How to Commission a Great Book Cover Design
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Despite the saying, readers do indeed judge books by their covers.
A great book cover design catches readers’ eyes and gives them an immediate understanding of the book’s genre, intended audience, and tone — and in many cases, its overall quality as well. This information then helps readers decide whether clicking on the book’s listing is worth their time. If so, they’re all the more likely to purchase the book in question.
Can you see why a great cover design is essential to your book’s success on the market?
If you want your book cover to make a positive first impression on readers, it’s important that you hire a designer to create a cover for you. Unless you are well-versed in cover design theory, market trends, and design software, any book cover you create yourself is likely to fall woefully short of the quality that most readers look for when purchasing a new book.
Fortunately, there are a wide variety of cover design options available to writers on nearly any budget, including pre-made covers that can cost as little as $30 USD. If, however, you absolutely cannot afford to spend a dime on your cover design, I highly recommend working through the step-by-step design tutorials Derek Murphy offers at DIYBookCovers.com.
Would you rather commission a cover design instead? Great! Let’s break down everything you need to know about securing a fantastic cover design for your book, including the most popular cover design options favored by independent authors.
How much does a good cover design cost?
The price you’ll pay for a cover design will depend on whether you need a cover for print, ebook, or both.
Ebook cover designs are often less expensive because they don’t require a back cover and spine. However, if you plan to publish both print and ebook editions, many designers and design companies offer discounts on these bundled services.
Some will even design an audiobook cover for a small additional fee.
When Should You Commission a Book Cover?
If you’re planning to publish for ebook only, you can commission your cover design at any time before publishing. However, to commission a print book cover, you’ll first need to format your finalized manuscript. Why? Because designers need your book’s finalized page count before they can accurately size the spine of your book cover.
They also need to know your book’s trim size (i.e. the length and width of your book) and the color of the paper you’d like your book to be printed on (e.g. white or cream), the latter of which also affects the width of your book’s spine.
What does the design process look like?
Every design company and freelance designer will have a unique process when working with authors.
Most cover design companies can take on commissions at any time and offer a purchase form to make commissioning your cover a cinch, with turnaround times often spanning just one to two weeks.
On the other hand, freelance designers often ask that you query them via email to ensure they have availability in their schedules to work on your project and to ensure their services are the best fit for your book. Don’t be afraid to contact freelancers with any questions or concerns you might have. A good designer will always want to ensure their services are a great match for your book and needs.
What should you include in a design brief?
When commissioning a cover design, give your designer a thorough overview of your book’s genre and intended audience. If you have a book blurb or back cover copy (which you will if you’re commissioning a print cover), give this to your designer as well. This information will help your designer create a book cover that is most likely to catch the eye of your ideal reader.
If you have a specific vision for your cover, or even simply a few design elements you’d like included, don’t hesitate to share this with your designer as well. Just bear in mind that the design you’ve envisioned may not be what will help your book sell best.
For example, many authors ask to have a specific scene from their book illustrated on their front covers. This approach was popular among some commercial fiction genres in decades gone by. But nowadays, illustrated scenes aren’t common on book covers, and including one on your own isn’t likely to snag readers’ interests.
That said, sharing a few design ideas in your brief can help your designer create the best cover for your book and audience. For example, if your romance leads are both black-haired, your designer will need this information to choose the best models for your cover. Or, if you want your children’s book to feature the color green, it’s important to let your designer know.
Communication is key to receiving a cover design you’ll be proud to share with the world. Speaking of which, if you have a specific deadline by which you need your book cover, share this information with your designer upfront, as it may affect whether they’re available to work with you and/or whether they will charge you an extra fee for a rush on the commission.
Where can you source your cover design?
The following are book cover design companies and marketplaces that allow authors to connect with freelance designers. These companies and marketplaces are well-trusted within the indie author community. However, please be aware that I haven’t had personal experience with all of them at this time. (Note: Pricing and services included are subject to change.)
Damonza’s team of award-winning cover designers can provide you with a fantastic print, ebook, and/or audiobook cover for your fiction or non-fiction book. They also offer discounts on bundled services. Pre-made covers also available.
Pricing: $495+ for a custom cover; $195 for a pre-made cover
A proud member of the Alliance of Independent Authors, the team at Ebook Launch offers custom and pre-made covers designed for print and ebook. Discounts available on bundled services.
Pricing: $399+ for a custom cover; $99 for a pre-made cover
Compare and connect with freelance cover designers via Reedsy, a marketplace for book industry freelancers and professionals looking to connect their services with the authors who need them.
Services & pricing vary from designer to designer.
At 99designs, you can browse a directory of freelance designers for all manner of projects, including print and ebook cover design. You can also create a contest to receive dozens of design submissions from designers worldwide, a great option if you’re wary about committing to one designer.
Contest pricing begins at $199; individual designers’ rates and services will vary.
Kingwood Creations offers stunning pre-made ebook covers that are both high quality and affordable. Cover designs include options for a wide array of fiction and non-fiction books.
Pricing: $30 - $200
BEAUTeBOOK’s team of professional book cover designers offers a three-day turnaround time on their custom print and ebook cover designs. Pre-made covers also available.
Pricing: $275+ for a custom cover; $99 for a pre-made cover.
Author Packages believes that book cover design shouldn’t have to be daunting. That’s why they offer fantastic custom cover designs for both print and ebook, as well as a discount on both services via a cover design bundle.
Pricing: $325 for ebook; $390 for print; $455 for both.
The designers at MiblArt want to help authors give readers a reason to open their books with beautiful cover designs for both print and ebook. MiblArt also offers illustrated cover designs that can feature two or more characters.
Pricing: $108 for e-book; $159 for print and e-book; $389+ for illustrated.
These are just a few of the most popular book cover design options available for independent authors. Some writers have had success with pre-made or custom covers offered by designers through Etsy, while others have had fantastic experiences working with freelance designers they’ve connected with via social media or discovered elsewhere online.
If you aren’t feeling confident that any of the options listed above are right for you, don’t hesitate to ask fellow writers about where they’ve sourced their book cover designs. In my experience, authors in the online writing community are more than willing to share insights from their journey through the book publication process.
What cover design option did I choose?
When seeking a cover for Build Your Best Writing Life, I chose to create a 99designs contest.
Originally, I’d reached out to a popular book cover design company. But after receiving drafts that I felt were irreconcilable to my vision (a reality I genuinely believe to be a fluke given how many other authors have had fantastic experiences with this company), I was hesitant to commit to a single designer again. For me, 99designs proved to be the perfect solution.
Within 48 hours of launching my design contest, I received over 50 entries. Admittedly, many were low quality or failed to match the brief I’d included. However, several designers submitted covers that excited me. Over the coming days, I worked with one designer in particular named Boja to create the perfect cover for Build Your Best Writing Life.
In my brief, I asked for a minimalistic cover design that would reach the modern creative and that featured a blue color scheme.
Because Build Your Best Writing Life isn’t a how-to book on the craft as much as it is a self-development book for writers, I wanted to avoid the classic writing book design motifs such as pens, computers, and typewriters. I made sure to make this clear in my brief as well.
I hope you love this cover as much as I do! If you’re interested in learning more about Build Your Best Writing Life and subscribing to be the first to know when it’s available, make sure to click the button below.