Authors Share Their Book Cover Design Experiences & Tips

One of the greatest things since I entered the #WritingCommunity has been the unconditional support of fellow authors and professionals in the industry, so in today’s article we’ll zoom in on author confessions regarding Book Cover Design. This is a personal favorite of mine, because as you well know, it’s your book cover and your blurb that are going to be your main selling features, so seeing how other writers did it is quite the learning curve.

 

So here’s what we’ll tackle today:

 

  • How authors worked with graphic designers or design platforms for their book covers
  • Free and user friendly book cover design apps
  • Details authors need to include when working with book cover designers
  • Tips & Tricks before and after embarking your book cover design journey

 

I’ve personally worked with Damonza and 99designs for the covers of my novels, so feel free to click away if you want to read about both experiences.

 

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For the ones of you who are new to my blog, I’m Esther, writer, content creator for authors and massive nerd. If you’re interested to know all the tips & tricks surrounding the process From Writing To Publishing Your Novel, you’re only a click away. For more goodies, articles and giveaways, please consider subscribing to my Newsletter.

 

Without further ado, joining me today are these amazing authors + Ana Grigoriu-Voicu, the graphic designer who worked on my author logo. I won’t be adding their author pictures, but their awesome book covers for you to admire. And before we start, allow me to say that although there are a lot of negative rumors surrounding the self-publishing industry, nobody can deny the fact that the book covers belonging to this industry are (generally speaking) far more creative and fun.

 

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What are some tips on book cover design you wouldn’t mind sharing with the writing industry?

 

 

Carole P. Roman: I’ve used 99designs with great success. You tell what you’d like on the cover and then various artists send in all their designs. You get to choose from a palette of diverse ideas. They never look the same and you might be surprised by the outcome. I just did that for my book The Devil and Dayna Dalton. I was sure I wanted a steamy cover and then Oto Designs blew my mind with the face of a girl that said everything to me. The artist captured all of Dayna’s fear and uncertainties. I fell in love with a cover I would have never thought of myself.

 

My younger son does the covers for my older son’s books. He picks iconic images and we work with two specific artists. I love the covers he designs. He always knows what it should look like. I want to add, he usually picks all our titles, too.

 

Barbara Ann Mojica: I can tell you what my husband believes is necessary for a good cover. If you have a series or a brand, a logo is key. You need to have something recognizable that does not change. Right away, anyone who has ever read one of your books knows it is yours. I use a History logo design, which is trademarked for my series Little Miss HISTORY Travels to  is trademarked so no one can use it for a children’s book. Once your brand is recognizable, you can play around with variations of design on subsequent covers. Key elements are color and again, a font that is unique to your brand. All the elements should lead the eye toward the logo and brand.

 

J.R. Alcyone: Your book’s cover is it’s biggest marketing tool. After editing, it’s the best investment you can make in your book’s success. People do judge books by their covers, and your book needs to stand out or at least be competitive when people scroll Amazon to have a chance of making a sale.

 

Alex Carver: Remember that people DO judge a book by its cover. If you have a poor quality cover, people are going to assume that the rest of the book is equally poor quality, regardless of the time you might have spent on it and not give it a chance.

 

Get feedback before settling on a cover. Whether you opt for designing a cover yourself, or getting one from a designer, you should always have at least 2 options to choose from, preferably more, and you should ask for opinions from people you trust to give it to you straight as to which one works best. As the author, you can often be too close to a book to make a good call on which cover will sell your book the best.

 

Rebecca Hefner:  I think the most important thing is to research other book covers in your genre.  Go to Amazon’s bestseller list and see what is selling.  Then, try to work within those same parameters.  Being creative is great in your writing but, for covers, I’ve learned that it’s better to fit in with your genre.

 

C.R. Downing: I use KindleDirect’s PDF book cover files with Photoshop for the vast majority of my self-designed covers. unsplash.com is a great resource for royalty-free high-resolution photographs. Here’s a link to an example of one Sci-Fi book covers: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B019ZXA598/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i10  I did use an online cover maker for one non-fiction book. I can’t remember which one, but I liked the front cover I got and used it in Photoshop.

 

Riley Quinn: Use opposing colours! Most professionals will design a cover using colours on the opposite ends of the colour spectrum. Blue and Orange, for instance, is extremely popular because the contrast is so sharp. And don’t make it too busy; you don’t need every element of your story on the cover. Just pick the important one(s) and showcase them!

 

Lucy Appadoo: I research other cover designs on Amazon in my genre and can get ideas that way. I also use my internal images of the story’s characters and like to convey the themes on the front cover.

 

Rebecca McNutt: Well, first of all I would point out that the cover of a book is often the face of a book, the first thing the general public sees to give them an impression of what the book is like. As such, it’s important to consider your audience, as well as the genre of your book and the theme you want your book’s cover to convey. For instance, a lot of horror novels incorporate dark colours into their design, and many romance novels add pink and purple tones.

 

Colour, font style and many other little details can go into projecting a message through design. Secondly, I would also suggest ordering yourself a printed copy (or digital copy, if an eBook) of your book before releasing it to the public. Oftentimes (especially with self-publishing), digital preview tools aren’t accurate and this can lead to a book having pixelated images, colours that don’t contrast as expected, the book’s spine misaligned when printed, and other similar issues.

 

 

 

What works best for you, going straight to a designer, to a platform or designing your own book cover?

 

 

J.R. Alcyone: I considered designing my own cover (I’m a photographer, so I’m very visual) or trying a contest on 99Designs. Ultimately, I went with Tim Barber at Dissect Designs. (dissectdesigns.com). From his portfolio, I was confident he could design a cover I’d be proud of and would love. He did not disappoint. I love my cover, and it was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award’s best cover design. There’s usually a thousand or so entries in that contest, so that was an accomplishment for Tim.

 

My novel is literary fiction, with a touch of magical realism. It’s set in Western Australia and my main character is a medical doctor. Some of the pivotal scenes take place on a sailboat. That was a lot to ask, but Tim really pulled something together that fit the theme and mood of my story.

 

Alex Carver: I go straight to a designer – Deranged Doctor Designs has been my go-to site in the past and they had produced very good work for me, including a cover that won an award for best thriller cover. I know my limitations when it comes to cover design. I’m not very visually creative and my efforts to design covers in the past have always looked amateurish, which has resulted in poor sales.

 

I have also used Fiverr.com. A designer there produced a great cover for a sci-fi novel at a very reasonable price. The cover for my next book is going to take me out of my comfort zone, though, because it’s a YA novel and Deranged Doctor Designs doesn’t have any designs who do childrens/YA covers.

 

Rebecca Hefner:  For my Etherya’s Earth series, I used a cover designer/graphic artist.  It was my first series and I felt it important that the covers be professionally designed.  I’m currently writing a non-fiction book under another pen name and am designing that cover myself.  I watched Derek Murphy’s videos on You Tube and I highly recommend spending some time learning from him if you want to design your own covers.

 

Gordon Thomas: I go straight to my designer who is always full of ideas! He always gives me design options. He’s conscious of the look of the whole cover, front back and spine! The spine has to be good. If the book is on a shelf that’s all the potential buyer can see!

 

Riley Quinn: I work with a freelance designer named Dan Van Oss. We discuss my vision for the cover, along with any important elements of the story, then he sends me samples throughout the creative process so I can request tweaks to the design.

 

Karen Nappa: While we’re writing our books, we also look on the internet for pictures and ideas and create a ‘look and feel file,’ which is basically a mood board for our book. After we’ve submitted the book, we get a form that is used by the publisher to inform the artist. It contains the blurb, basic information about setting, like time and place and the characters. It also allows us to include pictures of how we think our main characters look. We haven’t designed our covers, Eris (our designer) is much better at that, but we share our ideas about what they should show and sometimes she uses the models we find.

 

Rebecca McNutt: I can’t afford a cover designer. I never have been able to, and I also enjoy designing my own book covers, so I design all the covers for my books by myself (usually through digital software such as Inkscape, Photoshop and Adobe). This is a practical thing more than anything else. It saves me money, and it gives me more personal control over my book’s design. I had taken some graphic design and web design courses in college that helped with making my later book covers look a bit more professional than earlier ones.

 

 

 

What is in your opinion something that every author needs to know when approaching the book cover design stage?

 

 

Carole P. Roman: A cheap cover will ruin a book right from the start.

 

Ana Grigoriu-Voicu: As a book cover designer I find that the biggest obstacle most authors are not aware of in what concerns cover art is the actual variety of available stock photography. Contrary to what one may think when browsing standard stock photography websites (which these days have millions of images up for sale), the amount of pictures of models that can be used for fiction book covers is not that high.

 

This is why it may happen that you come across books that feature the same models on their covers. Fortunately, in the past few years there’s been an emergence of independent stock image websites (for instance https://www.neo-stock.com ) that offer high quality images geared specifically towards book cover design. Of course, as opposed to the classic stock image websites, the latter have higher fees that might not be included in the standard design packages that cover artists offer.

 

J.R. Alcyone: I think it helps to have an idea of what you want your cover to portray, but ultimately, your cover is a marketing tool, and you should trust your designer when they make recommendations. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also have an opinion, but what an author wants and what will sell or look good especially at thumbnail size aren’t always the same things.

 

I’d suggest pinning to a Pinterest board covers that catch your eye and looking for a cover designer whose aesthetic matches your own. Think big picture, not small details. Think in terms of the atmosphere and mood you want your cover to convey.

 

Alex Carver: Not only do you need a well-designed cover, you need one that suits the genre for your book. Every genre has its own style, and while an indie-published author can take risks with cover design, standing out from the crowd is not always a good thing if you want sales. If you are going to design your own cover then you should do research into styles for your genre, the types of fonts that work best, and what is and isn’t considered appropriate.

 

Just because you, the author, likes an image and think it represents your book, doesn’t mean it is going to grab the attention of readers who are used to a particular style of cover. A shirtless figure is unlikely to sell a mystery book, and a bloody knife is unlikely to sell a romance novel, no matter how important they might be to the plot.

 

Rebecca Hefner:  When I initially commissioned the Etherya’s Earth covers from my designer, I didn’t include audiobook covers.  Audible has specific parameters that they require for a book cover which are very different from ebook and paperback covers.  That ended up costing me a whole new batch of money when I needed the audiobook covers designed, even though we were using the same concepts and stock photos.  Now, I’ve learned that if I use a designer, I need to commission everything up front to get the best price:  the ebook, paperback and audiobook covers.

 

C.R. Downing: Don’t think you know what’s best. It’s easy to get so consumed by your book that you forget that readers are coming in cold. A cover that is too literal will reduce sales over time because word gets out that the cover reveals some critical plot point. A cover that’s too abstract has a similar effect, however, the reason is readers don’t understand the graphics. Once I have an idea, I send that version to my “Fab 5” beta readers. At the same time, it goes to an artist friend. Until I get both sets of feedback, I wait.

 

Gordon Thomas: Your target audience; and some idea of whether you want a picture, an abstract design or just words on the cover. I usually go for a picture that I think will appeal to my readers.

 

Rebecca McNutt: I think something that every author needs to know during the book cover design stage is that it’s important to find a balance between what you want and what the public wants. I know a lot of authors try to design their cover based on what is currently trendy, but that can be a slippery slope between good publicity and hindering your book’s ability to stand out. It can also be an affront to personal creativity. At the same time, it’s not a bad idea to keep up with designs that sell, what is considered appealing in the genre you’re writing for, and to get a good understanding of where you want your book to fall into before you begin the design process.

 

 

 

Did you ever have an unfortunate experience with a book cover design/designer/platform/etc.?

 

 

Carole P. Roman: My son did an eerie cover for the book The After House. We all loved the cover. It is a ghost story, however, it’s more lighthearted. Many people felt tricked by the ominous cover and the humor found inside the book. Also, I’ve heard that people who hired an artist to do a cover on a book that turned into a series, were dismayed when they bailed after the first cover. The new books in the series didn’t match the first book and that was a problem when the books are seen side by side.

 

Alex Carver: I had a cover designed by someone I knew in the writing community (this was many years ago now) unfortunately when the friendship ended I was forced to organise another cover as permission to use the original cover was withdrawn. It set me back a while and made me reluctant to work with others on something so important for some time, especially without a formal agreement.

 

Barbara Ann Mojica: We did have an unfortunate experience with a book cover design. When Createspace switched to KDP, we spent weeks trying to get a cover approved. Spoke to many representatives and supervisors who seemed unable to give a reason for not giving approval. No one had an answer. All the dimensions were perfect and the rest of the book was approved. Finally, someone came up with a rationale that they thought the design interfered with the text, which was, of course, my illustrator’s own design. We refused to change it. Now we go with Ingram instead of KDP. They do both the printing and distribution.

 

Rebecca McNutt: Yeah, unfortunately I have. I’ve been ripped off once or twice by designers that offered paid cover design services, which later turned out to be that they were using Kindle software to create generic covers using free stock images (one stock image even still had the watermark on it). Needless to say, I wasn’t the only one, and the person offering this service disappeared after getting reported by multiple authors. There are reputable book cover designers/design companies online, and usually they will be up-front about image sources, design software, costs and other facets of their work. Some of them will also post examples of their previous work which can be referred back to for an idea of how professional their designs usually look.

 

 

 

Did you ever try designing your own book covers?

 

 

Carole P. Roman: I like 99designs the best. I have used Upwork, but have not been successful with the designers on there. Very rarely did they deliver what was promised. They bid for the work and then kick up a fuss that they are not making enough. I preferred 99designs.

 

J.R. Alcyone: I played around myself, enough to know I needed to hire an expert. I was lucky to find Tim. I love his work, and if I ever finish my second novel, I plan to ask him for help designing the cover.

 

Alex Carver: When I started out, I decided to save some money by designing my own covers. Unfortunately, while some people are very talented at graphic design and can make their own covers, I am not one of them. My covers weren’t horrific, but it was easy to see that they were the work of an amateur.

 

Once I made a bit of money from my books, I think I was fortunate that my self-designed covers didn’t put people off entirely, I went looking for a professional designer. After checking a few sites I settled on Deranged Doctor Designs, whose samples looked great and whose prices I was willing to pay.

 

The moment I got the first cover from them and put it up I knew I had made the right decision, sales increased dramatically. So far I have released 8 individual titles and 2 boxsets, and all but one of the covers has come from Deranged Doctor Designs, and the books have made back the cost of the covers, which I’m sure is at least in part because of the quality of the covers.

 

The one cover I didn’t have done by DDD was for a scifi novel and it was done by Olivia Pro Design on Fiverr.com. The only reason I didn’t go with DDD for that cover was that scifi was a change in genre for me and I didn’t feel confident about making back the cost of a DDD cover, given the price, so I looked for someone who was cheaper and went with Olivia Pro Design after they were recommended to me.

 

Rebecca Hefner:  I am currently designing my own cover for a non-fiction book on solo travel under a different pen name. I watched Derek Murphy’s You Tube video on how to design a book cover in Word and found it very helpful. I got the cover photo from Shutterstock and researched the internet for fonts that were free for commercial use. In the end, I’m very happy with what I’ve designed. I think there is a little more leeway with non-fiction covers versus fiction covers.

 

Riley Quinn: I work with a freelance designer named Dan Van Oss. We discuss my vision for the cover, along with any important elements of the story, then he sends me samples throughout the creative process so I can request tweaks to the design.

 

Lucy Appadoo: I designed my own book cover only once for a PDF guide on Grief and Loss. I used the free version of Canva and I believe it worked well, but I wouldn’t do my own cover designs for my novels as I am not a professional cover designer. I use Jessica Bell as my cover designer here: https://www.jessicabelldesign.com/

 

Karen Nappa: To sum up:

  • Start collecting pictures while writing your book. It will help with the cover design;
  • Find an artist who understands your genre;
  • Engage in the design process but trust the designer; he or she is the professional;
  • Be honest if something about the cover doesn’t sit right with you;
  • Make sure the cover fits the content, not all readers choose by reading the blurb, and you don’t want to give those who don’t the wrong impression about your book.

 

Rebecca McNutt: I always design my own book covers, usually with free open-source software. Inkscape and Microsoft Paint have always worked for me. They don’t necessarily have the best reputation because they are free programs, but they can be very versatile programs, as well. Another tool which I always found helpful was the CreateSpace book previewer, which gave a virtual rendering of what a book would look like once printed.

 

It allowed you to see the way the spine would be aligned, how the cover would look at different angles, and all kinds of other things. Unfortunately, when CreateSpace merged with Kindle, this feature was lost and replaced with a very bare-bones previewer that doesn’t show spine/cover edge alignment, and it can be inaccurate in showing how a cover will appear in print. To work around that, I usually have to order a printed proof of my own book before releasing it publicly.

 


Are you in the Writing Industry?

Shoot me an email, I’d love to interview you!

 

 

And check out Lost in Amber: An Out Of This World Paranormal Romance if enjoy girl power, adventure & a toe-curling love story.

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She just wanted to mope over her breakup but the universe had other plans for Zoey Mills. 

 

Read the full blurb here.