Saturday, July 23, 2011

Helping your Cover Designer

So you want a fantastic, unique cover? Everyone does. But as someone who helps authors get the e-book cover they want, many times the problem is that the author can't express what they want. Yeah it's ironic, isn't it?

A writer who can't tell me what they want.

So I decided list a few tips for writers to help you express to your designer what you want.

1) You'll need to have a summary of your book. And by summary, I do not mean link your designer to the 43 chapters you have or send them the eight page synopsis. A summary should be under 250 words. Under a 100 words would be great but at least under 250. Basically what you would put in a query letter.

2) Description of your character or characters. If you want someone who looks like your character on the front of your book, help your designer out. Give your designer physical description including hair color and texture (straight, curly, dreds), eye color, distinctive marks like facial scars or tattoos. If your character has distinctive clothes like a leather ninja outfit, let them know. BUT keep it 50 words or less. Your designer is probably working with ten other writers. The more you send, the less they read. A list is nice.

3) If you have a loose idea for your cover, please share it with your designer. But don't be so set on an idea, you have no flexibility. Perhaps you know you want a flying horse in a bright blue sky but don't get it so detailed that you dictate the color of every flower in the field below.

4) Have no idea what you want on the cover? Well tell your designer what MOOD you want on the cover. Say 'I'm writing a romantic suspense novel and I want the cover to be more romantic with just a little scary overtone'. Or 'I want it to be more of a thriller cover with a more stalking feel'. The emotion you want on the cover can help if you have no idea of what picture you want.

5) Send EXAMPLES of covers you like from your genre if you have some. You won't want your cover to be exactly like that but it'll give your designer an idea of what appeals to you. Then tell your designer what you LIKED about the cover examples you sent.

6) Don't reply to your cover examples with "I don't like it". Be specific. I think it's too dark, I wish the woman was younger. I wanted something in more romantic colors but I liked the expression on the girl's face. This helps your designer to edit. Saying 'I don't like it' doesn't let us know why you don't like it.

7) Get the right designer for what you want. Not all designers do the same thing. I do photo manipulation and layering. I don't do hand art. But if you hire a hand artist, don't hire one that does bright busy pictures if you want stark clean lines. Look at EXAMPLES of what they do. Just because you can afford them doesn't mean they fit your aesthetic.

8) Your designer should send you mock-ups. These are unfinished drawings or pictures to find out what concept you like. Many writers seem to be caught up in the idea that the mock up has to be exact and they'll reject them all. The mock-up is for the general idea or look of your cover. Hair color, eye color, shading of the picture can all change. If its a blond in your picture and you have a redhead, don't say no...say can I see it as a redhead.

9) Once you pick a concept/mock-up, the clock is ticking. If you change the whole idea after that, the fees go up. So be sure the concept works before you say yes.

10) If you can't, after two weeks and six mock-ups, get on the same page as the designer, either you can't articulate what you want or your designer doesn't understand what you want. Time to move on.



  1. What an excellent post, Tirzah. I'm so glad Jeanne Bannon pointed me in your direction. I'm glad to be a new follower!

  2. Hey Michelle,

    I rarely post blog commentary anymore, mostly pictures I'm working and rejected prints. But it's good to remember that my blog started out with words. :) I should use them occasionally, shouldn't I?


  3. P.S. I've left a comment for you on Jeanne's blog,


  4. This is a great list - im RT it on Twitter now. Thank you

  5. Great post Tirzah! :) I have gotten so many great comments on the cover you designed for me! You do amazing work!!

  6. Excellent!

    And I agree with annonymous, you do amazing work!


  7. Tirz,

    Reading this, I kinda understand the agony you go through with those of us (like me) who don't know exactly what we want half the time.