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In's & Out's Working with a Professional Book Designer

Ever notice how self-published books look like they are self-published? I chalk this up to shaving costs and laziness on the part of the author. Sure you are a writer, words are your thing–we get it. But why, after all your hard work polishing those hard-earned lines, would you waste an excellent opportunity to get it noticed? Had you known a well-done cover can come with a significant increase in sales, perhaps more indy writers would take their book covers more seriously.


Since taking the dive into the DYI publishing game, I have read a lot about what it takes to get the words out of my head and onto the page with the ultimate goal of having my baby land softly into the hands of an eager audience.


There’s tons of information on how to craft stories, format ebooks, hire an editor, market yourself on social media–the list could go on and on–but it is a rare few that really tackle the importance of  a good cover design and what it takes to get there. I don’t claim to be an expert, nor am I a book designer. I am a writer through and through. Yet when it comes to visuals, I know what I like, and it always starts with the details.

Finding a Designer Who Gets You

When I set off searching for a designer to hire, I spent a lot of time browsing book covers for ones that excited me. For each one that caught my eye, I made a mental note of the title, what elements drew me to the cover, and then jotted down the name of the designer found in the front pages. My reasoning was if I was serious about my career, then I would have to prioritize where I was going to plunk down my money. For me, this boiled down to hiring a good editor and a reliable book cover designer.

When looking for someone to hire, it is important to know that just like writers, artists can be a fickle bunch prone to strong opinions. Just because you love your book doesn’t mean every artist will want to work on it. Perhaps they didn’t like your pitch or didn’t see your vision–either way, don’t take these things too seriously. It took me several tries before finding someone who got me, and more importantly, wanted to see me and my book succeed.  I was lucky enough to meet an amazing artist named Tracey Berglund. Once we met, everything clicked instantly. Soon we were on our way creating an eye-catching cover.


Trial & Error

Before hiring anyone, I scoured books searching for things I liked. I had no idea what the cover would look like so this part was daunting. There were so many different things that needed attention: color scheme, photography or illustration, fonts, what elements from my book to focus on when telling my story visually. I quickly realized nailing a great cover is like cooking a good meal–all the different ingredients need to work together in harmony.

After a pouring through covers, a vague blob of an idea had formed in my head. It wasn’t until Tracey presented me with different versions, did I really edit my thoughts down to a single concept. Ultimately, we went with an idea I hadn’t even considered until it was presented to me.

Wanna take a stab at which one I chose?

I could’ve easily have bought a template, picked a font, found a stock photo, and voila, have a cover.  Yet having a professional on my team--someone who could guide me through unfamiliar waters, make me feel at ease with the process and create something truly custom, was well worth her fee.

Piecing It All Together

Once we settled on the look of the cover, it was time to flesh out the details. The design incorporated a map but there were pesky copy-right issues. I was already laying out a little bundle on this cover, so the last thing I wanted was to shell out more than necessary. I googled all the vintage maps of NYC I could find and found one that was royalty-free.

Next stop were the little toys. After a few days dipping in and out of souvenir shops and toy stores, I had everything I needed. Tracey and I set up a date at my house for a photo-shoot and it was off to the races.

On the day of the shoot, Tracey scribbled several versions of the title and we swapped them out until we found a combo that fit. Since Tracey is designer not a photographer, I enlisted my husband who has a keen eye for capturing images.

Together, the three of us added and subtracted things from the scene, took pictures at various angles, and after four hours, called it a day. That night I went over the images and chose the one that had the clearest message I wanted to convey.


*Important to note: since your cover will be seen as a thumbnail, anything you choose needs to look good on a small scale*

I'm extremely happy with the way my cover turned out. In fact, it has been so successful my book is selling in bookstores and independent shops. None of this would be possible if I had done the bare minimum.

If your on the fence about hiring a professional, don't be. You'll be so happy you did in the long run.

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