Book Cover Design for a Series


1106 Design

January 13, 2012

When we work with clients who are planning a book series, two questions frequently come up:

After the first cover is designed, what will you charge me to design the others?

The answer is, it depends on the degree of change needed. Authors and publishers of a series should be aware of the issues involved and ask plenty of questions in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises later.

Some designers hold that a new title triggers a full design fee, even if it’s clear that they’ll spend very little time on the job.

We were recently hired by a publisher to create the second cover in his series. He had every intention of hiring the designer of his first cover for the second book. He explained that the cover image and the series title would remain the same, and only the subtitle and back cover text would change.

When he was told by the original designer that this would be considered a new title and a full redesign cost, he rightfully considered this a “gotcha.” We negotiated a fair price that would cover our time, a price that was less than the original designer wanted.

The above example is the simplest situation, and an uncommon one. Most follow-on covers in a series involve more work than many authors realize. We’ll often be asked, “Doesn’t it take just a few minutes to swap out the image and type over the old title with the new one?” In a word, no.

Changing the image involves finding (or creating) one that is compatible with the first cover. Even if the publisher provides the image, it almost always contains different colors and may have different proportions.

In a series design, it’s essential to communicate to the buyer that the titles are related, and at the same time, unique. Changing the picture usually means changing the background color and the color of the front cover text. If the new image cannot be cropped to the same proportions that were used on the first cover, then it can take considerable time to rearrange all the elements while remaining true to the established design.

At 1106 Design, we typically recommend our Level 1 Cover Design for the first book in the series, so that the publisher has access to all the information necessary to design the series correctly from the start. Then we recommend our lower levels of design for the follow-on titles. Sometimes we negotiate a different solution, again depending on the amount of work involved.

The second question we often hear from authors is:

Will you give me the files from the first cover so I can design the others myself?

This request is rooted in a misunderstanding of the issues involved in cover design. In addition to the easily seen elements of cover design, there are many unseen elements that designers attend to behind the scenes, including the proper preparation of the digital files required by the printer.

We often talk to authors who purchased the software they thought they needed, spent countless hours trying to master it, and then were disappointed to discover that their printer rejected the files.

Publishing one book can be a hobby or a business. Publishing a series is always a business. Contact us today to get the expert help you need to launch your book business in the best possible way.

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