This blog was featured on 09/15/2017
Working With Book Cover Designers
Written by
Maria Murnane
September 2017
Written by
Maria Murnane
September 2017

Your book cover is important for making a positive first impression with potential readers. At a recent industry conference I got to chatting with a professional book designer named Susan Newman. My publisher does my covers for me, but I know that many authors who read my blog are going the indie route and have to create the jackets on their own, so I asked her about working with cover designers. Here's what she had to say:

Susan Newman is an expert on book design

First and foremost, the designer should read the book. If that's not an option due to budgetary restraints, the author should provide one or two chapters, a questionnaire outlining the tone and themes of the book, and a brief synopsis. The author should also provide a few visual references, which will help the designer gain more insight.

As the designer reads, the voice of the author comes through as a feeling, a sense of style. That feeling becomes the basis for what is then visualized. There are all types of designers and illustrators with different styles, and it's always best to match the right artist with the right voice. If a book is a lighthearted comedy, you wouldn't get a cover artist who was dark and serious. That wouldn't fit. If the book is a war history non-fiction, you wouldn't put a cartoon on the cover. (We hope.)

There are many more factors that must be considered, such as: Are there any colors that should or should not be used? Does the author have branding that needs to be included? The designer should do some research on other covers to evaluate whether or not they were successful.

A designer with professional book cover experience will have studied typography and will be able to match the right fonts to the voice, as well as tie in illustrators and photographers as needed to choose the appropriate imagery. If some of the characters should be portrayed on the cover, it must be done in a way that doesn't give anything away.

Pricing will vary based on the experience of the designer and the type of project. For example, a typographic cover design might cost less than a novel, mystery or cookbook because those would require original illustration or photographs as well as the design.


As you can see, a lot goes into the creation of a good book cover, which is why this is something that's often left in the capable hands of professional book designers. For those of you who are publishing on your own, it's worth taking Susan's advice to heart. 



Maria Murnane is the best-selling author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind, and Chocolate for Two. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at


This blog post originally appeared on Reprinted with permission. © 2014 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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  • Lisa Thomson

    Thanks for sharing this, Maria and Susan for your tips. I'm an Indie author and I've done the cover work for both of my non-fiction books. I purchased photos with proper pixel requirements and chose the font myself. It took me days and hours of contemplation and testing to finally choose the font. It's incredibly important (and can be confusing!). I've had many compliments on my book cover by book sellers and readers alike, so that was great feedback. However, I think paying for a pro for the next project would be so much easier. May be more costly, but worth it in the end. Thanks again for your advice. I will keep Susan in mind!

  • Stacey Aaronson

    As an independent book production professional—including being a cover designer—I completely appreciate the great advice Susan has dispensed to writers in this post. Typography is a HUGE consideration, as she said, and commands a high level of expertise to achieve the right feel; the wrong font(s) can truly make or break the book's impression to a reader. Ditto for the type of art used to appropriately reflect the content and its genre.

    Collaboration with my authors is crucial, and as Susan said, you don't want to work with a designer who hasn't read your book, or isn't at least familiar with the content. The vision that comes alive for me as I read the author's work and internalize his or her voice is a vital part of the design process, as well as doing research on existing books in the genre. One of the perks of independent publishing is that the author gets to be involved in the cover design process, but it's also important to remember that authors don't always have the best vision for their cover—having an expert develop the right cover with you as a partner with your book's best interest at heart is definitely the way to go!

    Bottom line: There are many factors involved in producing a great cover, and I'm happy to see the recommendation of hiring a professional—not just because I am one (:-) ), but because there really is a significant difference between covers produced by professionals that those that are not. Since your cover is the first impression, you definitely want to make that investment a wise one! :-)

  • Michael N. Marcus

    A beautiful illustration that would be a powerful eye-grabber under the spotlight in a terrestrial bookstore may become a tiny, incomprehensible blob when displayed on a website.

    Make sure your book looks good in the size in which Amazon and other online booksellers will show it. It’s possible for people to click on the "thumbnail" image and see almost a full-size cover, but try for a design that works well in postage-stamp-size. Excellent artists have designed very attractive stamps.

    Subtle color combinations that win awards in art school may not have adequate contrast to allow potential customers to separate the text from the background on computer monitors. 
    Red-on-orange may work for a day-glow concert poster, but it makes a book cover hard to read.

    Also consider how your book will look when converted to grayscale (black and white). Your cover may show up in a book, catalog or newspaper that doesn’t have color pages.

    If you have a photo or illustration on the cover, make sure it does not overpower or conflict with the title. It should reinforce the title. Don’t use a photo so big that it necessitates a small title that will be hard to read.

    If the photo or illustration is important, make sure the title or subtitle doesn’t mask it.

    more advice

  • Hire a professional... sound advice!  Knowing what ingredients goes in a dish doesn't make one a chef

    I'll have to keep Susan in mind for my memoir.  I know what I want on the cover, just not how to put it all together and make it work.

    Thanks, Maria.