C is for covers #AtoZchallenge (and some cover reveals…sorta)

I’ve talked before about how great my cover designer is.  And she is.  She rocks (she put up with a LOT of stupid questions while I wrote this post!)
She’s also one of my best friends, so we talk about cover design and design in general  A LOT.  And sometimes I ask some absolutely cracking questions.
So,  I thought I’d share some of the stuff she’s taught me – five things you gotta know about design and five things to look for in a designer from an artistically challenged writer.

Design for the design and not so design challenged

  1. Typography and type treatment tie the design together – at least, that’s what I’ve noticed.  Stock images tell the ‘story’ of the book, or give some insight into scenes, while the typography is absolutely perfect to ensure that the design looks *squared away*.  Poor type actually distracts me more than the same stock over and over.
  2. Speaking of – stock can be used again and again.  Don’t choose a designer if they do it over clients though – it’s either a sign that they can’t afford/aren’t buying more images, don’t care, or don’t get that they’re working with a vast world out there.
    That said, stock reuse isn’t implicitly a bad thing.  It’s just if it’s noticeable over a portfolio that there’s a problem.
  3. Book covers should not be uploaded with the stock watermark included.  Ever.  Period.  If you really need to ask advice, don’t do it in public – it’s against most stock site rules.  And delete your drafts once you’re done with the design (or store them somewhere you’re not going to accidentally upload them) – there’s nothing worse than discovering you’ve uploaded the wrong file.
  4. (In my experience) Cover designers book in advance – don’t expect to finish your first draft, get editing in a week, and get a cover that same week.  Realistically, you need to give four to six weeks to get your covers designed – it’s also a good buffer to get your marketing started.
  5. Pre-made covers can be close to perfect for your needs – and groups like ‘The Cover Art Collective‘  are ideal but they are pre-mades, so they might not match entirely.  They’re a better start than say, if you’re like me, doing your own, and are cheaper in most cases.
    Also though, pre-mades tend to make writers think up stories.

And the five things to look for in a good designer

Again, this is my opinion, but here’s the five things to look for when picking a designer.  I should probably add, I’m through choosing my designer.  Got one, sticking with her!

  1. Portfolio – what do the other covers that they’ve created look like?  I’ve met a couple of designers that I can do better than.  That’s probably a sure sign, for me, that I need to look again.
  2. Responsiveness – once I started the process to buy some pre-mades from a designer that I knew was incredibly active on Facebook. I gave her two weeks to respond, and followed up once.  I was going to buy a few of her pre-mades, but alas, she never responded.  Reading through her ‘comments by others’ on her page, it was a fairly common thing.  I found pre-mades with another designer – three days turnaround.  So…if you can check, do look and see how quickly they respond to queries.
  3. Price – being reasonable here, you should never expect to get a cover for free, though some people do offer them.  So why is price a consideration.  It’s not actually the ‘price’ so much as ‘what you can afford’.  I know of designers charging $500/$1000 for a cover.  That’s more than I pay for editing.  I’m happy to pay up to $250 for my customs, and less for pre-mades. That’s my budget.  That’s what I’ve assessed my publishing budget, right now, can afford.  If my cover designer ever changes her prices, I’ll make changes to match that (this isn’t me saying Renée charges $250, this is me saying that’s my budget).  All things being equal though, my budget includes editing, but crucially, not formatting because I know how to do that.  If that changes at any point, or I find I don’t have the time, again, my budget will get replanned.
  4. Timescale – be reasonable here too.  Like I said further up, my experience with designers is that there’s a waiting list, that all depends on the designer.  Planning a decent launch, and getting *decent* editing done can take six weeks or more, so do allow that for covers too. Beyond that, it’s down to you.  If designers are booked six months out, and you know it when embarking on a book, maybe book them at six months out and get the cover.  Especially handy if you know what your book should be of course, not so good if you’re still vague on the cover.  Otherwise, factor that into your launch plans.
  5. Connection – the final one for me at least, for all the professionals I work with, there has to be a connection.  It goes back to more than professional responsiveness – I don’t like dealing with distracted people, and I don’t like being ‘juggled’ obviously.  More than that, I’d like to meet people that can get as excited about my stuff as me, so that’s a good place to start for me at least.

What do you think?  What’s important for a cover?  What’s important from your designer?

Finally, as ever, go check out my designer Renée – she’s got space for summer publications for customs (April’s all booked out) and pre-mades available.

And I did promise some ‘sorta’ cover reveals, huh?

I know, I’m such a rotter.  Over the coming months, these will be announced, but based on the teeny tiny corner you can see, and the title, what do you think each book is?  Get more than half right and I’ll give you a copy of my non-fiction 12×12 book.  You gotta guess the genre for each.  ALL are Fiction.  You’re excluded if you know what the covers are 😛

Cover wrap-ups were by CabinGoddess Graphics (Kriss Morton).  Covers will be announced with designers 🙂

Tomorrow I’m going to talk about Deadlines, and why they’re important for writers and self publishers.


  1. Stepheny Houghtlin

    Visiting you on the the 5th day of the #challenge. Looking for fellow writers and here you are. Congrts on this blog. I appreciate the time and TALENT it take to write and post. Hope you make lots of new blogging friends this month. If you have time or interest, I’m writing about gardening and related things this month. Come and see me. Have fun.

  2. Linda Maye Adams

    Cover is also a genre marketing tool. It should help the reader associate the book with the genre it’s in. I once saw a cover for a thriller where the author had slapped a snowy mountain scene. Presumably it was because the book was set in the snow, but snow has a way of looking peaceful and relaxed and hardly dangerous. The cover looked more like she had written an inspirational novel.

  3. Carrie-Anne

    I did a bit of a double-take when I recognised cover images from an online writing friend being used on other people’s books. I guess her cover designer uses stock images, or someone wasn’t aware those images had been previously used or weren’t exclusive. I’ve also seen articles giving examples of stock images that really get around, sometimes on 4-5 different books.

    I’m having my first book cover designed now, for probably about $300. That’s about as high as I’d be willing to pay. It’s also important to me that this is actual art and not photographic images. I just prefer the old-fashioned cover art to modern-day graphic design.


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