Tuesday, 13 August 2019

How to find a book cover designer

Over the last couple of weeks, I've been researching book cover designers. I started by going through the list of cover designers that Joanna Penn has on her website (https://www.thecreativepenn.com/bookcoverdesign/). It's not an exhaustive list, but I needed to start somewhere and these were people that either Joanna Penn had used herself, or who came recommended to her. There are about 70 names on the list I think and I looked at every site, plus another set of sites that had been personally recommended to me. There's also a list on ALLi of recommended services: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/self-publishing-service-reviews/ graded by how much they trust them and I looked at anyone who was in their 'green' (trusted partner) category. I would recommend checking that page once you've chosen your shortlist, in case ALLi have flagged up any issues, even if you don't use it as a starting point.

After trawling through 100+ book cover designer sites, let me share my tips and tricks to make the process as easy as possible! Most of these apply to getting a custom-made design, rather than a pre-made, but some apply to both.

1. Have a good idea in mind of what you want!
Do you want pre-made (cheaper but less flexible) or custom designed (unique, but pricier)?
I was actually looking for both - a pre-made for another project that I can't tell you about yet (though subscribers to the newsletters know!) and custom-made for the trilogy (including a mock-up of a box-set for ebooks).

A word of caution about pre-mades... on one site, although the designer said that once you bought a cover, it was removed from the list and was yours exclusively, I spotted a cover both in their list of pre-mades and in their showcase of completed projects. When I checked on Amazon that this was indeed the cover for that book, it was. It made me immediately cross that designer off my list! No one wants to have their book wearing a cover that's already out there!

2. Do you like their portfolio?
Most (though interestingly, not all) of the cover designers had a portfolio of covers they'd designed, to give an indication of their work. If they don't have a portfolio to show you, you might wonder why. If they didn't, I didn't shortlist them! Spend a bit of time browsing their projects. See if there are any that you really like (or dislike). Do you generally feel 'meh' about the covers or are you quite excited by them?

3. Are they clear about what they're offering and how much it costs?
You'd think this was a no-brainer, but I lost count of how many companies where I couldn't find even a ball-park estimate of how much it would cost to get a cover design for both ebook and print versions. Many said things like 'email for a free quote' which is all well and good, but it's a waste of my time and theirs if their starting prices are double what my budget is. I'm quite happy if people say 'starting from' with caveats over why prices might rise. Admittedly, I'm a lot happier if there's a fixed price for a fixed service. And I had 100+ companies to look at. Emailing 100 companies and then having to go back and compare them once their prices came in seemed like it would double or triple the time taken to complete the research, which is time I don't have. Perhaps this was unfair of me, but if I could see no price guide, I clicked off them, however much I liked their portfolio.

When I started to draw up a table to compare the different companies, it also became clear who didn't put enough information on their website! For one person, I'd liked their designs and they did have a price guide, but I didn't know how many design concepts they would send, how many revisions they would do, what the file formats were for the products or what kind of turnaround time they had. Be sure about what you want and if it helps, make yourself a checklist or table to complete.

4. What's the process?
Is it a 50% deposit upfront, before you even see any concepts? Is it pay everything upfront (hint - avoid, unless they have a very clear money-back guarantee that you trust)? Is it pay nothing upfront but all when you're happy? If you pay a deposit and then don't like any of the concepts at all, what happens?

How much information will they want from you before producing the design? The more information they get, the better the design will match the book.

5. Do they offer discounts for series?
This may not be important to you, but given that a custom-made cover can be perhaps £200-300, getting a discount on a series could make a big difference to your overheads! A 20% discount on subsequent covers really adds up!

6. Ebook cover, print cover or both?
If they do both, it's easier (and potentially cheaper) to order them together, along with any other extras you want (audiobook cover? Banner for social media?).

7. Have they won any awards for their covers?
It's not a guarantee of quality, but if they have awards, or recommendations from places like ALLi, the chances are that they're good to work with and will produce something you like!

Those are my top tips, but if you have any you'd like to share, pop them in the comments?


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