You have probably been told your whole life not to judge a book by its cover. Obviously this expression isn’t talking about books specifically, but I am going to let you in on a little secret:
All readers judge books by their covers.
Ok that might be a bit of an exaggeration. Obviously if there is a book you are feeling very compelled to read based on the topic or the author you don’t necessarily care what the cover looks like. But in those instances like that, you’ve already been given reasons to buy the book before you see the cover. It could be through word of mouth, or the author has engaged you in a way that has led you to purchase their book.
But if you are trying to capture browsers – those readers who are looking for their next read – your cover is an important piece of the puzzle. Obviously it’s not the only piece, but arguably the cover of your book will be the first thing to draw in a reader. For self-published authors your next potential reader likely isn’t browsing a bookstore and flipping through your book. Instead they are probably on Amazon or have been emailed a targeted list of books they might enjoy. The first thing they see is the front cover of your book as a thumbnail and that has to be enough to engage them more.
So how do you make sure your cover is going to get the job done?
You probably don’t want to do it yourself. I worked in the newspaper industry for over a decade and I can make my way around InDesign and Photoshop, and have put together some pretty compelling magazines that I am very proud of. But when it comes to designing book covers, you need someone who not only knows how to use the tools but also has the creative and artistic ability to design something truly compelling. Remember, it’s not enough that it looks good when it’s on the book; it also needs to look good in a thumbnail for people scrolling through lists of books on Amazon and other websites.
Because your book will be print-on-demand if you are using services like Amazon KDP or IngramSpark, you need a cover that takes into account that there can be slight variances each time it is printed. This is important because you want to avoid any “hard lines” between your front cover, spine, and back cover.
So now that we’ve convinced you that you don’t want to do it yourself, how do you find a cover designer? There are literally thousands of freelance designers out there who have the creative ability and technical skills that you need. Fivr and 99Designs are good places to start looking for freelance designers, and you can usually find someone who will work within your budget. Just be expected to shell out a few hundred dollars for a quality cover, and likely more. I recommend picking someone who has designed book covers in your genre, and has good testimonials from other authors. If you like their work on other projects you will probably like their work for your book.
Once you have selected a designer, you will want to work with them to create your ideal cover. Remember, they have the design skills but you are the one who has read the book so you will want to give them some initial direction to start out with. We recommend you start by finding covers in your genre or area of expertise that you like. This can be a simple process such as going to Amazon and looking for books in your category, or you can go down to your local bookstore and peruse through the bookshelves and take notes about what covers you like. I like to encourage people to start with their genre when looking for covers because more than likely the readers who read those books are also your potential readers. If you wrote a parenting book it’s probably not a good idea to look at fantasy novels for inspiration.
Find covers you like and use those as a jumping off point to adapt your own concept. Take good notes of what you like (colors, fonts, if the images are abstract or photographs, if they use a collage, etc.) and keep a list to send to your cover designer. Be prepared to talk about the elements you like, why you like them, and what you don’t like. You can also send your cover designer elements you like that aren’t a book cover. Things like colors, photographs, etc. Some authors like to create a cover vision board on Pinterest and share that with their designer.
It’s a good idea to ask your designer to give you at least three mockups based on your initial conversation. Be prepared to give feedback and narrow it down to the concept you like the best, and then continue to tweak the elements. Of course, being respectful can go a long way and if you have found a cover designer that you like working with you will want to maintain that relationship for future projects.
Once you have an initial design you will need to make sure you have all the proper cover elements. This typically includes a title, a sub title (if your book has one) , a short book description for the back (no more than 250 words), an author bio if you are putting it on the back, and any endorsements you have received about your book. Once your cover designer has all of these elements they can design all the pieces of the cover and create templates that you will use to upload your cover to your print on demand services. Depending on what formats your book is available in, you might need a printed version of the cover as well as a digital version for your ebook, and/or a square version for Audible. You can also ask for 3D mockups of your cover that you can use in your marketing materials.