Book Cover Design: Does the author know better than the designer?

In traditional publishing, authors have zero to some say in their cover design. There’s a team of highly skilled designers who make the decisions on what the book cover will look like. If the author loves, it great! If the author hates it, well, that’s too bad because they’re designing a cover that will have the greatest potential of selling, so to them, does it matter if the author loves it? All that matters is if it sells.

However, with self-publishing authors now have a say in everything. Self-publishing authors wear so many hats – writer, editor, proofreader, promoter, designer – and even when they hire people to edit their book and design their cover, they still get the final say. It’s an amazing opportunity that the author gets to make all the decisions – but does that make them the best fit for every job?

Authors are experts at writing

You know the ins and outs of writing and how to be a storyteller. Therefore, you know your story better than anyone else – but that’s the catch. You know your story and characters so intimately, that it’s hard for you to break down your book into a simple, visual message since you’re use to focusing on details. So you may not be the best judge for your cover because you’re going to be stuck on the detail.

Take a step back

Is it hard for you to trust your designer so you keep asking them to add this, add that, change this, change that even though your designer may be disagreeing with you? Are you trying to include all of those elements (characters, scenes, places and all in great detail) because it’s what’s best for your cover or because you have a personal attachment to them? You have to ask yourself – are all of these things going to attract a reader? Or just confuse them? Is this going to sell my book?

It’s easy to over think your cover and fall into the trap of feeling like you need to include every last detail on the cover. Realize that you’re also backing your designer into a corner, because the designer wants to make you happy, but also wants to design you a cover that will sell.

Does the designer create a cover for the author or the reader?

A professional designer will know the ins and outs of book cover design – like how you know the ins and outs of writing – therefore they are continuously researching to know what the trends are right now and what is going to give your book the greatest chance at selling. What if a designer provides a cover that checks all the important elements for a design and still doesn’t make the author happy? Does that mean the designer has fulfilled what he/she has been hired to do by providing an author with a product that will sell?

The key elements a cover design should include:

  • Clearly portrays the genre
  • Gives you a sense of the story
  • You get a feel for the tone of the book
  • It sparks an emotion (love, fear, sadness, curiosity, etc)
  • You can read/see it at thumbnail size
  • It’s attractive and stands out against your competition

If the cover hits all of those key elements, how important is it for the author to love the design?

A majority of the time (not always because even I know of exceptions) the author does not know better than the designer. A true designer will know what makes a good cover design, a bad cover design, and what will give your book the best fighting chance against the other millions of books out there.

I personally spend countless hours researching and learning all that I can in regards to cover design and the current trends, but just like most things in this world, it keeps changing. I also always take my clients thoughts and ideas into consideration because sometimes they have a brilliant idea. I want my clients to trust me, but would I sacrifice their happiness? Probably not. Most of the time, all it takes is meeting in the middle.

I encourage all authors to hire a designer that you can trust and who you are willing to take advice and guidance from. If you have a specific idea in mind, tell them about it and ask for their feedback. Maybe they can work the idea into a concept, even if it’s not the complete idea. Or maybe you have a brilliant idea and they can run with it. With the competition being so fierce right now, an author often has to trust other people who have the skills and knowledge that will help them get one step closer to becoming a best-selling author.


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