How Important Is Your Cover?
A great cover will sell a lot more books than a mediocre cover. Your cover, particularly the thumbnail image, has to grab the casual Amazon browser who is skimming through rows of thumbnails in your genre. The book market is becoming crowded FAST – over 1,000 new books go on sale every day. You need to put your best foot forward and that best foot is a strong cover image.
Should You Create Your Own Cover Or Hire a Cover Artist?
Unless you are an experienced cover artist with demonstrated success, you should hire a freelance cover artist to do your cover. It will cost you at least several hundred dollars but will be one of the wisest investments you’ll ever make in your book. If you have written a good book, the increased sales from a great cover will recoup your investment quickly. Paying a cover designer should not be thought of as a cost but as an investment that will pay for itself many times over.
Where Do You Find a Good Cover Artist?
1) Look at the web sites of a number of graphic designers and find several whose style you like the best. Make sure that the graphic designers who make your short list have experience doing book cover design. There is a learning curve, particularly when creating the cover artwork .pdf file for Print-On-Demand. Files submitted to a POD company such as Lightning Source have to meet a number of technical specifications exactly because these files go right into production. The cover artist needs to be experienced in creating these files.
2) Join author groups. Author groups are great sources for locating every type of professional help that a writer might need.
3) Graphic design schools have lots of talent that should not be too expensive. If you opt to employ a graphic design student, make sure that the student has the experience you need and is willing to work with a contract and meet deadlines.
4) Look on the covers of hardcopies and ebooks in your genre. The artists are sometimes listed on the cover.
What Are Important Questions To Ask the Cover Designer Before You Hire Him or Her?
1) The most important aspect of working with a cover artist is that you feel comfortable working with him or her. If you are a bit uncomfortable with an artist after one or two communications, you probably should continue your search.
2) Pay attention to the number of questions that the artist asks you. The more questions that the artist asks about your book, your concept, and your goals, the more likely you are to get a final product that is inline with what you want.
3) Ranking right up at the top of the list is the designer’s experience in creating book covers. How many did the artist do? How many in your genre? Take a look at them.
4) You should request a contract with your artist. If the artist doesn’t do a contract, he or she may not bring the professionalism to the table that you’ll want.
5) You need to have the right to use the artwork forever. If you have to renew a license in order to continue to use the cover artwork, you are taking a big risk. Your artist could move, raise licensing prices, or even refuse to relicense because of disagreement. The worse-case scenario would to lose a license for cover artwork used on a series of books. In this case you would have to redo all of the covers. Any brand equity that had been built as a result of cover recognition for your series is instantly gone. You never want to license cover artwork temporarily.
6) You need to get everything clearly spelled out regarding what you will be billed for. Cover artists often bill hourly. Find out what tasks are considered billable. You want to be paying your artist for creative artistic and design work. You don’t want to pay the artist for tasks that you could do yourself. If, for example, the artist bills for image searches, you might consider providing the images yourself. There are also lots of sites that you can find royalty-free images on. There are also plenty of well-known sites that sell the right to use images.
7) Related to the above point is a payment schedule. Make sure that payment terms and schedule are clearly spelled out. The artist may also request a downpayment, sometimes up to 50%.
8) The total cost for creating your cover will be at least several hundred dollars, maybe even more depending on how unique you want your cover to be. Be wary of a cover designer whose price seems too good to be true. You may not get the experience, amount of interaction, or the effort that you would like from the artist.
9) You’ll want to get a production schedule from the artist, complete with deadlines.
10) Don’t expect your cover designer to create illustrations, perform photography, or to have to secure the rights for images for your cover. If you have provided the images, you have relieved the designer of liability for copyright infringement. You may have to provide extra money to the artist if you would like him or her to locate stock images for your cover.
11) Make sure that cover designer can create the proofs in the form and format that you need. For example, if you are creating a cover for a Print-On-Demand hardcopy for Lightning Source or CreateSpace, you’ll be provided a custom .pdf template by the POD company. It is best if your cover designer has created covers in the past for the specific POD company that you intend to use. Each POD company has its own set of specifications and templates. You would rather have your cover designer at the top of that learning curve than at the bottom looking up. I can recommend Lightning Source as a POD company and have used them for all of my POD books. I have not ever used CreateSpace so I can’t provide first-hand information about them, although I’m sure they do a great job as well.
12) Ask how many cover ideas you will initially receive from the artist. It is not uncommon for a cover designer only to provide a single cover concept and work from there. In the past, cover designers often provided more than one cover concept.
How Do You Work With Your Cover Artist To Get the Best Result?
1) Provide the cover artist with a detailed brief about what you would like for your cover. Your brief should provide your ideas about what overall effect and mood you would like the cover to evoke. Provide your ideas about color schemes and any other ideas of artistic expression related to the cover that you have.
2) Make sure your brief contains all necessary factual information such as page count, ISBN, binding format, binding size, color or black-and-white printing on pages, color of pages (for example, crème or white), and the name of the POD company that will be printing your book. Each POD company has its own technical specifications and template. You’ll need to provide the cover artist with enough information so that the artist can download a custom template from your POD company.
3) Your input should important to the designer. Equally important from your end is to respect and trust the designer’s creative, artistic abilities. The designer hopefully has worked on many more books than you and should know a thing or two. If you have found a good cover artist, listen to him or her. Your cover artist is the expert in the field of cover design. After all, you are shelling out good money for that expertise. You might as well get your money’s worth.
4) Don’t expect your cover designer to take photographs or do illustrations, Cover designers combine and manipulate images and type face to create effective covers. If you wish the artist to locate images for use on your cover, you may have to pay extra.
5) Be open to an experienced designer’s suggestions of how to change the cover concept to appeal to a wider audience. Authors sometimes define a book’s target market too tightly.
6) Always insist on a contract with deadlines, payment terms, definition of billable hours, artist’s deposit requirement, copyright retention terms for the cover design, definition and specifications of what the final product will be, how the final product will be uploaded to the POD and also included in an .epub/.mobi eBook file if this will be created.
7) Learn as much as possible in advance about the publishing process and what the specifications required by the POD company mean. Get the cover artist to define the publishing process and also explain all of the POD specifications including the custom template in detail to you. The more you know about the entire process at the beginning, the more likely that the final product will meet your satisfaction. Get the cover designer to go over the template with you and explain what the “bleed” and “trim” areas are. It’s not as complicated as it may sound. The cover artist should be able to explain all of the POD company’s specifications and template in simple, understandable terms.
8) Expect the artist to respect your wishes if you have very strong feelings about some aspect the cover design. On the other side of the coin, respect the artist’s experience and talent. Try to keep in mind that the artist probably has worked on quite a few more books than you have.
9) Request changes if you see something that you would like changed. Before you request any changes, try to clarify exactly why you want the change. Be prepared to listen to the artist’s reasoning on why he or she created and laid out the elements of the cover in that way.
10) If you ask for lots of changes, expect to pay more for the additional work.
11) At the end of the day, do you best to hire talent, provide as much information as you can, and then try as much as possible to trust the skill, creativity, experience, and judgement of your cover designer.