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How to work with a book cover designer

You’ve finished your book (congrats!) and you’re excited to step into another creative realm: designing the cover. Now, if you’re seeking traditional publishing, your publisher will handle this task for you. But if you’ve chosen to self-publish, securing cover art is a responsibility you’ll need to take on yourself. There’s a number of options (to come in later posts), but right now I’ll be focusing on working one-on-one with a book cover designer.

As someone who’s led creative teams on high-profile projects, I know what designers need to be successful. You’ll need to provide your designer with all of the information they require so they can produce a cover that you’ll love. Here's a few tips to help you do that:

Determine your budget

You do not necessarily need to share this information with your designer immediately, but it’s important for you to know how much money you have to work with. On the lowest end, I’ve seen cover designers charge $200 for a custom cover, but custom covers can be much more expensive than that. Generally covers that feature stock photos with minimal manipulation will be less expensive than those that require a custom illustration. Also, experienced designers will charge a higher rate than those just getting started, so be mindful of that.

Do the prep work

Designers aren’t mind readers. So before meeting your cover designer, share some examples that align with your tastes. This could include fonts, images, book covers, or color schemes that you really love. I recommend creating a Pinterest board as the easiest way to do this. Just be sure that your own tastes don't overpower or conflict with design trends in your chosen genre.

Next, I highly recommend a creative brief. This is such an important tool to help your designer make the right choices. A brief for a book cover should minimally include the following:

  • Book title

  • Author name (include any attributes, such as USA Today Bestselling Author, if applicable)

  • Target audience

  • Genre

  • Format(s) the book will be published in (for example, e-book, paperback, and/or hardcover)

  • Book summary (the designer will need to have a basic understanding of what your story is about)

  • The content that will appear on your front and back cover, as well as the inside flaps (this could include a tagline, short bio, your book's blurb, and editorial reviews)

Schedule a kickoff meeting

A kickoff meeting is important because it will provide you the opportunity to explain your vision, as well as give the designer the opportunity to ask questions. It will also help you determine if you’re the right fit for each other. After this meeting, the designer will be able to develop an estimate, which will include their manpower hours and assets such as stock photography they need to purchase.

Get a contract

If you take anything away from this post, take this. Get a contract! Minimally, your contract should include:

  • The scope of work

  • The final deliverables (e-books, paperbacks, and hardcovers have different file format and size specifications, and it needs to be clear to the designer which you require)

  • The cost estimate and payment schedule

  • Who owns the rights to the artwork

  • Timelines and consequences for not meeting deadlines

  • Number of revisions and what constitutes a revision

The process

I recommend having multiple checkpoints with your designer to ensure you’re both aligned throughout the process. For example, if you’ve hired someone who will use stock photography, ask to see a lightbox of selects before they begin layout. Or, if you’ve hired an illustrator, ask to see rough sketches prior to them finalizing the artwork.

Avoid additional costs

This is why your prep work is so important. Both the Pinterest board and the creative brief will help you decide what you truly want before engaging a designer. If you choose to take things in a different direction after design has started, the designer will likely accommodate—but at an additional cost. So keep to your original plan as close as possible so you don’t go over budget.


Once you and your designer have succeeded in creating an amazing cover, take some time to celebrate this wonderful accomplishment. Also, if you had a good experience with your designer, help them out by writing a testimonial or spreading the word. They’ll really appreciate it!

Writers, any other tips you'd like to share? Please share them in the comments below.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.


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