Many people ask me what’s involved in getting a book cover designed. In this article, I’ll explain the process we go through with our book cover design clients. First I need a bit of information about the book itself. We mostly work on non-fiction books because we are familiar with that marketplace. Our design style isn’t appropriate for fiction and children’s books
After the client and I have talked about the book, and agreed on the price and payment terms, next I ask the client to go and do a bit of “homework.” Remember that as the author, you will be looking at the cover of your book more than almost anyone else. Other book designers may work differently, but here’s what we ask our clients to do.
1. Research the competition. Ideally, you will have gone through this process before you even started writing the book, but if not, now is the time. You want to know what the competing books look like in your niche. If they are all a certain size, you may want to keep your book consistent. For example, many computer books are a larger size than other books. Are the books hardcover or soft cover? Certain books that are sold to academic or library markets may need to be hard bound. Learn as much as you can about the other books in your topic area. What color is the cover? If every book on a particular topic is green, yours might stand out if you use a different color. Or there may be a good reason they are all similar. Online, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other large book sites. Then if you can, visit as many local bookstores as possible to see books “in person” as well.
2. Surf book sites and send us links to the book covers you like and don’t like. As a designer, I’ve found that the easiest way to learn about someone’s design preferences is with pictures. I ask clients to send links to their favorite non-fiction book covers in Amazon.com. (They don’t have to be in the same niche as your book.) Along with the covers, an explanation of what you like and don’t like can be extremely illuminating. If you say, “colors are great; fonts icky” or “I like the photo on this one” it tells me a lot. If you have your own artwork, sometimes it’s usable, assuming it’s high-resolution and good quality. (I’ll veto snapshots, images from Web sites, and cheesy clip art, so consider yourself warned.) Often you can get affordable, quality images from a stock photo Web site.
3. Provide the back cover copy. In the excitement of selecting images and thinking about the design of the front cover, sometimes people forget that the book has a back cover too. We need the text that you want on the back cover of the book to lay out the cover.
4. Provide a final page count. If we haven’t laid out the interior of the book, we need to know the exact page count. Also, it’s helpful if we can get information about the printer who will be printing the book, so we can research their requirements. Different printers use different presses so their needs vary. In some cases, the page count must be a multiple of 2, 4, 6, 8 or even 16. The number of pages in the book determines the width of the spine, which affects the cover art. Different printers calculate the width differently because it also depends on the type of paper used for the interior.
5. Provide the ISBN and price. To create a bar code for the back cover, we need to know the ISBN of the book. Optionally, you may want to include the cover price in the bar code. If so, we need to know the price of the book as well.
Armed with this information, I can create an eye-catching, marketable cover that represents the contents of your book. And that you like yourself too!