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? Not sure what to prepare for it?

The following book cover 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!


     1. Title, subtitle (if necessary) and the 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). 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 3 concepts of designs so asking for 1 only might allow designer to give a discount).

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!

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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