Monday, July 15, 2013

Hiring a Book Cover Designer

Hiring a Designer for your Book Cover
                By AuthorCulture guest, Lisa Hainline
                PART 1 of 2, concluding August 14
There's an American proverb that says, "Don't judge a book by its cover." We've taken that into our social interaction with people as well, trying to see that there is more than meets the eye when we judge people by their appearance.
The truth is that your book cover is valuable real estate. It acts much like a newspaper advertisement for your product, and many potential readers will not look beyond it if it doesn't draw them to WANT to explore what you offer on the inside.
The only time we don't judge a book by its cover is when we buy it on recommendation from a friend or when we know the author.
When your potential reader is searching through the shelves at Barnes & Noble or on Amazon, they do not generally read through the descriptions of every book on their search topic? Most people will just start scanning the covers, and if they see something that looks dated, poorly designed or just ugly, they'll think the interior is dated, has weak information or just isn't worth their time or money.  
Hopefully, by now, I’ve convinced you to hire a professional to design the cover of your book and not attempt such a task yourself nor hire the cheapest artist you can find. But if you have a lot of experience in graphic design, and even then, only if your design experience has taken you into the arena of marketing, should you go it alone. Developing the right concept to appeal to the right demographic (readership) of your book is a core principle of good book cover design.
Ask around for suggestions. If you know authors whose book covers capture your attention, find out who their designer is and if they know of others. Ask others in your writer’s groups, networking author groups, such as on LinkedIn, and search online for "Christian book cover designer" if your book is in the Christian realm, of course.
One mandatory item in choosing a cover designer is to check out their work. If you do not see book covers in their graphic portfolio that you would buy or think intriguing, then how much more can they bring to YOUR book? 
Also verify if their designs fall into the genre of YOUR book. If you’re doing a book on 6 points to successful job leads, a portfolio of romance novels is not going to help you much. I DO profess that “good design is good design,” so if you’re speaking to someone whose work you love and you do not see your genre, feel free to ask them how they would solve your particular “problem” (ALL graphic design is “problem solving” at its core).
Get quotes from more than one designer—at least three—and then pray on it. Ask DADDY—the ultimate designer and marketer—what HE thinks. I have met people who got really bad work from designers and if you ask if they prayed over this decision, they say, “No."  Is He not the master of ALL? He’ll tell you if you should work with this designer or that illustrator. He'll even give you the vision for your concept if you ask Him. But do be prayerful and ask Him if that vision is simply for your encouragement as a way to think of "big picture" for your book, or is it the exact image He wants you to put on the cover—those are two different things. A vision for encouragement is often not a good fit for a 6x9 canvas area.
Ask if your potential designer if they have a service contract so you can know what’s expected of you, your rights, what you are going to be charged for, and what is included. One thing I would ask is WHO OWNS THE COVER ART? Ask if you will be able to get the raw files so that you can make changes later on without being stuck using this same designer. If the designer does keep the rights to the image, what stipulations are they putting on it. For example, you may have to pay more to print the image beyond 500,000 copies of the book. Also have it spelled out in the contract how many revisions you can make before paying more in fees.
If you pay a licensing fee to use stock art, then make sure the license says whether you can use it on your website or business cards and how many books you can print.
If you and your designer hire an illustrator or photographer to create custom images, then THEY usually want to own the rights to the image and you have to stipulate in the contract exactly what kind of usage you agree and how much commission will be paid to the artist.

In the meantime, please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have and you can see my book portfolio or marketing materials for authors at
Lisa Hainline
Graphic designer, illustrator and art director, Lisa has 35 years of experience in advertising and graphic design, including logos, custom book covers, displays, postcards, business cards, bookmarks, and other marketing material for authors. View Lisa’s Book cover design here at Lionsgate or visit her personal website for more of her work and to learn more about her:  Contact Lisa directly at or at 909-939-0311
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  1. I am in total agreement. A professional book cover matters!

  2. How does the commision thing work in terms of an illustrator? I saw an artist I like online and want to approach them to do my book cover. But im not sure about how to go about in this process. I would essentially like to own the image but if it isnt possible what other options are there.... great article btw

    1. Thanks! Lisa Hainline is very approachable - I'm sure she'd talk to you about it. Connect with her at her email link.