How Authors Can Help Book Designers


1106 Design

January 29, 2010

There’s quite a bit of misinformation floating around about book designers and the book design process. Some folks think designers are creative psychics who somehow just know what to do, without any help from the client. Nothing is further from the truth. There are thousands of ways to design a book cover. A competent book cover designer will start by gathering information that will help him/her design your cover in an appropriate way. Here’s how you, the author or publisher, can help before design begins:

  • Provide a manuscript, or at least a synopsis, of your book (a draft version is OK).
  • Provide the final title and subtitle of the book and the author’s name (including any professional designations).
  • Provide any logos that are to appear on the front cover.
  • Decide on the book’s trim size and the number of print colors. If you’re not sure about these issues, your designer can help.
  • Share your vision for the cover.
  • Share information about your intended audience/market.
  • Tell the designer whether this book is part of a series. Series covers need to be developed with future titles in mind.
  • Share any other information you feel will help the designer understand your book. There’s no such thing as too much information.

Once the above items are known, most designers will research other books in the genre and create several concepts of the front cover for your review.

This is a good place to discuss what a cover concept is, or should be. Cover concepts provided by your designer should be very different from one another to give you a clear choice of directions. The purpose of cover research is to identify and develop three major design directions that are represented in current bestsellers for your genre. A cover concept is not one image shown with three different title fonts. Those are variations. It’s important to ask your designer whether they plan to show concepts or variations.

Naturally, concepts take more time than variations. Time is money in every line of work. Allowing your designer to spend the necessary time to develop truly creative solutions will benefit your book many times over. Why? Because humans are programmed from birth to look longer at things we haven’t seen before. In prehistoric times, this instinct saved us from the saber-toothed tiger prowling outside the cave. Today, it means your buyer will look longer at your cover if it’s interesting and different, and the longer buyers look, the more likely they are to buy.

If you look closely at low-cost covers, you’ll see they are really template-driven; they are all the same. Designers who produce this type of cover are taking care of themselves, not you. They’re telling you what you want to hear — that you can get a cover for a few hundred dollars — but they’re not giving you what you need to succeed. Boring covers are just that, boring. Buyers will gravitate to and buy books with covers that are visually compelling.

In the next post, I’ll talk about the next stage of the design process: working with your designer to develop one cover concept to the final stage.

What do you want to know? What topics should we explore together? How can we help you along your publishing journey? Everyone here at 1106 Design wants to help. Post your comment here or email usus using the Contact Us page.

Michele DeFilippo, owner, 1106 Design

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