Years of relentless writing, rewriting, editing, and revisions have gone into the making of your manuscript. At long last, your baby is ready to take its first steps into the world. But wait! It needs some clothes before it is presented in all its glory. If the clothes make the man, then the cover makes the book. The following are some tips for working with your cover designer to get the most out of the process:
- Know your genre. Is it mystery, science fiction, nonfiction, memoir, etc.? Certain colors and styles are used to make book genres universally recognizable. Your book designer will make suggestions that fit the style and genre but create a unique design.
- Design for your target audience, not for you. It’s tempting to go wild with design, but take a moment to consider your reader. What is your reader attracted to, and what do they expect from the genre? You don’t want an exact design of another book, but you do want to evoke the feeling that it is young adult, horror, fantasy, etc. Look at examples of covers in your genre and show your designer the ones you like, making sure to point out what you like about them.
- Know your book size. Know what size you want your book to be before you embark on the cover process. The cover must be designed to the size of the book, so changing your book size partway through the design process can result in extra charges and delays.
- More is not more. Don’t try to depict your entire story on the cover. You want your cover to convey an overall mood or feeling. The reader should be able to clearly see the mood, title, and author within a second of looking at the cover.
- Looks can be deceiving. Sometimes a cover looks deceptively simple. You might look at it and think, “I can do that!” But in reality, it requires the technical know-how to layer multiple images, merge backgrounds, balance color, etc., all with a keen eye for design. Sometimes what appears to be the simplest design is the most difficult—and the most eye-catching.
- Give your designer a strong book synopsis. Saying that it is a mystery set in New York is too vague. Instead, try “Cupcake baker and super sleuth Cuppy McCake finds a dead body in her pastry case. Follow her hijinks as she tracks down the murderer in New York’s cutthroat baking competition.” Make a list of words that describe your book and your style. For example, simple, clean lines, light-hearted romance, creepy, terrifying, chatty, flowery, lyrical, succinct, etc. Also give descriptions that are as concrete as possible.
- Look at each element of the sample concepts individually to give your feedback. Do you like the colors, fonts, layout, elements, etc.? Tell your designer exactly what you like and don’t like. “I don’t like it” doesn’t give the designer anywhere to go. What specifically do and don’t you like? Do you like the font but not the color? Do you like the layout but not the font? If you don’t know what you want, your designer won’t.
- Don’t control the process. Bring your point of view and direction, but remember, you are paying your designer for their unique skillset and knowledge. Your designer will make font or color choices based on your genre and their knowledge of design, so keep an open mind. It may not be exactly what you had in mind, but it may work perfectly for your book and genre.
- Design by committee. Everyone has an opinion, and pleasing everyone is impossible. If you are asking friends, family, and coworkers for their opinion on your cover, it will be impossible to get 100% agreement. Decide on an acceptable percentage to work within.
- Do your homework. Research your options and know what to expect for your price point. Understanding the process and how additional charges can occur will help you stay in budget. Creating concepts is time consuming and can result in additional charges for going over the number of concepts in your quote. Approving a sample and then changing your mind after the designer has already completed the cover can result in a charge.
- Communicate! Communication is the key to a good working relationship. Being open to suggestions and clear in your feedback will create a strong working relationship—and cover!
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