If you have never worked with a book cover designer or you have been frustrated in the past when working with graphic artists, this article will help. This article is designed to:

  • Explain the role of the designer and the author.
  • Help authors to set realistic expectations when working with a graphic artist
  • Make the book cover design process a positive, successful experience.

Why work with a graphic designer?

Experienced graphic designers have creative ideas, knowledge and skills you can harness to create a great cover design.

However, if all you need is access to a pair of hands and someone who can follow your instructions and give you a file so you can get your cover published, you will probably end up with a mediocre cover.

“How hard can it be to create a cover? Anyone with a computer can do it.”

“I know exactly what I want. I just need someone who has some design software to make the cover artwork for me.”

If you believe either or both of these two statements, be cautious how you proceed when working with a graphic designer.

Professional graphic designers will have a degree in art, many years of experience and are skilled with a wide range of design software. A graphic designer has a desire to create visual art that stands out and is something to be proud of.

If you hire a designer and then force them into the role of simply taking orders, this is like using a thoroughbred race horse to plow a field.

If you are looking for someone to just follow instructions, be upfront with the graphic designer and make sure they are comfortable with a less creative role in the process.

What is the role of the author and designer when working together?

Ideally it should be a collaborative process, with a lot of discussion about the cover design before anything is created.

Authors should clearly communicate what they are looking for in a design—who is the main characters, where the book take place, memorable scenes in the book and major themes. It also helps for the designer to know about the author’s audience, their age range and their expectations.

The book cover designer needs to fully understand what the author is looking to visually communicate and to understand what the book is about, then to develop several visual concepts that are exciting and creative.

Some authors have opinions about what they like and don’t like, which is fine. The best approach is to talk through ideas, likes and dislikes early on before the first concepts are created, which will save both time and frustration.

Authors should share any concrete ideas as well as any covers they have already seen and liked with the designer. But don’t ask the designer to copy another cover design.

Working together as a team

“I don’t know what I want but I will know when I see it.”
“You’re the designer, you come up with something.”

Not all authors think in visual terms when describing what they have in mind or what imagery might be appropriate for their book cover design. It’s always best to be up-front with the designer you work with so both of you understand that there may need to be additional design concepts created.

Authors who provide little input or expect the designer to make all the decisions should realize it may take many design concepts to find the right one. Keep in mind that, often, one or more concepts might be combined to create a stronger overall book design concept, and the revision process can be used to tweak the design and make it perfect.

The importance of design feedback

Authors should be prepared to tell their graphic designer exactly how each design concept is not working or what is missing in specific terms so the designer can know better what to focus on when revising a design concept. It is also good to discuss what is working or what elements of each concept that the author likes, even if the overall design concept is not quite there.

It is very important for the designer to explain the design concepts in terms of what they were working towards with each design and why they made the design choices they did.

Ideally, communication throughout the feedback and revision process will bring a concept to life and will result in a book cover design that both the author and designer can be proud of.