book cover planning

Book Cover Planning Checklist (Things to Know Before Ordering a Book Cover Design)

Are you getting ready to order a cover for your new book soon? Not sure what to prepare for the book cover design process?

The following book cover checklist will break down exact things you must prepare for your designer (your’s truly? ;D ) when ordering a cover design. I’ve separated it into two sections, one for technical details of the book which apply to custom or premade book covers, and one for things that are related to working cover designers more when you’re ordering a custom book cover.

This should make it easier to get a great book cover and make the design process simpler for you. Now let’s dive in!

Book Details to Prepare:

1. Title, subtitle, author name and if needed, the tagline

These don’t always have to be the final versions as they can be changed later. Many designers don’t mind updating these. But the final version is always best because it solidifies typography for the design.

2. Genre/subgenre of your book

This is one of the most important considerations. Know the genre or subgenre you want to go after for that particular book. It’s important to distinguish between Scifi Action Thriller and Psychological Thriller or a Sweet Romance and Dark Romance books. Misleading readers here could lead to getting bad reviews.

And if you’re doing a cross-genre book, pick the genre that is dominant (even if it’s only 55%-45%) and which is secondary. That will matter when doing a design and picking which genre visual will be brought out more. It can be too confusing for reader otherwise (which again can make them angry and review the book badly, we wouldn’t want that would we!).

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. Will it be eBook or eBook and Print book? Whom will you use for printing the book?

You should know what format you’re releasing, even if just releasing first. Ebook covers are cheaper because we designers don’t need to make the spine and back thus many authors release only ebook first. Many get both at the same time tho. In 2021 I’m also getting more and more hardback cover orders (also can be added later as needed).

Then you will need to know who will print it if it’s a paperback or hardback cover.

Will it be Createspace? IngramSpark? 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?

Similar 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. 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.

Things related to working with a Cover Designer

 7. 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?

Neither is tolerance level is right or wrong, just awareness of it is a key thing to communicate! Knowing this can help you pick the right designer too. Some designers are better at riskier covers, some have simpler more traditional styles etc.

 8. 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.? Do you need some specific style like Cozy Mysteries have or Noir Thrillers etc?

This will also help determine which book cover designer to hire.

 9.  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.

 10. 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.)

11. 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.)

12. 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!

13. 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 of the market’s attention and choose the covers you like best from their work. Understanding what is currently selling in your genre/subgenre is good tool to have for indie authors.

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. While readers shouldn’t get spoilers, we NEED spoilers to understand your project best.

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

If you have ideas for your cover then provide them to the designer. If not don’t worry about it, it is our job at the end of the day to come up with those! 😉
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). If you’re dead set on some idea that might be boring for some designers and perfect for others.
Price-wise, if you have a concrete idea in mind and just want that, it could be a way to a for discount (most designers charge for delivering 2-3 concepts of designs so asking for 1 only might allow designers to give a discount).

Video Version (OLD, remaking it)

To sum up

I hope this help! These are the things you must know or should consider before hiring a designer. Write your responses down on a paper sheet or type them on your computer and send to whoever you hire. 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!

Best wishes,
Adrijus from RockingBookCovers.com

4 thoughts on “Book Cover Planning Checklist (Things to Know Before Ordering a Book Cover Design)”

    1. Adrijus G.

      You’re very welcome! Great to hear you like it! 😉

  1. Hey Adrijus! This is a great blog post! and everything you mention here is actually helpful for both, authors AND designers.
    Good article!

    1. Adrijus G.

      Thanks Faus! Glad to help out everyone in industry. Just hope covers get better and better in general.

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