies to focus mainly on the author name as a selling point. It does not make sense for a new author to have their name be the first thing in the hierarchy. The title or visual should be the dominant thing that attracts the eye. Sometimes it’s the cool- sounding title and the solid visual, sometimes it’s an interesting visual that is dominant and the title is secondary with author name being tertiary. I recommend a more readable and legible design, though.

5. Too Many Fonts Used on the Cover

The general guideline for good typography—use two contrasting fonts. Never use more than three fonts on a cover. Sometimes a third font is okay and can be used. But if you use a third font, it should be used as a tagline or supporting text, not the main message. Often you can just use one font and change the weight or thickness, bold and regular, regular and italic, etc.

6. Boring and Bland Design

Sometimes a cover can have the right visual for the genre, well-made typography, and have everything basically right, but if it lacks contrast and vibrancy then the cover will not get as much reader attention as possible. Bland designs drown in the sea of great covers.

Vibrancy is especially important in genres like fantasy, YA, urban fantasy, and science fiction, where most covers are vibrant and colorful. Contrast is imperative for covers.

If the goal for the cover is to have a more abstract or melancholic cover, too much vibrancy is not needed.

Examples:

7. Completely Unreadable in Small Thumbnail Size

The book title should be easy to read in the thumbnail size on Amazon. While the cover visual might be good enough to attract attention on its own, an intriguing title multiplies your chances of getting the reader to click through your Amazon book page.

The size of the author’s name can range from being legible, not easy to read at first glance but readable, to being almost as big as the title so it’s easy to read at once.

8. Too Much Text or Too Many Visual Elements

Too many things on the cover become too hard to understand. It is easy to lose structure, hierarchy, and cover your best design elements with too many things.

Never cram too many visual symbols from the story. Don’t include every important person, gun, cityscape, a religious symbol, etc. The cover doesn’t need to display all the story elements or depict a scene in detail. Conveying the right genre or subgenre and the feel of the story is more important than depicting intricate details of any one scene.

The purpose of the cover is to intrigue the reader to buy the story, not to show or spoil the story.

For covers that need to be abstract, this usually means a minimalistic design with only one visual and matching text. One cool visual is often more than enough.

9. Low-Quality Images

Book Covers that draw readers have exceptional images. Tiny images taken with an old phone or small images found on Google will show amateurism. Images that are too old and scanned poorly show the author hasn’t invested in his book – images like these can get pixelated, and screw up the cover. Not many things scream DIY more than pixelated images.

10. Copyright-protected images

There are some things you can’t use on book covers because they are copyright-protected and you might get sued for using them. For example, if you need a sports car, do not use a Ford Mustang image, the Mustang logo is copyrighted and can’t be used unless you get expressed written permission from the Ford Motor Company’s attorneys (good luck with that). There are also places that are forbidden to be used on covers, like the Eiffel Tower at night for example (due to the night lights on the tower being a copyrighted design, not the tower itself). To learn more about restrictions for things go here:

https://www.shutterstock.com/contributorsupport/articles/kbat02/Known-Image-Restrictions

Editorial images are only allowed for editorial use, not in commercial projects like book covers.

Even when the cover designer is looking for a stock for your cover, we have to exclude editorial images and be aware of the copyrighted images.

So, never go to Google and search for the image you want for cover and use it. That’s illegal too. Not all websites allow their images to be used. The only images that can be used for covers are the creative commons. Some need attribution, some don’t, and there are different license types here as well. Learn more at:

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

Some stock photo sites also offer free images that can be used, but since they are available to everyone, everyone uses them so they lose their originality.

The best option is to stick to professional stock photo sites or doing a photo shoot, which can get expensive, so it’s not for everyone.

11. Too Much Feedback from Outside

Getting feedback on your cover is important. You should get it before even choosing a cover.

But…

Don’t ask too many people about it. It’s best to have five people who know the purpose of a cover, like fellow authors in your genre or designer friends, before asking your loyal readers’ opinions but do not take design advice from too many people, especially from those who do not have any design education and skills.

I’ve moderated a book cover critique group for over a year now, and while it’s a great initiative and it helps self-published authors, sometimes it is more of a distraction than a help. People have good intentions, but some don’t know what they are talking about while others give their opinion, which is not real advice.

Discern between feedback that is subjective, one person’s opinion, from feedback that is based on design practices or genre expectations. Subjective opinions will mislead you if you don’t know the difference.

If you conduct a vote sometimes a cover that is visually more impressive but less genre-appropriate can win, which is a mistake. While the general public may like it more from a design standpoint doesn’t mean it is the right tool for your book marketing.

My recommendation is to stick with a small group of professionals, and if you want to ask readers, ensure that you’re already giving them the right options to choose from in the genre before letting them choose a winner.

You can always email a cover designer and ask them for their opinion, especially for an older cover that may need to be redesigned. If you’re worried that an older cover isn’t working, email a designer or two you’d consider working and ask for their opinion about the cover. Designers aren’t entitled to do it for free or go into a lot of detail, but most designers are helpful so you would get feedback from a professional.

12.  Author Name Size Myth

There was a myth circulating around the self-publishing circles that authors, even new ones, should blow up the size of their author name on the cover. It was supposed to be a way to trick readers into thinking that big author name size signifies they are a well-known author…on

…which is absolute b.s. nonsense!

It came from trying to copy what traditional publishers do for books, as you see huge author name sizes on covers for Steven King and other authors. It makes sense for them because they sell more books based on the author’s name than on the cover or title. The name needs to stand out on bookshelves from far away too, so they play by different rules and focus on that. There is a small percentage of indie authors who also do it. Hugh Howey, yeah, H.M. Ward, yeah, Russell Blake, yeah, Mark Dawson, sure… Anyone who is already well-known in their particular genre should have their name in a readable size, and often as large as possible without messing up the design.

A new author can’t trick a reader because readers don’t know that size means something indies imagined. Readers need to have a reference point in their minds about a person to recognize their name. If a reader hasn’t read your book before, he will not recognize the name at any size. He will only know it if he’s read your other books or has seen recommendations for your books. In either case, it’s not the font size of the author’s name but the reference point in the reader’s mind that does the selling.

***

I hope this article helps and educates you about what is necessary for a quality book cover. If you feel brave enough, take the quiz on how well you can tell a good book cover from a bad one and get scored on it – Quiz! Not many get all 10 answers right!

Otherwise, please share this article with your author friends and author groups. Raising the cover design level for our industry is important, and the more indie authors read articles like this, the more likely they are to not make cover design mistakes and lose book sales!

Rock on!

Book Cover Design Prices in 2019

Wondering what are the book cover design prices for self-publishing authors in 2019? This post is an overview of current pricing ranges for Custom and Premade Book Covers and why there are different price tiers. This post is not about telling you how much to spend on a cover though, it’s just for education and awareness of different options. Let’s dive in!

General Price Range for Custom Covers (Photomanipulated, non-illustrated book cover)

Cover design currently ranges from $5 to$4000! Again,  not talking about custom Illustrated covers (prices are higher for those in general).

Yes, some of these prices are nuts! Both extreme sides of it, are not what average indie author should concern themselves with – low-end is designers who don’t care about copyrights(like Fiverr) and high-end is for the big Publishing companies. You can see the world’s most expensive cover designer who charges $3750 here. It’s a mind-blowing price. But he gets clients! 

The Super-Low-End of Fiverr:

First, unrealistically cheap covers are coming from Fiverr marketplace. Often the Fiverr designer’s portfolios feature work from other designers online. They are stealing designs. A lot of them also use questionable stock images (free ones that get overused) or it’s not clear where they get the image from at all. So from a copyright perspective, if you work with Fiverr designers, be sure to request proof from where they get their stock photos and the terms that apply to them.

And if you think about it, how can they even afford one stock photo if they only get paid $5? Stock photos cost more than that and for a complex book cover, you will need more than one. 

And if there are really awesome designers on Fiverr, companies and other designers actually hire them to do work and pay more than $5-20 thus eliminating the need for them to even use Fiverr eventually. Which means the best designers leave Fiverr even if they start there. 

The Low-end that can sometimes work:

$50-200 per Cover.

That’s the lower-end for freelance designers who are actually taking this craft seriously and not as part-time gig/hobby. The catch is, the designers here are either very new and just start to build up their portfolio and experience or designers who are stuck in intermediate skill level (warning: design skills don’t necessarily improve proportionately to time spent in the industry – 10 years in design does not mean designer is better than Intermediate).

Sometimes you can get lucky here and find a good designer who is just starting and just wants work but their skills are already World Class. That’s a Steal! Rare and won’t last long (as the designer will be raising prices as time goes). If you can find that deal, great.

The Middle 

$250-600 (often includes print cover version too, but often the price is for ebook first)

This is the range where the best value-for-price is. It’s the place where the designer can charge normal rate and get paid for their craft well, and where indie authors don’t have to overpay inflated rates. There are also quite a few designers here so competition keeps the prices here, without driving them up more. The most common range seems to be $250-500. Print cover versions can be additional $50-150 (so if ebook cover costs $299, print+ebook would be $349 or $449).

Now, $600 for a book cover is expensive. For indies, it’s considered Premium. Not many indies should spend that much and most won’t benefit much from that. But this is not to take away from designers. It just takes longer to get Return on Investment for the average author.

In general, some absolutely awesome designers can be hired here (like Bookfly Design who I would personally call currently the best designer for indies at the moment). They could easily be making covers for big Publishers and make 2-4x but choose to work with Indies (as working with huge Publisher comes with dealing with Marketing department’s opinion, who often don’t know design and start telling you what to do.. Which can be an irritation…). So lower price than $1000 per cover makes sense for designers who want more creative freedom and no interference.

It’s also the place where choosing between designers might be the hardest. There are many good designers and some lame ones, so for authors, it can be hard to choose. Not to mention that it’s hard to tell design skill levels as authors have not been equipped to judge designer’s skills easily (that requires knowing design rules and ‘playing around with Photoshop’ doesn’t count as knowing design).

To pick a designer look at their articles on the blog, social media to see their personality, even ask questions in emails, as those give you more personal context on how it would be to work with them.

Also, pay attention to differences in what is offered for each price, some designers have a lower price but deliver less initial concepts of design or limit the use of stock photos (only one per cover etc). Others have a higher price and seem more expensive but they work faster (first concepts in 3 days instead of a week etc). Some add bonuses, some don’t. I add 3D mock up cover for free, others don’t. Some charge more for a print version, some less.

So the cheap price may not be so cheap once you add it all up, or expensive one may not be as expensive as it seems at first sight. 

Refunds and Kill Fees

Most common thing is to offer 100% refund. Terms may vary, but it’s rare for Indie designers to have Kill Fees (think of it like Deposit that doesn’t get paid back, the designer gets paid for some work, but not all of it). Check if the designer you want has any Kill Fees before you hire.

Highest-End (and some crazy prices)

This is where covers cost $1000-$2000. That’s a common rate for cover designers working with bigger Publishing companies. It can be argued that it makes little difference from previous tier design-wise, but there are some designers who are definitely worth that (and for books with a big promotional budget, cover quality makes an even bigger impact on ROI since they spend more on ads which means cover has bigger impact).

Not many indies go this route. Not only prices, but the design process is also different when working for trad. published books (designers have way more time to make the cover and have to read the book often, which makes the process longer than working in indie books).

Some good and well-known designers here would be Chip Kidd and Isaac Tobin.

Premade Book Covers

A more recent option for indies has been Premade Book Covers. They are cheaper than custom made covers, often as good if the designer has high skill level. 

Why are they cheaper? Because we designers can make them easier, faster and with complete freedom creatively so there is less work hours-wise. Many Premades are cover concepts that were not used when the cover was being designed for a custom order. But there are designers who specifically focus on Premades as the main option and only make whatever covers they want to match the needed genre. This is a great freedom to have, thus an attractive option for us designers (I’ve sold over a 1000 of premades now and have created over 3500 of them probably by now).

Their average price is currently around $40-80 (per ebook/front cover) but the whole range is from $15 to $200.

Just as with Custom Covers, extremes are not what’s most used. Super cheap Premades will be from amateur designers (who also have lower custom cover prices too) and most expensive ones better be super good covers (and not just stock image + text slapped on it). It’s hard to justify big prices for premades if they are not illustrations or intricate manipulation work. Illustrated (or digitally painted) premade book covers are becoming more common too even tho they are priced above $150 and sometimes over $300 even (certain genres). 

The prices have been rising last few years, sometimes due to stock photo price increase. Tough to say if they will keep rising. But in any case, Premades are a good option for any author’s first book or those with limited budgets. 

Conclusion

This article is not meant to say, you must pay X rate for a book cover. This is a guideline, something to know and use as context when judging cover designers. Some pay more, some pay less. Some people boast about getting the cheapest deal, and others about buying Premium etc. It’s personal preference and we live in a great age for self-publishing, where anyone can find a designer for their budget. 

P.S. For more tips and advice on how to hire the right cover designer, read this about 12 Things to Expect from a Cover Designer.

[Video] Book Cover Design Checklist (18 Things to Know Before Ordering a Book Cover Design)

Are you getting ready to order a cover for your new book? Not sure what to prepare for it? The following book cover design checklist will provide a summary of things to consider before ordering a design (and may help to pick the right book cover designer).. This should make it easier to get a great book cover design! You can even download it by clicking here and the video version of this is available at the bottom of the post.

Checklist:

     1. Title, subtitle (if necessary) and author name

These don’t have to be the final versions as they can be changed later. 

     2. Genre of your book

This is one of the most important considerations. Know your genre or subgenre you want to go for. And if you’re doing a cross-genre book, pick the one that is dominant (even if it’s only 55%-45%) and which is additional. That will matter when doing a design and picking which genre visual will be brought out more. If it’s confusing to the reader and sets the wrong expectations, you might get bad reviews!

    3. Book Dimensions (page size and page count – is it 6×9 and 200 pages or 5.5×8.5/300 pages etc)

If you require ebook and print versions, you need to know the page size and count for each. You don’t need the page count if you’re starting early and don’t have the formatting done yet (in this case the designer can use a temporary spine whilst working on the general design). For the final product, though, you must provide both numbers.

    4. Whom will you use for printing the book?

Will it be Createspace? Or maybe a smaller, private printing company? Knowing this helps your designer tailor the cover to the printer’s specifications. For example, CreateSpace needs a PDF document and no barcode. Other companies require the barcode to be added by the designer.

    5. What Mood should the cover convey?

Similarly to the genre, the mood is very important and has to convey the right impression. It needs to match the story, be easily understood and set the right expectations.

    6. What is your Risk Tolerance level?

Before working with any designer, you should know your risk tolerance. Do you want a traditional cover in line with your genre’s stereotypes or would you prefer one that’s bolder and pushes the boundaries? Or just something that’s a bit different? Knowing this can help you pick the right designer. Your preferences should be communicated to him/her before you start working together.

    7. What style do you want from your designer?

Look at designers’ portfolios and decide what style you want. Do you like dark, gritty and different (like mine)? Or do you prefer simplistic covers, more feminine designs, etc.?

    8.  Do you want an illustrated cover or photo-manipulated (using Adobe Photoshop) cover?

Not all designers illustrate and not all illustrators do photoshopped covers. With some covers you might be better off getting an illustrator; for example, if you need a customized map or character drawing for a fantasy or sci-­fi book (think of the Harry Potter covers with Phoenix drawn etc). Other covers use real images photo-manipulated together, such as most thrillers, the Fifty Shades of Grey series or Wool by Hugh Howey.

    9. What is your budget?

Designers exist for most budgets and book cover design prices range a lot. The big New York publishers pay $1,000 to $4,000 per cover, more if it’s a custom­-made, intricate illustration from a world ­famous artist. For indies, the prices range from $100 to ­$750. The most common range is $200-­500 per cover for photo-manipulated ones, with higher prices for illustrated covers ($300 would be a steal here; $600 is still good value for an illustration but $900 covers aren’t uncommon.)

    10. Deadline

It’s best to have a deadline for design even if you are starting early! Without it, things can drag on or else your cover gets lost in the designer’s queue. The usual deadline is anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks. Illustrated covers can take more time so deadlines for them are usually longer (it depends on the scene/design.)

    11. Your favorite covers

These can be from any genre (altho our genre examples should be shared too). But spend some time to understand why you like the design and what attracted you to it. This helps you understand your style preference better (and in turn helps designer know your preferences better). Sharing 3-7 designs would be  best!

    12. Your main competitors and their cover designs

While it’s not a Winner-takes-all game, it’s still good to research the 3-5 competing authors who get the most the market attention and choose the covers you like best from their work.

    13. ISBN number/barcode

If you’re buying this yourself rather than using one from CreateSpace, you should provide the details to your designer (as I’ve said, CreateSpace adds a barcode to the back cover automatically). It’s best when you can have barcodes image in JPEG or PNG format.

    14. Have a few authors and/or beta readers for feedback

In case you have trouble choosing or want a second opinion, ask a few (only a FEW!) people for their opinions. A design can’t be made by committee so this shouldn’t turn into a big survey. Some help is good, however, especially from fellow authors or a designer friend or your loyal beta readers.

    15. Back cover blurb and/or Synopsis

It helps to provide a synopsis of your book (10-15 pages is the most usually, other than for designers working with big publishers and long deadlines where they do read full books). This lets us understand the book better and get ideas for cover. If there is no synopsis, then be ready to write down some main scenes, locations, character descriptions, symbols used so that designer can get that context at least.

    16. Terms and Conditions of working with particular Designer

I’d recommend you ask questions to figure out payment details, how many revisions are allowed, the refund policy and copyright matters with your designer. Discuss these things before you hire anyone. Both sides should be clear on what to expect and how things will work.

    17. Source of stock images and the terms of their use

Some stock photo sites have limits for using the images with Standard License (if you sell over 250 000 copies of book, some companies require the designer to buy Extended License for that image and that is usually a more expensive one). Most often designers include the stocks into design price, if not, they will recommend a site and/or buy images and count the price of them into design later. Clarify such matters just in case. It is rare that designers break copyright laws and steal images, though.

    18. Ideas for cover

Last but not least, if you have ideas for your cover than provide them to the designer. Discuss them and see if they can work (some might, some might not). If there’s something you definitely don’t want, mention that too (perhaps you don’t care for too clichéd a cover?)

Video Version

 

To sum up

These are the things you should consider before hiring a designer. Write your responses down as doing so both clears your head and helps your designer create a great cover for your book. It also makes it easier for you to work together in the future!

Liked the Checklist? You Can Download It For Later Use!

Best wishes,
Adrijus from RockingBookCovers.com

4 Different Ways to Brand Book Covers for Series

When it comes to selling books, branding is key. Your brand is your signature. There few different ways of branding book covers for series. Below you will find some ideas and examples of how to do them, some more common, others not as much. In total there are 15  branding examples from around the web and some of my work. Hopefully, this will be educational and very inspiring!

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Behind the Scenes of Book Cover Redesign: The Making of ‘The Gandy Dancer’

In this post you will get a look at what happens when book cover is being made. You will see every step we took with author Jeff Andrews to remake his book cover. Everything from first design concept to, different options and difference of opinions will be shown. Hope this will be insightful and useful for everyone as this  should show how Author and Designer can communicate and get trough differences to arrive at the end result that looks great. Here’s how it all happened:

 

First Concept

 

Jeff had designed the book cover himself at first. It was not, by any means, the worst cover made. There are plenty of covers that look much much worse. The book is called ”The Gandy Dancer”, genre – Historical Fiction. It uses parallel story lines, one in the 1930s and one in modern times, and brings the two together in the final chapters. Main character is a newspaper reporter in Richmond, VA in modern times. He’s not exactly politically correct and he’s a bit rough around the edges, but deep down he’s a decent guy. The book is probably more mainstream though, than straight historical fiction. Audience is mostly female (60%?) but the book is not targeting women. Jeff also sent me a video from YouTube about railway workers who were called ‘Gandy Dancers’ which helped me get a better feeling about them. First cover looked like this:

 

Gandydancer10sm

 

 

Starting with Small Tweaks

 

Since it was a pretty simple concept and I am a fan of Minimalistic designs I decided to go along with it and just add tweaks and details that can make it look better. That would mean changing the main font and adding details to the empty background. I started off with changing the perspective of the picture that is the main element in the design. I added a shadow and rotated it. Also placed a texture of old scratched wood in there with low opacity so that it is barely seen but still keep background busier. Another change was text hierarchy (there was none previously  made the title main thing and author name was made smaller to not distract from it). This was a rough sketch and needed further work if it was approved still (like text effect etc):

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00026]

 

 

Jeff liked the idea of a pinned image and sent this reply suggesting that we run with it as there was scene in his book containing it:

[quote]I’m looking at your proposal and reacting—the red is too red for me (and the photo is picking it up) and the font style feels somewhat simplistic. That said, the piece that jumped out at me is that you have the photo showing as a photo, shadow and all. That got me thinking—a similar photo appears in the book. It’s pinned or thumbtacked to the wall of an old cabin in the woods. Perhaps we’re letting the paradigm of the old cover restrict the flow of the new one(??). How about we try using the old photo as just that, and old photo (and it is old—1911—and that’s the best copy I have). [/quote]

I liked the idea a lot as I always try to find a symbol, element that is featured or stands out in the book so that the cover is matched to the book as much as it can be (doesn’t have to be literal match as in this case, something more conceptual or even parody could be used as well).

The New Concept

I went off to find a good picture of pine/wood wall and a font that had a Retro look. Here is what I sent him later on according to this:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00026]

 

Jeff said it was bold and different so he liked and suggested some tweaks and we talked about curls of the picture, should we include a blurb on the backcover (in addition to description) etc. My suggestion was no blurb even tho it helps (maybe even no second picture for backcover because it increases printing costs and distracts from description a bit). Jeff wanted the picture but dropped the blurb so I added the 2nd picture on the back with the description. After few more exchanges we came up with this:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00026]

 

 

We seemed to agree on this one, but after a few days Jeff sent me an email saying that he didn’t feel completely happy with it. Especially the font which he didn’t think was representing workers as tough men (I went with their fun and relaxed attitude and singing which stuck with me most so I chose that font). He had started playing around with the layout of text and design too. To me that meant that I could have been better at communication, he was also overthinking things a bit as often happens for us creative people when we get ‘too close” to our creation. He sent me this design:

 

Gandydancertest4

 

I suggested Jeff takes some time off and doesn’t think about the cover at all. It’s something that I do myself if I’m struggling with design and can’t seem to come up with great looking idea. I’ve also seen this work for musicians and writers too. We creatives get into this too much sometimes and lose perspective. In that case, ‘fresh eyes’ are what we need. When we come back to it after few days (or at least a day), we can see things differently and get new ideas. I also sent Jeff some thinks that were wrong in this design (old font got lost in the background, hierarchy of text was gone again and description text was hard to read as there was too much text crammed into one place. I did like the nail he placed there instead of a pin!).

 

Revision

 

I have to give Jeff a lot of credit for being great at taking my idea and taking a weekend off, it’s great that he didn’t hold back on his doubts too and expressed them with respect. Both sides didn’t go into any arguments etc. That’s how working together happens.

So we worked on the font again, but kept other things the same as previously agreed. I sent him 9 different options with different fonts to choose from. Out of those Jeff chose 3:

 

Gandy Dancer Fonts

 

 

And then our final result after more back and forth suggestions and tries was this:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00026]

 

The book is now live on Amazon and is doing well. The process of creating the cover was good. I enjoyed working with Jeff and hope the book does amazingly well! You can find it here – The Gandy Dancer .

 

Takeaways:

 

Hope this was an insightful read. If you will be working with book cover designer don’t be afraid to express your opinion (respectfully), designer shouldn’t get mad or insulted unless the expectations are unreasonable. As I like to say, book cover creation is a collaboration between Author’s Vision and Designers talent/advice. Both work to achieve best result possible.

20 Beautiful Non-Fiction Book Cover Designs

 

Need some inspiration for Non-Fiction book cover design? Here are some of the best designs I’ve found on the internet:

 

1. Wired for Story – Very simple but very effective. Black and white but still communicates everything needed.


Wired for Story

 

 

2. Friend, not Foe – book about typography. Super simple and shows power of gorgeous font and good color/placement.

 

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3. Slim Leadership – great color combination and perfectly picked symbol of leadership. Author name and subtitle don’t distract from the title with that light grey color

 

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4. 23 Things The Don’t Tell You about Capitalism – doesn’t look like non-fiction at first. Bold. Good font choice and great colors.

 

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5. The Big Short – money always gets attention and placed on the hook like that is great concept sending you a certain message (beware of a scam?!)

 

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6. An Ethics of Interrogation – simple is Genius.. ’nuff said..

 

an_ethics_of_interrogation.large

 

 

 

7. How to be a Woman – gorgeous typography, great portrait used. She stands out already so it was perfect pic for the cover.

 

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8. Buddy, How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man – just so funny… got my attention instantly..

 

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9.  Amelia Lost – brilliant colors, great font choice. Small decorative elements really help here to, so the cover doesn’t look so empty.

 

 

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10. Evolution – great photomanipulation, colors and text.

 

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11. I’m a Good Dog – now I couldn’t resist this cover if I tried.. I’m a huge fan of dogs and totally love them. That picture just captivates you.. interesting choice for font.

 

im a good dog

 

 

12. Master Your Sleep – brilliant text and how the picture is blended in gradually into white space.

 

mys2a

 

 

13. Seek and Destroy –  great Photoshop work, great colors and feel of ”old kind” of book.

 

seekanddestroy

 

 

14. Stiff – wow… one of the boldest covers I’ve seen..

 

stiff.large

 

 

15. The Gettysburg Address – brilliant use of text and white space.

 

the_gettysburg_address.large

 

16. How to Find Fulfilling Work – amazing illustration. Gorgeous colors. Original text placement and perspective.

 

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I will be expanding the list of these. So far found only 16 covers. There are others that are great and have been featured on similar posts around the web so I don’t want to be repetitive. Do you have a friend who needs inspiration for book cover design? Share this post with him! 😉

 

 

75 Beautiful Fiction Book Cover Designs

Are you looking for book cover design ideas? Maybe for your upcoming self-published book? Here is a collection of some of the best book covers I have seen online. I am always on a lookout for some gorgeous book covers that are very original, or well made, have an incredible concept or manage to get your attention while being surrounded by other covers. This article also includes short comments on why they work. Here are 50 (now 75 as I’ve updated this in 2018) of them selected from GoodReads.com, Pinterest, Behance or Jacket Museum, etc:

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12 Things to Expect When Hiring A Book Cover Designer

Hiring the right book cover designer can be hard. There are plenty of cover designers to choose from. No one wants to get ripped-off or waste time and hire the wrong person for the book. But how to tell if which cover designer is right for your book? Just because book cover designer is for hire, doesn’t mean he’s the right one. In this article, I talk about how to tell a good book cover designer from bad one and some other tips on how to choose a great designer to help for and things to expect. Hope you’ll enjoy this:

 

1. It’s not only about the Talent of the book cover designer for hire

Knowing how to design is not enough. Good book cover designer will understand what author wants, how psychology works (how people buy, what causes them to doubt a book etc), understand the industry and where it’s going, see what trends are there in graphic design (broad sense, not just book covers). He also needs to have a working knowledge of marketing (which includes copywriting basics, book promotion tactics of the day, what works in Facebook ads etc). There are many talented designers but serious ones will always be looking to improve and learn more about the industry as a whole, not just design stuff.

 

2. Responsiveness

I hate slow to respond people. Respectful and serious people respond in a timely manner and are punctual. You can’t always answer email in an hour after it arrives but a response in 24 hours is a must, or if you can’t make sure that there are warnings beforehand that you are away from PC for vacation or are super busy. It’s also easier to communicate like this and produces better results when working on covers.

 

3. No Arguments or Hassle

Ultimately, the final decision on the book cover is with you, the Author. You don’t have to accept all designer’s suggestions. The designer has no right to impose design concept on you. BUT don’t expect the designer to 100% agree with you on everything either. He shouldn’t (100% agreement might also mean he’s just doing the job to finish up fast and doesn’t point out mistakes if there are some). It’s a creative collaboration so disagreements are possible and can produce good results, it’s part of most creative endeavors. Good design process includes the following thing.

 

4. Advice and Constructive Criticism

The right cover designer will not shy away from giving good and, most importantly, constructive criticism that in his honest opinion will improve the design. No arguing, but he will always try to point out what could be improved, why and how. Preferably, examples will be included to support it. Some things are subjective and some things are design rules and guidelines so expect a designer to defend some of them if need be! 🙂

 

5. Questions

Designer should ask questions. To really understand your story/message/vision of the book, you need to ask questions. Questions like the genre, subgenres or main reader are usual but there should be questions about the main scenes of the book, main ideas, main characters and even tools/symbols used in stories that stand out and can be very used in the design. Sometimes a story of how author came up with the book idea can also be an inspiration for design and help.

 

6. Acknowledgment of Weaknesses

Designers aren’t good at everything and all the styles and techniques of design. You can never know everything about it. It’s a continuous learning experience. An honest designer will rather lose a sale now then promise to deliver design he can’t. For example, I’m not strong at illustrations and I can’t deliver world-class design there, that’s why I have a partner designer who can do those and the work is given to her. Also, if you don’t know or don’t admit your weaknesses, then you won’t work and improve on them.

 

7. Real face

If you can’t find the face behind design company or, even worse, on freelancer’s website, then do more research on him before hiring. A professional book cover designer will have an About Page, picture and profiles on Social Networks shared. Anonymous website is not good thing. And some justify not having pictures with saying they are private person, but we all are, adding a picture on your professional profile doesn’t mean you are gonna go public and famous. It’s just a professional thing to do.

 

8. Upfront on Fees and Terms

Designers don’t have to show their pricing on their website as I do, but they have to be upfront and very clear on that when Author asks for a quote. Terms and fees are agreed before the work starts. Same for Deposit.  It may depend on the specific situation/design package bought etc but it must be simple and clear. No ‘we’ll decide and price’ as we go. It’s a time-waster.

 

9. Deadlines

Similarly, a professional and serious designer will not work without a deadline. Doesn’t mean you should expect design finished in one day but a deadline longer than 45 days could be bad and will result in lots of wasted time. When Author doesn’t need book cover finished as soon as possible because the book is still being worked on by an editor, etc, 20-30 days are the best deadline. It’s not too long and not too short. You get to see the result fast and designer get’s enough time to work on it.

 

10. Collaboration

Making a great cover is a collaboration between Author’s vision and designer’s talent/insight. The more Author knows what he wants, the easier it is for a designer to come up with matching cover idea. Again, it’s a dance, so both sides have to contribute while one side has to lead and guide.

 

11. Revisions

There are different amounts of revisions you can expect to have for different price points. Unlimited revisions usually mean that there is no clear direction of where the cover design is going or perfectionism has taken over. Few revisions should always be available for tweaks and changes. Either extreme is not good and finding the happy middle is the goal here.

 

12. Refunds

Personally, I think Refunds should always be available, most of the time 100% of the amount (with the design concept staying with designer and not being used as the official cover design). Sometimes if the decision to stop working with designer comes at the end of process and with lots of results achieved than designer should get compensated for his hard work. This depends on both people working. Other designers do have ‘kill fees’ and that means deposit stays with the designer if the project gets canceled by the author. This is something to look into and make sure you understand before the work starts.

 

These are 12 things that you can expect from good book cover designer. No one is perfect but if most of these are missing then don’t be afraid to hire a different designer. There are lots of talented designers, and even more average ones with super low prices, so choosing is not easy. But you can find the right person for sure because there are lots of designers and book cover design prices. I do hope these explained a lot about the process. If you enjoyed this article, share it with an author friend who might need it.