What to look for in a book cover designer

By Scarlett Ruger

Finding the right book cover designer for you is not as painful as you think, I promise. Let’s imagine finding your designer is like finding the right book. Among its competition you can’t tell much, so you have to pick the book up and check it out to see if it’s right for you or not.

Here are a few things to keep in mind in choosing a desiger:

1: The folio of work (aka the book cover)

When scouting for book cover designers the first thing you should check out is their work. You must see past work in order to make a judgment call, even if the designer was recommended by someone you trust or you’ve come by them through research. Get in touch with the designer and request some samples, and if possible samples specific to what you need. If you write romance, get them to send over any work they’ve done in the romance genre.

If they don’t have anything to supply, go somewhere else. You do not have to just trust someone will do the work; you’re allowed to have confidence in your decision.

2: Experience (aka: the blurb)

So you’ve found someone who has a folio of work, huzzah! So the next step is finding out their experience.

If you are in love with the work of one designer, but all they’ve done are brochures and posters, then consider what that means for you. Posters and brochures and websites aren’t book covers. Book covers have a message, they’re multi-layered concepts, they tell your story. Find out how long the designer has been in the industry, if they have the skills you need, and again, if it’s not immediately apparent then ask.

3: Communication (aka: The story)

I’ve assigned communication as the main point when it comes to looking for a book cover designer. Why is this?

Well you just can’t deny it, the internet has made working internationally incredibly easy. This also means that the majority of your communication to your publishing team (editors, formatters, designers) will be through email. Lines can easily get crossed, or lost. Without a constant stream of communication your attempts at getting a book cover design can be chaotic and stuttered.

I make it a point to be in constant contact with all the authors I work with. I try and touch base with them every 24-48 hours so they know I’m here, they’re my priority, and if there’s been a misunderstanding on time frames we can clarify it quickly.

So how do you know if your designer is good at communication?

Firstly, take note of their website.

Is their website full of information, where to access them, and do they have testimonials? If a website is well-written and I get all the information I need up front that’s always a really good indication the designer is a good communicator. It means they know what their audience wants and they supply it straight away. If there is only a brief amount of info and they want me to contact them get more, I’m usually deterred.

That’s not to say these designers aren’t good at communicating, but it’s important to make the process as easy as possible for the author.

Secondly, it’s all about their responsiveness. When you do get in touch with them are they quick, delayed, have they understood what you wanted, do they seem to be missing things you’ve mentioned? These sorts of things you can usually pick up in the first 2-3 emails.

And if none of that works for you?

And my final piece of advice, which really overrides everything I’ve said, is to go with your gut. Authors are gut-instinct people. You know if it feels right or not, and if it doesn’t you’re not obligated to go ahead with it. If friends tell you, “Oh! But seriously they’re THE BEST,” let it go. It’s your book, your baby; you get the final say as to who you go with.

So go out there and start shopping! Make some queries. This part doesn’t have to be serious, or make you anxious, and as I remind my clients: I don’t expect you to know how the book design process works! Your designer shouldn’t either. That’s their job, not yours. Yours is to become that bestselling author you’ve been working your ass off to be!

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scarlett rutgersScarlett Rugers’ job is a book cover designer and a Publishing Identity Consultant. Her purpose is to empower you to be the best author you can be, and collaborate with you to improve the quality of the book industry. She is constantly working to inspire, strengthen and pursue the perception that self-publishing is professional publishing.

For an experience that will make you feel traditionally published you can email her at: contact (at) scarlettrugers (dot) com or visit her website and see her work. She is also on twitter at @thebookdesignr.

Scarlett Rugers is also offering a 10% discount on her design services to all Kobo Writing Life authors! Visit her site for further information about her services.”

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