Creating a Cover Design Brief

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When you self-publish, you enjoy the benefit of freedom to pick the designer you want to create your book cover. Once you choose, you need to provide them with a cover design brief that outlines your ideas and wishes. Authors may have a vision of how they want their book to look, but most lack the skills or knowledge to make it a reality. For this reason, it’s best to enlist the help of a professional. After all, despite people constantly being told not to judge a book by its cover, most of them do, and you don’t want to turn away potential readers with a book cover that falls flat.

Your cover design is what draws readers to your book. As such, its creation is an extremely important part of the publishing journey. Your collaboration with your cover design artist is what makes your project a success, and a carefully constructed brief will help you get exactly what you want—a book cover design that hints at the essence of your story. For instance, if your book is about a country manor in the 1800s, you don’t want your front cover to feature a city skyscraper. 

You should tell your designer everything they need to know to create the perfect cover. The more information you provide, the better they will understand what you want. How do you write a brief that enables the artist to proceed confidently? Check out the tips below, and if you feel you need more help, reach out to our professional cover design team.

Be clear about your target market

Pinpoint who is going to read your book and let your designer know so they can create something that will attract those readers. No book will appeal to everyone, and by narrowing down your audience, you will help your cover designer get a better idea of what you’re after. Truly, you can’t assume that everyone is going to read your book, so don’t try to reach too wide an audience.

This step shouldn’t be hard since you already wrote the book with certain readers in mind. You just need to successfully relay this to your artist. For them, there’s a huge difference between creating artwork for a 13-year-old science fiction fan and a 50-year-old romance reader! Books geared toward younger audiences will often be more playful or cartoony in appearance, while those targeting older readers may appear more solemn or mature.

Provide the designer with a book synopsis

Yes, it would be nice if your artist has read your book, but don’t count on it. Most likely, they won’t have the time, so they’ll need to get a good idea of what it is about. This means you should provide enough information to help them design an appropriate cover. Give them a brief synopsis of the story and characters. Tell them about the time period your book is set in so they can make sure the cover accurately reflects it. Also, point out the crucial scenes and themes. If you have a favorite scene or one that is central to the book, mention the specific pages so they can read it and get an idea of what you’re looking for.

Inform the designer of your likes and dislikes

You might have certain likes, dislikes, and preferences, or there might be things you want to avoid. Make them known to the artist along with any other suggestions you may have. It will save time (and money) and help the designer know they’re moving in the right direction. They can’t read your mind and will only be able to work off of what you have told them. If there’s a certain font you hate, make sure they know that. If you prefer more abstract book covers, let them know that as well.

It doesn’t hurt to show the artist a few ideas that appeal to you. Gather some book covers you find impressive and show them to the designer. Point out what it is you like. Do you like photos, paintings, or illustrations? Do you prefer a certain font? Would you like specific colors used? Do you want some of your characters to appear on the cover, or are you more interested in giving the readers an idea of your setting? Clue your designer in about your wishes ahead of time.

Make your budget known

Set a budget, then notify the artist of it before they begin the work. Give them a range you are willing to move within. Keep in mind that cost often relates to quality, so it’s important to stress your priorities so that time is spent on what matters most to you. 

Believe in your chosen artist

Give the designer some creative freedom. Remember, this is their job, what they are trained to do. Trust them to use their vision to help you get your perfect book cover. They want to be able to work without you hovering over their shoulder, so make sure you give them the time and space they need to come up with ideas for your book cover.

However, it’s fine to let them know if you aren’t thrilled with something they present. After all, you are paying for their work. Make sure you approach them in a respectful way and help them get on the right track, but give them a license to be creative. They may come up with intriguing ideas that you never thought of. 

People always love to hear what they are doing right, so don’t be shy when it comes to telling your cover designer what you love about their work. This will boost their confidence, and it could also improve the quality of their work. Cover designers will be happier working for an author who is amiable and considerate. Keep in mind that your cover designer is your creative collaborator, and the partnership will be more fruitful if you allow them to be as imaginative as possible.

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

You should provide the designer with a clearly written brief that communicates your wishes and then stay in touch throughout the process. Be honest and open from start to finish. This will ensure that your cover ends up being everything you hoped it would be.

A true artist will appreciate any feedback you have. As soon as you see their work, give them constructive criticism, praise, or ideas. The earlier you do this, the better. Try to remember that no one likes to hear only negative comments. Throw in some compliments on all the elements you love. You want to build trust between you and your cover designer, as well as make sure that they feel safe sharing their ideas with you. As an author, you know perfectly well how it feels when someone criticizes your work, so be mindful of this when you’re working with your cover designer. Be honest but respectful. This will go a long way toward fostering a successful, enjoyable partnership.

In addition, set up your method of communication ahead of time. Clarify if you will be primarily connecting by phone, email, or text. This way, you can keep your messages in one place and stay organized.

Once you find a designer you love, keep in touch. You want to have a trusted artist to go back to for your next book. Keep in mind that if you write a clear and easy-to-understand brief, you will likely end up with the cover design of your dreams. If you’re still looking for a talented artist to create a killer cover for your manuscript, check out our cover design services.

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