Beginner’s Guide to Finding a Cover Designer

So, you’re planning to self-publish a book. It is written, revised, edited, and ready to go. All you need now is a cover to dress up your book baby before it can venture out into the world.

Now, unless you are lucky enough to be artistically inclined or have a friend/relative/neighbor you can convince/blackmail/guilt into helping you with this task, chances are you’re in the market for a professional cover designer. And, for some, that’s terrifying.

We’ve all heard the horror stories of ‘designers’ who make covers with images randomly found on Google; who pass off a different designer’s stolen work as their own; who show samples of amazing portfolio work that is not theirs, and subsequently provide an ugly, amateur cover; the list of horrors goes on. 

So, as a first time indie author, how do you make sure to avoid such a nightmare? Never fear, dear reader. I’m here to save your metaphorical bacon by providing a few simple, common sense tips to help ensure your potential cover designer is legit.

6 Signs of a good freelance cover artist

1): Communication 

When you inquire about a commission, they communicate in a clear, courteous manner. They should know their stuff as well, i.e. copyright, image sizes, genre conventions, etc.

2): Portfolio

Their portfolio samples should be reasonably high quality, recent and relevant–I.E. if they claim to be a book cover designer, they should have samples of book covers.

3): Testimonials 

A few glowing testimonials from previous clients can be a good indication of the artist’s reputation. If you feel really paranoid, try asking if the artist can point you to anyone they have worked with recently.

4): Social Media

This is how your potential designer is most likely marketing their work and socializing with the community, so a little bit of stalking can pay off here when deciding if you want to work with them. They may also post recent samples of work there. 

5): Cooperation & Inclusivity

Every designer has their own process, but you should feel heard as a client.

6): Skills

This is subjective, of course, but the designer’s work should be reasonably competent. Text slap, shoddy manipulations, etc. are all red flags.

Bonus Round! Some things to keep in mind while you go through the process of selecting and engaging a cover artist:

1): You get what you pay for. A good artist who provides quality, custom work deserves to be compensated accordingly. You can’t get that for $10, folks.

2): Have some idea what you want. You don’t need a specific design (that’s the artists’ job, after all!), but you should at least know what genre your book is. Providing images of comparable existing covers you like can be an asset here, or even pointing out samples of the designer’s own work that you feel suits your book. 

3): Communicate. Ask the designer what info they need. A story synopsis, list of main themes/characters, genre, and major important items/iconography are usually helpful. Be clear and as detailed as necessary. 

4): Be ready to compromise. A good designer will welcome your feedback, but remember you hired them for a reason. Listen to them. If your suggestions don’t work on a design level and you insist that they be implemented anyway, that may negatively impact your cover.

And there you have it! A few tips to help you navigate the cover design process. There is much more nuance to every interaction, of course, and every designer is different. Use your common sense, and best of luck on your publishing journey!

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