Thursday, October 15, 2015

How to Find and Select a Cover Designer

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series

Readers do judge a book by its cover, so make sure yours looks professional.  

Making sure my books had covers that would attract readers rather than turn them away has been one of the scariest parts of independent publishing for me. Readers do judge books by their covers. An ugly or unprofessional cover can make a reader pass on our book regardless of how great our content is.

Most of us are writers, not artists or graphic designers. We can’t design our own covers. (Or, at least, most of us shouldn’t.) So how do we find a cover designer who can create the perfect cover for our books—one that’s visually appealing and also accurately represents the content inside?


The first step is to make a list of potential cover designers we might want to work with.

Look at the books in your category on Amazon. The cover designer is often credited inside.

Ask indie authors whose covers you like. This is also a great way to find out more about how the particular cover designer is to work with.

Ask among your circle of writer friends if they would recommend anyone.This is how I found the designer for my non-fiction covers. We were already writer friends, and it turned out she also designed covers. The added benefit was I already knew we got along and would work well together.

Look at the covers featured in Joel Friedlander’s Cover Design Awards. This is also a great way to learn about what works and what doesn’t for covers so that you go into the process better informed.


The next step is a bit harder. At this point we might have a very long list of potential cover designers. We need to research the cover designers on our list to narrow it down, which means we need to go to their websites, look at their portfolios, and ask ourselves some questions.

Do we like their other covers as well as we liked the one we saw elsewhere? We aren’t probably going to like every cover we see on their site. One thing I know from being a freelance editor is that clients don’t always take your advice. Sometimes they want to do it their way, even if the outcome is less professional or less effective. The idea here is to see if we like more of their covers than we dislike.

Can we clearly read the title and author name on their covers or are the fonts so frilly, small, or obscured by the design that you struggle to read them? Would they still be clear at thumbnail size, which is how people see them on Amazon?This is essential. Covers aren’t just about the images. They’re also about integrating our name and title in a visually appealing yet still readable way so that people know at a glance what our book is called. By looking at how the cover designers handle these elements, we’ll get an idea of their skill with fonts and whether we can trust them.

Do they understand our genre? If we don’t see any covers in our genre in their portfolio, they might not be the right cover designer for us. If we love the covers they’ve done in other genres but not the ones they’ve done in our genre, they might not be the right cover designer for us. Different genres come with different conventions in terms of expected tropes, title size and placement, color choices, etc. We need a designer who understands what will make us standout in our category while still looking like we belong.


We might be able to answer all of our questions based on the information they provide on their website, but often we’ll still need to email our top five for some of the specifics.

How much do they cost? We might love the work of a designer, but they might simply be outside of our budget. In next month’s post, I’ll hopefully be talking more about cover design on a budget.

Are they able to design our cover on our timeline? Failing to plan for the time needed for editing and cover design is a common problem I’ve noticed among indie authors. Good cover designers and editors often can’t fit us in right away. (Some can but we shouldn’t count on it.) We might have to move on from a designer we like if it’ll throw our schedule off or we might decide to wait for the right designer.

What kind of license do they offer for covers? Make sure you know who owns the final cover once you pay for it. If stock images have been used (and most covers do use them), ask where they’re sourcing them from and how many printed “impressions” you’re limited to before you need to increase the license level from the stock site. You might not think this matters, but it would be horrible for your book to take off only to be hit with legal troubles over your cover. If you’re hiring a designer or artist to create custom art for your cover, you’ll also want to make sure you’ll be receiving an exclusive license to the final art.

By this point, if we still have a few designers left on the list, we can feel comfortable choosing any of them. And, remember, this isn’t like a marriage. If it doesn’t work out, for your next book, you can move on to someone else.

Do you have any other tips for finding a cover designer? What other questions would you suggest writers ask?

Marcy Kennedy is a suspense and speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance fiction editor and teaches classes on craft and social media. She’s also the author of the Busy Writer’s Guides series of books. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at

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About Point of View: A Busy Writer’s Guide

Point of view isn’t merely another writing craft technique. Point of view is the foundation upon which all other elements of the writing craft stand—or fall.

It’s the opinions and judgments that color everything the reader believes about the world and the story. It’s the voice of the character that becomes as familiar to the reader as their own. It’s what makes the story real, believable, and honest.

Yet, despite its importance, point-of-view errors are the most common problem for fiction writers.

In Point of View in Fiction: A Busy Writer’s Guide, you’ll learn

  •  the strengths and weaknesses of the four different points of view you can choose for your story (first person, second person, limited third person, and omniscient),
  • how to select the right point of view for your story,
  • how to maintain a consistent point of view throughout your story,
  • practical techniques for identifying and fixing head-hopping and other point-of-view errors,
  • the criteria to consider when choosing the viewpoint character for each individual scene or chapter,
  • and much more!

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