This article originally appeared on bookbaby.com
Readers are basing their book-purchasing decisions on a single image with a few pixels. That’s one reason you need the services of a professional cover designer.
Now, more than ever, readers are literally judging your book by its cover. With more than 75 percent of book sales happening online, your cover’s design is a tipping point in a one-click decision.
It used to be that readers would come through a brick-and-mortar shop, pick a book up, and leaf through it for a few pages before making a buying decision. Now, readers are basing their purchasing decisions on a single image with a few pixels.
That means you have to have a strong design, and finding the right cover designer for your book is a crucial first step in getting there.
Before you pick one at random and shell out a few hundred dollars, consider the following.
How can I find the right cover designer?
Once you’ve found a candidate or two, look through their online portfolios. Do you like the work they’ve done? Do they have a solid number of titles under their belt? Are the other covers in their arsenal in the same or similar genre to your book?
Pay attention to that last question
A book designer with experience in mystery novels is going to know how to make your book look like it fits within that genre. That’s crucial, since mystery readers are going to look at your cover for a split second and decide immediately whether or not it looks like a book for them. That doesn’t mean the same designer will be adept at designing a memoir or nonfiction cover that suits your title.
Do the process in reverse
Check titles in your genre to see if they’ve listed the cover artist and reach out to the ones whose designs you like. If there’s no listing, try messaging the author directly. Self-published authors typically want to help — especially if it means they get to talk about their books.
Does the designer have the right skills?
Just because someone can make a lovely poster for a piano recital, it doesn’t mean they’re going to make an impactful book cover. Book cover design is a niche with rules, format requirements, and genre-specific needs. A book designer will know this.
Will you own the rights to the design?
In all creative industries, discussing ownership and rights upfront is critical. There are authors who have published their books — with covers they paid for — only to have the designer demand they take it down.
It helps to have your own contracts prepared in advance so you have a starting point for negotiations. Include the expected timeline, rate, and terms for the cover design. This means stating the date the cover will be completed, how much you’ll pay for it, how many revisions you’re entitled to, what happens if the contract is terminated, and who owns the rights to the finished work.
Working with a designer should be a collaboration
It’s your job to give your designer the broad strokes of what you want in your cover design — it’s their job to deliver. But this doesn’t mean a designer can read your mind. Provide covers that inspire you. Send them a Pinterest board, a video montage, a bunch of paint chips with poetry on them — whatever it is that you feel best communicates the look you want for your book cover.
And then, talk it through. Be clear and thorough. Answer questions. Ask for changes on first or second drafts and know that it’s okay to walk away if the relationship begins to head south. If a designer isn’t giving you what you’re looking for, or if after two revisions the cover still isn’t right, it’s okay for you to cancel your contract. You can find another designer but you can’t buy a second chance at impressing your readers.
At the end of the day, you could publish War and Peace with a million-dollar marketing budget, but if the cover is wrong, you’re still going to lose. Get a great cover and increase the chances you’ll get your book into the hands of readers who will love it.