All About Covers Part 1

Publishing news and updates by K.A. Wiggins

23 Nov 2018

Thanks to the team of lovely human beings at Kobo for shortlisting Blind the Eyes as one of this year’s top 10 Science Fiction & Fantasy covers!

You can check out the full list and vote in the public voting round until Nov. 30.

I started drafting a special cover edition of the newsletter and realized there was WAY too much content, so I’m breaking it out into a blog series instead!

First of all: shoutout to my amazing cover designer Regina Wamba who designed the published covers for the Blind the Eyes ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook editions. I’ll link out to some of her content within this series to bring in the designer’s perspective, but mostly this will be from the author/publisher’s perspective.

As promised: all about cover design (from an author’s perspective)

Okay, here we go. Let’s start with an overview of the options, starting with D.I.Y.

A great cover can have a huge impact on the success of a book, which is why it’s one of the most important outsourcing choices and biggest expenses after your editor (and, y’know, the author’s time).

If you’ve been with us for a while, you might remember some of my prelaunch covers:

Prelaunch D.I.Y. covers of Blind the Eyes Prelaunch D.I.Y. covers of Blind the Eyes

For those of you aspiring authors: yes, it’s entirely possible to make your own and spend . . . well not quite zero dollars, but very little.

When I worked in corporate marketing, I used Photoshop and did a certain amount of design, so I wasn’t completely without skills. As an early publicity stunt (& just for the practice), I actually released the first beta readers editions in five–chapter segments and created a unique cover for each one. I paid for some stock photos, but the total cost was fairly minimal. I also had an old version of Photoshop to use, but you can subscribe for a month at a time or use other desktop, app-based, or online design programs (like Canva) with varying levels of sophistication.

For instance, the two Wattpad story covers (on the homepage) were made in the Typorama app with (free) built-in images and fonts, so obviously your mileage varies in terms of outcome. Are they the worst thing in the world? No—especially not for free or very low cost. But they’re also limited by a LOT of factors, including technical specs, imagination, design sense, understanding of genre trends, etc.

The next level up when it comes to cover design options are premades.

Designers sometimes sell covers with placeholder text, and you can get a great deal if there’s one that matches your book, as long as you don’t need any changes. (Shoot me a message if you’d like some suggestions of where to look if you need one!)

And then there’s custom design.

This is a pretty broad category, which could include everything from photomanip (Photoshopping stock images) to dedicated, exclusive photo shoots, to graphic or fine artists producing original works of art and then converting these into a cover or working with a design team to create the finished product.

On the low end of custom design, you might work with a less experienced or polished designer for under a hundred dollars to a couple hundred. On the high end, you’re talking thousands or tens of thousands (e.g. for a photoshoot—possibly with paid models and on location—or an original work of art).

That can sound breathtakingly expensive (especially when placed against the likelihood of actual earnings from your book), but it takes time, skills, and experience to produce professional quality work, and the best designers are in high demand.

Cost will also be impacted by formats. An ebook cover is the least expensive option: you just need a rectangular .jpg that looks okay in thumbnail format and on a screen. But a paperback cover is more work for the designer—they have to produce a print–ready PDF and make the design wrap around the spine and back. A hardcover dust-jacket is even more work (you need to continue the design further into the flaps), and even an audiobook cover may be a challenge if your design was originally meant for portrait mode, not square format.

Then there’s the marketing extras. Some cover designers offer additional services like graphics for social media, cinemagraphs or gifs (motion versions) of your cover, book trailers, “making–of” or behind–the–scenes videos, etc.

If you’re an author pricing out covers, always check what’s included in a price against what your actual needs will be (and consider bundling formats at the start for a discount.)

Part 2: What it’s like working with a professional cover designer.

Post Index