In certain professions, ability, to some degree, can be measured at a glance. If you want to hire a jockey, don’t go for the one who looks just as likely to eat the horse as he does to ride it. If you’re hunting for a mountainous bowl of traditional Italian pasta, a Nonna with a thick accent will never let you down. And you are kidding yourself if you think I’m going to step aboard any ship with a clean-shaven captain.
But the professionals tasked with delivering a cover for your book aren’t going to have any obvious outward signs of ability. There won’t be a neon sign hovering above their heads, lit up with ‘THIS FIRM’S GOOD’. The team may well be awash with majestic sea-captain beards, but if anything these will just get in the way of their work.
What then do you look for in a good book cover design firm?
Proof of Their Talent
How do you tell if an architect is any good? Or a sprinter? Or a baker? The proof is in the pudding, metaphorical or literal. You look at the fruits of their labour, and judge for yourself.
Any quality cover design firm will offer potential customers a comprehensive portfolio to browse through. There’ll be cover upon captivating cover, allowing you to get a good sense of the designers’ abilities, and the range of which they’re capable. Compare different designers from different firms, and find one that has a style that you feel fits with your book.
A Storied History
Just as a healthily weathered sea captain’s beard tells you that they’ve got the know-how to steer your ship through the storm, so too does experience count for a lot in the cover design game. It’s not simply about creating something nice to look at – your designer also needs to have a deep understanding of the fields of marketing and psychology in order to draw buyers in and get your book flying off the shelves.
Should an article about choosing a book cover designer be so sea-captain heavy?
How available is your preferred design firm? If they’ve got a design backlog of 6 months to get through before they can cover your book? Well then, that’s half a years’ worth of potential profit that you’re going to miss out on.
Popular designers will often find themselves overbooked. Popular designers who run a tight ship will not. Fetch yourself a designer who can produce quality work, and produce it in good time.
Just like writing your book, the cover design process should be one that is flexible. You should be able to change your mind, to make alterations, to spot design icebergs that threaten to sink your ship, and to steer around them.
A designer shouldn’t be poo-pooing changes of tack. Their sole aim should be to get a smile on an author’s dial.
Designers have a reputation for pushing out deadlines. Often this isn’t their fault – perhaps the author had a change of heart, or the goalposts were shifted. But other times it is simply a matter of disorganisation.
You don’t want the delivery of your cover, and the subsequent publishing of your book, to be held up simply because a freakin’ designer didn’t check their freakin’ emails. Like choosing a Toyota over a Lamborghini to get you to work in the morning, reliability is an often undercelebrated trait.
Value for Money
Last, but certainly not least, you need a designer that you can afford. If money wasn’t an issue then you’d spend whatever it took to reanimate Pablo Picasso and get him to whip up a little somethin’ somethin’ for your novella. But for all bar the most sugar-daddied of self-published authors, budgetary restraints will be – if you’ll be so kind as to indulge me – the captain that steers the cover design ocean liner.
Only make contact with designers you can afford. If a designer doesn’t show indicative rates on their website, make it the first question that you ask. And before committing to any one designer, be sure that you know exactly what you get for your money – how many drafts and revisions does the price include? Do you get an eBook cover as well? How quickly will you see the cover?
Unlike a salty sea dog, you may not be able to measure the worth of a designer at a glance. But if you know what to look for, and are willing to put in a little effort to look for it, you’ll be on your way to the calmest of cover design waters.
I’m out. No more sea captain references. That ship has sailed.