Enrich Your Fiction: Partnering With Designers


Writing isn’t all about the written word. If your book doesn’t have shelf appeal, then the likelihood that someone is going to pick it up and read it becomes even more unlikely than it already is in the crowded marketplace that is the world of publishing. Therefore, finding the right person to create your cover becomes paramount.

A great book cover does much more beyond assist with marketing. It helps give a face to your story. It shows the world a mood, evokes a feeling and drives that itch to pick it up and thumb through it. A book cover is as important as your cover copy or ad copy. Be sure to give it the attention it deserves. To do that, you need to find the right design partner to help get you there.

I just started the design process for NightWind with the same designer who created the cover for Withered World two years ago. I love working with her. She is happy to brainstorm and we send emails back and forth to each other for several days before settling on a design direction. We’re in the middle of this process right now and it’s awesome!

I was lucky. I found the right designer on my second try. But, it’s not always that easy. There are tons of people out on the internet selling their design services and the prices are all over the map. Trusting someone with your project can be scary. Partnering with someone who isn’t as familiar with your project as you are and who works in a completely different medium and style of art than you do (visual verses written) can be tough. But, at some point in the writing process, you’re likely going to need to turn to someone who has skills that you don’t possess. This person will take on your precious book baby and clothe it in an exquisite cover, giving it the shelf appeal it needs to attract readers.

I have the opportunity to partner with designers both in my day job and through my book writing and I happen to love working with designers. I have lots of ideas, but I always keep in mind that they are the visual experts and I respect that. Over the years (and particularly in the workplace), I’ve realized that not everyone knows exactly how to partner successfully with a designer on a project or what to look for in a partner or freelancer. So, today, I thought I’d offer some tips on how to find a great designer and then how to work with them.

Enrich Your Fiction

Here are my 7 tips for searching for the right designer and then how to partner with them so that you get the best product possible!

  1. Research the designer him/herself. Do you like the sample covers on their website? Do they work in your genre? Also, reach out to them and find out how they work. Does their style jive with you and your preferences? If so, they might be a great fit! Also, ask your writing community who they’ve worked with. If someone you know has had a good experience with a designer, that’s a good sign.
  2. Understand your book and its genre. You’d be surprised. Sometimes people have written a massive thing, but when asked to break it down into genre or to compare it to popular books from that genre, they can’t do it. Even if you’re submitting to a traditional publisher, they want to know to what/whom to compare your book!
  3. Become familiar with basic design terminology. This isn’t a must. And you don’t have to be an expert. But, understanding the foundations of design can be really helpful. If you and your designer are speaking the same language, you can understand each other a lot more easily.
  4. Do your own cover image research. Before you begin to reach out to a designer, you should have some idea of what you like and what you don’t like. The more examples and pieces of inspiration you can supply to your design partner, the better off you’re going to be.
  5. Prepare to dialogue. You may have a particular vision in mind for your book. You’ve been working on it for months, if not years. But, don’t let that leave you closed-minded. Designers are the experts in what they do, just like you’re the expert as a writer. Be open to feedback and ideas from your designer. They know what’s on trend and what sells. And, they may think of something that never crossed your mind.
  6. Fill out the designer’s cover brief. Does the designer ask you to fill out a brief that includes questions about your book, characters and world? This is the best way to get started. First, it gets your mind turning in a way that will help the designer create something just for you and your book. It also is an efficient and thorough way to partner. I won’t work with anyone on a book project if they don’t use a book brief to get to know my project.
  7. Be a good partner. Yes, this person is “working for you.” Treat them how you would want to be treated. If you’re not seeing eye to eye on the project, then maybe you should reevaluate whether or not this partnership is a good fit. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, be polite. Be kind. Be encouraging. This person is still a human being and they deserve to be treated with respect.

Making it to the cover design step in the book development process feels like you’re closing in on that last curve of the track. Soon, your book can go out into the world. With the right designer, your book can shine on the shelf (real or virtual) and play an important role in attracting readers.

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2 thoughts on “Enrich Your Fiction: Partnering With Designers

  1. No writer is an island, so to speak. The input and help of others helps create the final package that the reader will see.

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