What to organise before you book your cover designer

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I’m a little bit excited this morning because today is the day that I get to see the cover of Diary of a Penguin-napper for the first time.  Well, excited/nervous! I’ve been looking forward to this moment for at least the last:

3 months 10 days
or  0.2 years
or  3.3 months
or  14.7 weeks
or  102.9 days
or  2,469.7 hours
or  148,182.6 minutes
or  8,890,959 seconds

Not to mention all of the time that I’ve spent daydreaming about being a published writer before that!

Anyway, I would say that usually, a cover design doesn’t take 3 months from first contact to completed design.  Admittedly, I haven’t had a book cover designed before, but my research tells me that about 4 weeks is a reasonable amount of time.  So why has mine taken so long?

Firstly, I have been a bit indecisive about whether or not to self-publish.  When I first contacted the lovely Andrew Brown of Design for Writers back in the first week of June, my manuscript was still be considered by a publisher, but I had decided to begin to make preparations for self-publication just in case.  That meant that we set a completion date late in August to begin with.

Secondly, because of my indecision, I didn’t have a lot of things ready for Andrew to use.  For example, I hadn’t finalised my blurb and that took me a while to get right, which then delayed the design.

Thirdly, I was not organised and proactive with communicating, which again lead to delays in the design and which is why I’m going to be seeing it for the first time today. Entirely my fault (Andrew has been very patient with me! I’d recommend him based on that characteristic alone.) and really frustrating because it is really like delaying Christmas.

So before you book your cover designer, here are some simple things that you should think about to avoid the same mistakes that I did!  This is what I wish I’d had really clear before getting in touch with Andrew:

  • The text for the front and back covers

I knew the title of my book, but that was about it. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to publish under my own name or a pen name.  And I’d thought about the blurb, but not written it.  Title, name and blurb are the minimum you need, plus a tagline and any review quotes that you’d like to feature on the cover.

  • Your target audience and genre

This is one thing that I did know and was very clear about.  Diary of a Penguin-napper is a children’s book and, more specifically, humorous, middle grade fiction (for kids around 8-12).  Knowing this meant that I was also able to direct Andrew to other books on Amazon that fit into this genre, including:

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney

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The Boy in the Dress, by David Walliams


– Mr Gum, by Andy Staunton

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The Day My Bum Went Psycho, by Andy Griffiths

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How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell

  • Book covers that you both love and don’t love

I’m a really visual person, so being able to convey the idea in my head to Andrew was really important. To show him book covers that would work with my book and those that wouldn’t, I used Pinterest to create two boards – one for Book Cover Designs I Like and the other for Fairly Awful Book Covers.  You could start pinning now, so that when you are ready to book your cover designer, you have already put thought into this.

  • The trim size and spine width

In order for a cover designer to make a cover to fit your book, you need to know what trim size your book is (how big the pages are) and also how wide the spine is.  As I hadn’t finished formatting my book when I sent it to Andrew, it took me a long time to get this information finalised and to generate a template for him to work with.  I think that your formatting should be nearly finished before you book your cover design.

Hopefully my finished cover will be ready to reveal in the next week or so.  But for today, I’m just going to sit here, continually refreshing my email, until it magically appears …

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