The Work of a Cover Designer

We have all heard the phrase “a book is judged by its cover.” And it is true. We all do it. Even when the cover is as small as a postage stamp in an online bookstore.

It is the first impression of what’s inside.

Rarely will you buy the book after you’ve read it. Instead you make the purchase before reading. What you are buying is the promise of the cover, and the title, and the back cover copy. A promise that this one is worth your money.

Our agency often gets to weigh in, with our client’s publishers, on the merits (or demerits) of a proposed cover. It can be a little nerve-wracking when the client sends a cover attachment they have just received from their publisher with the question, “What do you think?” Nary a clue whether the author is glad, mad, or sad. I can’t just get away with an evasive answer like “What a nice rectangle shape!” I have to present my first impression. More often than not the publisher has done a great job. And the times where it’s not what we hoped for there is a healthy discussion as to what needs to change.

On the other hand I wish Indie authors who don’t have agents or a publishing professional in their world would think hard before creating their own book cover on the cheap and uploading it for the world to see. A book cover is more than a stock photo of a forest, a winsome lass or lad, and a funky font slapped on the front. Many do a great job, but when they don’t it is a disaster.

In my work with Enclave Publishing, a division of Gilead Publishing, I have the privilege of working directly with the cover designers on every new release. It is amazing to see what these incredibly creative people can do.

Recently Kirk DouPonce of DogEared Design created a video to show the entire creative process of what he did while making a new cover for Enclave.

This five minute video is fascinating. The attention to detail, like creating a unique knife handle, finding the right fold in the legging of the pants, making the title font almost 3-D. He deserves all the awards he has received.

By the way, the book is a great story for those who love Fantasy. If you don’t, you probably know someone who does. Reserve your copy today by clicking here.

Enjoy the video, then look back at the top of this post at the finished work, then comment below. (click the “vimeo” word in the lower right corner to get a larger version of the video.)

21 Responses to The Work of a Cover Designer

  1. Avatar
    Lisa Evola September 12, 2016 at 6:46 am #

    I’m curious as to what you would pay for such an intricate design…I do some graphics myself so I understand some of the process and the time involved….not sure I would want to do that for a living…haha.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube September 12, 2016 at 9:12 am #

      It would be unfair to the designer to reveal his prices. You’d have to ask him direct for his price for your project.

      I can safely say that cover designs can range from $300 to $5,000. Much depends on speed (how soon do you need it?), type of design (whether a photo-shoot or an original oil painting, or illustration, or a stock photo), Also whether you are asking the designer for only one design or asking that they create multiple different designs so you can hone in on one.

      In one of the classes I teach I hand out twelve designs created for one book and ask the class to pick which one the publisher picked. (Rarely does the class pick the one the publisher chose.)

  2. Avatar
    Loretta Eidson September 12, 2016 at 7:07 am #

    WOW! That is amazing! I often wondered where and how book covers were made. A lot more goes into it than I thought. Incredible! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Avatar
    Theresa Santy September 12, 2016 at 7:19 am #

    That video was fun to watch!

    My book was published by a small (one-woman) publishing company, but she hired outside for professional editing and book cover design. She hired an amazing photographer, who hired a model. They shot pictures in Wisconsin, and put in a Pacific Ocean sunset backdeop. That image was then sent to the graphics designer who created the book cover. The process was intense (my publisher and I went through a 12-page questionaire for the designer), and I remember how much care was taken with every line, tone, color, and placement. Apparently, this was pretty expensive, but We were all very happy with the final design.

  4. Avatar
    Barbara September 12, 2016 at 7:54 am #

    Ooooo! I loved that. Thanks for sharing.

    I always judge a book by its cover so I definitely agree in the importance of beautiful cover work, and it’s impressive to see the amount of work involved in creating this image. Incredible.

  5. Avatar
    Carol Ashby September 12, 2016 at 8:32 am #

    I started writing historical fiction in total ignorance of the business almost exactly 3 years ago with the goal being to support missions with my novels. While working full time at improving my craft while writing 5 novels and learning the business, I learned that selling the rights to a publisher would be a major barrier to using the novels to their full potential for that work. With much trepidation, I decided to take the plunge and go independent after talking with the former chief editor of the fiction side of a major publisher last spring.

    The two things stressed most for indie success (other than pouring your heart into honing your craft) are excellent cover design and quality editing. With prayer and about 4 hours researching historical cover artists online, I zeroed in on one who has done a superb job of making a beautiful cover that perfectly captures the emotional distance between the protagonists that God helps them overcome. I probably can’t (or can I?) reveal her name here, but if anyone wants to come to carolashby.com and contact me, I’ll be delighted to give her name. (Hint: she’s a traditionally published writer of historical fiction herself that your agency represents.) I LOVE(!) her work, and I’m planning on her doing every cover in the series that will run 6-8 novels. The first will be out at the beginning of October, and I’m sure her cover is going to play a major role in drawing readers in.

    • Avatar
      Steve Laube September 12, 2016 at 9:14 am #

      You are free to tell the world who did your design if the designer is okay with it. She might get a flood of work!

      In the new edition of THE CHRISTIAN WRITERS MARKET GUIDE 2017 edition, we would like to have a section for cover designers. If you have a favorite designer or are one that wants to be listed, send your information to admin@christianwritersmarketguide.com and we’ll get you into next year’s guide.

  6. Avatar
    Johnnie Alexander September 12, 2016 at 9:25 am #

    Wow. I’m almost but not quite speechless. The attention to every tiny detail is tremendous. I’m in awe.

  7. Avatar
    Steve Hooley September 12, 2016 at 9:57 am #

    Amazing! Very enlightening. Thanks for sharing the vimeo.

    I also wanted to mention how much I appreciate the links on your Twitter posts. The articles and subjects have been great.

  8. Avatar
    Diana Holvik September 12, 2016 at 11:42 am #

    I find the creating of a book cover fascinating, especially since I submitted my novel to an agent [Tamela Hancock Murray, actually]. I really like this post about making a book cover and I have referenced it in my own blog post [which will publish tomorrow morning; 16-09-13] I put a link to this blog in my post. Thank you for blogging about such an interesting aspect of book publishing

  9. Avatar
    Diana Holvik September 12, 2016 at 11:44 am #

    oh, you can view my blog here http://www.connectionality.ca/

  10. Avatar
    Tamara Dever September 12, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

    Love this video! Thanks for sharing and for your wise words about the value of professional book cover design. We’ve been creating covers and interiors for 25 years and have rescued so many from the problems that come with authors doing their own or hiring inexperienced or non-book designers.
    Yes, book covers are intensely detailed — even the much simpler designs that you may think involve a simple photo and some text. Professional designers spend hours researching, designing many concepts, and tweaking lighting, type, borders, colors, etc — not to mention the years of experience in the publishing field. They can save you money in the end! The price is worth it to have a cover that makes your book marketable and one that the author loves.

  11. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee September 12, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

    The level of detail is amazing! Thanks for sharing this, Steve. It was fascinating to watch the work come together.

  12. Avatar
    Ron Andrea September 13, 2016 at 4:02 am #

    That was fun. Thanks!

  13. Avatar
    Kristen Joy Wilks September 13, 2016 at 5:14 am #

    Amazing! I love posts like this, so fun to see the process. Keep them coming.

  14. Avatar
    Ann L. Coker September 13, 2016 at 7:48 am #

    Fascinating. So many choices and details. The joy of the process is seen in the finished product.

  15. Avatar
    Tracey Lyons September 14, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

    Really great putting the time lapsed video at the bottom of your blog. I love this!!

  16. Avatar
    Robert Crum September 21, 2016 at 10:47 am #

    A great read and the video is great.
    I was wondering how I would go about submitting my availability for cover design. I would love to work with a Christian publishing firm.

  17. Avatar
    Elizabeth Van Tassel September 23, 2016 at 6:24 am #

    It was fascinating watching the details come to life. What an artist! Thank you for sharing the process with us.

  18. Avatar
    Tracey Dyck September 25, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

    That is an incredible amount of work! It really seems to have paid off–the cover is gorgeous. Thanks for the peek into a cover artist’s process.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Top Picks Thursday! For Readers and Writers 09-15-2016 | The Author Chronicles - September 15, 2016

    […] Good book covers aid sales for any author. Darren Beyer tells how covers can make or break a book and Steve Laube examines the work of a cover designer. […]

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