5 Most Important Things I Have Learned About Book Cover Designposted in Design Tips by Savana Ellison on March 9, 2021
Adventures in Book Cover Design
I love books. I mean, I am sure most people do, but my love for books has gone hand in hand with my love of drawing.
I would read stories as a kid and feel so inspired to sketch a scene that could capture pages worth of vibrant action and descriptions. “I need to SEE it!” I would think to myself.
After years of inspiration and creation, it still never occurred to me that I could have any type of job doing this. I mean, I was not illustrating an entire story, just a bold scene that could tell the viewer as much as possible without reading a single word.
Fast forward many years and “typical jobs” and a chance meeting. Facebook friends in 2011 were pretty active. Just so happens, in a Mom’s group there was a first-time author about to publish her first YA (Young Adult) Fantasy novel. She had seen artwork I shared and messaged me if I would consider creating a cover for her debut story. My first thoughts were flattery and fear. I mean of course I would, but HOW? Drawing a picture is one thing, (I had taught myself Photoshop by this point) but creating something for print with a list of specifications was another.
Well, I said “Yes!”, then immediately started researching setting up book cover files for print (thank you Google, and the selfless people who create endless tutorials)
I powered my way through and many revision requests later, it was done!
No, it was not a veteran designer masterpiece. I was just so happy I did it, and really was happy with it!
Through that author I ended up designing covers for her publisher. I worked on my skill for years. Then I got some regular independent authors who I still work with today. I use a combination of photo manipulation, 3D modeling, custom illustration and typography, so many tools available to create anything an author could imagine! Now, when someone asks me to design their cover, I can just feel the excitement and creative inspiration!
It has been quite an adventure and I have learned so much along the way!
If I could share the 5 most important things I learned, they would be:
1. Research current trends!
See what style is really selling now. Learn how that style is created! There are endless tutorials and some YouTube Channels I recommend are:
· Photo Manipulation – for the latest and greatest in sharpening that skill
· Photoshop Training Channel – For tips and tricks that broaden your skillset
· Tutvid – So many useful tutorials about Photoshop, you will always learn something new
2. Learn about copyright!
Whether it be stock photos of typefaces, it is so important to make sure you secure the correct license for every artistic element you use that was created by someone else!
So many people do not even realize you can’t just download any font, put it on your work and sell it. Make sure you always have the commercial license to use that work!
3. Client communication
Your communication with your clients should be full of all the information they need, always give timelines and respond to questions quickly! That would be my greatest challenge, I tend to want to read a message and just get right to work on the request rather than sending a simple acknowledgement. Almost like going to a party empty handed, I hate to send an email without “something” they can look at! Just something I had to work on!
Always send an acknowledgement that you received the message and detail what action you will take next and when they can expect the next step
4. Make sure the price is right!
Did you do a full custom illustration? A simple stock photo? What will you charge? Will your cover make readers have to pick up that book? You create the visual impact for the story, make the reader feel like they just must know what happens! Make your work valuable to the author and their audience. Properly price your skill and work. Research how much designers typically make for certain styles at specific skill levels
5. Check please!
When you finally decide how much you will charge for your design service, then you will have to decide on how payment is made. Will you require a nonrefundable deposit? That is quite common with graphic design, the most common explanation I read is that “the client is paying for my time, the design is free”
I do not personally agree with this. I do not accept deposits. When agreeing to take on a project I tell the client “No payment is accepted until you approve the final artwork”. This is obviously very risky. I have never regretted it. First, I feel confident that I can make whatever they want, whether it be a full custom illustration, or a photomanipulation.
Second, the moment money exchanges hands on an unfinished project, the pressure and stress can immediately increase with the client (especially if they are a new client). There are a couple longtime clients I have that sometimes pay up front because I have a proven track record with them and it’s more convenient for them. Again, this is risky, and I advise any designer to do what feels most comfortable for them. Build a great relationship with your client and this way just happens to work for me as they start off more relaxed and open to ideas
Keep in mind, you will have your own journey and you will learn so much more with every client!
Nothing beats holding a copy of a book with a cover you designed!
Interested in having Savana design your next book cover design? Contact her here.