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Why It’s Not Your Job to Design Your Own Book Cover

By Eric Labacz, Book Cover Designer

I worked with a client recently who had spent the last six years writing his book. He described the process of publishing as similar to sending a child into the world. He had no idea how difficult it would be to let it go and have his book take on a life of its own. Upon our initial conversation, he shared with me several chapters of his book that he hoped would provide inspiration for a cover design as well as made it perfectly clear how important his main character was to him and the similarities of their two journeys.

Naturally, I felt his unease, his excitement, his uncertainty…and I used it all to fuel a cover design that today he is thrilled with. It wasn’t until after the cover was completed that he realized the story was not just his own, but that it became mine as well, and that people would interact with it in a way he couldn’t have seen, evolving the story in the process and making it theirs, too.

Authors sometimes feel that they are going to lose creative control when they hand their cover to a designer, particularly someone they don’t know well. This may very well be the case if a large publisher, or even a small one, picks up their book. I have spoken to authors who have had moderate to zero input on their covers and some of them are happy and some of them are not. If you are comfortable with loosening up creative control on your cover, then some of the self-publishing models where you do not interact with your cover artist will work just fine for you. If however you’d prefer a closer relationship that offers space for dialogue and more creative input, then seeking out an independent designer may be the way to go. I personally would have a hard time working on a cover without having any contact with the author. I do understand that some of the sites which offer this type of service are trying to produce a product: your book, at the lowest price possible, and that sometimes meaning trimming services and personal interaction between the cover artist and the author. An advantage of working with an independent designer is that it offers plenty of consultation time so that, as an author, you know that your cover artist “gets it.”

The day before I started writing this blog article I had a cover consultation with a new client. After speaking with her for an hour, she confided in me that prior to our conversation, she had been afraid that I wouldn’t get it. It is my job to know how to get it. It’s also my job to consider your perspective on the cover, how the book is going to be marketed, current trends within your genre, cover designs of similar books and the perspective of anyone else who is working with you on your book such as a publishing consultant. As an author it is your job to provide your cover artist with as much reference material, chapter excerpts, character insights and background information as possible to ensure that they do indeed “get it.”

It is in your best interest to surround yourself with a publishing team that includes a designer, an editor, one or more proofreaders, a publishing and a marketing consultant and a layout artist. Sometimes the same individual can wear one or more of these hats. The advantage to self-publishing is that you can control who these individuals are. A good cover artist will evaluate the input of these team members as well as your own and provide you with a creative cover solution that comes from a perspective that you could, most likely, not have reached on your own. Freeing up creative control to the right cover artist will ensure your book be taken seriously and stand toe-to-toe with books that are being marketed and designed by large publishing houses.


To see Eric’s cover designs or to schedule a consulation, visit



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