The Indie Author’s Book Cover

Going through the self-publishing process brings up a lot of questions from people who love to read but aren’t necessarily writers themselves. They want to know how you find a cover artist, how you get a design and how it all comes together in the end as a book.

I must admit that I learned a lot about how to make this process work from my writer friends who have done this many times more than I have and I am still in the learning phase myself. But, I thought I’d pause today and share with you how I go about finishing up a book, even though Withered World is quite far from being complete!

For me, and likely most other authors, getting a cover is like icing on the cake (if you’re an icing person). Thus, I use purchasing a cover and going through the design process as a special treat that I can’t have until I’ve finished the first draft,  written the back cover copy and brainstormed a good tagline.

There are two ways you can go about getting a cover on the internet. First, you can find a pre-made cover that fits your story. There are thousands upon thousands of pre-made covers for sale out there. It’s simply amazing. Just Google it. Some of my writers’ group friends joke (they’re actually serious though) that they want to pick a random cover some day and write an entire story to go with it. I love that idea! Maybe once I get through my next couple of projects, I’ll try it out too. But anyway…Buying a pre-made cover is a great option for writers and lot less expensive than option number two. Option two is to have someone design a cover specifically for your story. This is my preferred method, despite the added expense. In my humble opinion, I do all the work of creating and writing the story, so I desire something tailor-made. This doesn’t mean that pre-made covers are bad. If I found a pre-made cover that hit home for me and my story, I’d absolutely jump on it. It’s simply a matter of the fact that everyone has their own preferences.

Thanks to the internet, I find my cover artists all over the world. For The Green Lady, I used a guy in Scotland to design the cover. I found him online and it ended up that he was the same person that designed the first book in my friend J.R. Boles’ trilogy! Funny how that happens. Through some unavoidable circumstances, I decided not to go with the same designer for Withered World (even though I get dozens of compliments on the cover for The Green Lady). So, off to the interwebs I went in search of someone new! This involved Google searches and consulting with my writers’ group.

When I’m researching designers, I look at their previous work, their pre-made designs (if they have any for sale), their price and the rules around working with them. Most designers will only allow a certain number of rounds of changes. This is a little intimidating. But, I think a good designer won’t need more than a few rounds anyway.

The first person I contacted is located in England and wanted $600. Their designs are fabulous, but let’s be real here. I doubt I’d make back the $600 I spend on the cover in a decade. So, that one was out. The next person I contacted had a great style. She lives for Dystopian and YA and she was much more reasonable. We chatted a bit via email and it seemed to me that our ideas clicked. So I pressed “Go.”

Each designer will have their own process, but your typical first step is to fill out a cover brief. This form requests information regarding your story, characters, symbols, themes, genre, tone and voice. The good ones will also ask for pictures of covers in the same genre as well as covers that you like so they can get a sense of your style. My designer wanted pictures (if I had any) of what my main characters looked like.

From there, you might have some back and forth. My designer sent me three direction ideas and asked which one I liked best. We’ll do a little more back and forth and once we have a solid plan, I’ll pay the deposit and she’ll get to work. A week or two after that, she’ll send me a design. If things go well, then I’ll only have minor tweaks and changes. Then we’ll finalize everything.

A little later, once I have the story formatted properly, I will contact her again and give her my page count. She’ll use that information to complete the design for the paperback cover by sizing/designing the spine and designing the back cover. And that’s about it!

Picking out or designing a cover is one of the most exciting steps in the publishing process. Things are really starting to come together and the end is in sight!

Happy reading and happy writing!