The best way to brief a cover designer is do your research and communicate clearly. This is how we ask our Rethink Press authors to brief our designers.
Check out lots of book covers, in bookshops, libraries and on your own shelves as well as online. Search Amazon for books in your area or genre, and books outside it for different inspiration. Analyse why you like some and not others.
When you are ready to brief your cover designer (and make sure you are working with an experienced book cover designer; someone without book experience, no matter how great they may be at brochures or web design, is not what you are looking for here), give them:
- Crucial information about the book, including the title, subtitle, author name and any praise quote (only one on the front cover – and a very short one at that) you want to appear on the front cover.
- Your book pitch and synopsis, so they know what your book is about, its market and your aims for it.
- Examples of, and links to, your branding. If you want the look of the book to tie in with your business or author branding, make sure the designer knows the exact font(s) used on your website or marketing materials.They will also need to know the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) colours that have been used, or Pantone references for spot colour (though if you’re using print-on-demand they will need to approximate a CMYK equivalent). They might want a hi res image of your logo or other images (although never use an actual logo on a book cover!).
- Links to your five favourite covers that are in the same genre as your book. Explain what you like about them: the colours, fonts (typefaces), images, placement, etc. as clearly as you can. This is really helpful for a designer and acts as a visual anchor as to the market you’re aiming for.
- Any elements from the book that you feel would represent the book on the cover and brief descriptions of those elements, such as physical objects, metaphors, landscapes, scenes etc.
- The details and specifications of the printer you are planning to use. Lightning Source, Createspace and other print-on-demand printers have a limited range of formats and specific templates that a designer must use. (If your designer doesn’t ask or know about this, find someone who does!)
Once the designer has all this information, they should source a variety of stock photos/images that they feel would be suitable – generally from shutterstock, istock, dreamstime and other low cost sources (unless you have stipulated that you want a text only cover). If you want to provide your own, most designers are happy to work with supplied imagery or commissioned illustration or photography, so long as you can supply it in the correct, hi res form.
The designer should then mock up between four and six “cover concepts”, using watermarked, low resolution imagery with different fonts/layouts.
You should take your time to consider these – and get feedback on them from trusted others. Come back to the designer with clear instructions about what you like and what doesn’t work for you; how you might want to mix and match aspects of the different concepts.
Based on your feedback, the designer should supply a second set of visuals, using one or more of the designs with tweaks/changes etc.
You can then give them a last set of instructions to refine these concepts into your final cover design.
Once you are happy with an agreed cover concept, the designer will purchase the stock images required, and mock the cover up properly, and you can make any subtle decisions on fonts, straplines and so on.
If this is for a printed book (rather than just the front cover required for an e-book), the designer will then move on to back cover and spine design (which is produced in a single piece of artwork for the printer).
You will need to supply the designer with the back cover “blurb” (keep it short), any praise quotes you want to put on the back (two is enough), a very brief (three-sentence) author bio and a high res headshot of you (if you want to be seen on your back cover).
The designer will also need your book price (rrp) and ISBN, so they can source the barcode based on your ISBN (at Rethink we do all this for you).
A good designer will supply the front cover 2D in three sizes (large, medium and small – large being suitable for e-book upload and the smaller ones for PR and marketing purposes), a 3D image (optional, but we provide one of these for your marketing needs) and a print PDF to whichever printer specifications you need.