Today, Elizabeth Barone gives us a great step-by-step lesson on how to hire a cover designer. If you're self-publishing and know you can't do it yourself, a cover designer is clutch. Elizabeth has all the traps and tricks laid out for you. For the rest of the series, look below. And if you're a reader or author interested in giving your two cents on cover design, shoot me an email!
How to Hire a Cover Designer
All that stands between you and uploading to Amazon is a cover. You decide to hire a cover designer, but you aren't sure where to start.
I worked as a freelance graphic and web designer for about five years. When I started my career as an indie author, I designed my own covers, but I've also worked with cover designers and illustrators. Working with a professional to create a bestselling cover design can be extremely rewarding and fun, but there are some things you should know.
How to Find a Reputable Cover Designer
The easiest way to find a designer is to ask other indie authors about their cover designs. Take a look at the covers of authors you've been networking with or whose work you enjoy. Look for covers in your genre or a similar genre. When you find one you really like, ask the author who did it. If you're already friendly with her, you could simply DM her on Twitter (or the private messaging equivalent of your social media poison). If, however, you are not familiar with each other, you should email her. Introduce yourself, compliment the cover of her book, and ask if she can tell you who designed it.
Chances are, she will be happy to share the information with you.
You can also do a Google search of "freelance book cover designers."
Check out the designer's other work. Note what you like and what you don't like in the covers she's designed. Read through all of the information on the website: rates, agreements, etc. You should be aware of FAQs, disclaimers, and any other fine print. Be informed, not paranoid.
As a general rule, I wouldn't hire a designer who doesn't have a website. If she can't take her business seriously enough to cover the expense of her own domain name, she probably won't take your book cover seriously.
After you've perused the designer's website, get in touch with her. Ask her if she is available for hire, and approximately how long production will take. You should also ask if the current rates on her website are correct.
Setting Payment Terms
Most freelancers request a percentage of payment up front. Never, ever pay in full without the project being completed. Furthermore, if you pay a percentage up front, do not pay the rest until all issues have been resolved. A graphic designer once asked that I pay 50% before she started work on the project. She was supposed to create covers for both the ebook and trade paperback versions. I paid the other 50% after she finished the ebook version, and never received the paperback version.
You may find yourself antsy to wrap up the project and pay while the money is still in your account, keeping it safe from the siren call of other expenses. You may also find your designer pressuring you to complete payment. Do yourself a huge favor and don't pay the rest until all the work is done, no matter how much you think you can trust your designer. Once you've paid in full, there isn't much you can do, unless you have a contract.
Finally, you should use PayPal for all transactions. PayPal is fast, secure, and provides meticulous records. You can also cancel payment within a certain window if necessary.
Writing a Contract
Contracts exist for one reason, and one reason only: they cover your ass, and they cover the designer's ass. A good contract doesn't have to be drafted by a lawyer or even notarized. It only has to be signed and dated by both parties.
Basically, a contract binds each of you to the agreement. It outlines that you agree to pay X amount for the services that the freelancer provides, and the artist agrees to produce a completed project by a specific date.
You should never enter into an agreement without a contract. Even if everyone has the best of intentions, a contract will keep things in order so that no one ends up accidentally getting screwed. I recently worked with a graphic artist who, because of a family emergency, simply never responded to my concerned emails. Had I taken the time to write up a contract instead of relying on our emails, she probably would have finished her work, and I would have gotten my money's worth.
How Stock Photography Works
Arguably, the most important thing you should know about hiring a cover designer is how stock photography works.
Some stock photo services, such as iStockphoto.com, sell you or the graphic artist a license to use the photo over and over, without having to give the photographer credit. Others, such as Dreamstime.com, sell their photos under the condition that credit is provided to not only the photographer, but also the source site. (For example: "Photo by John Smith at Dreamstime.com.)
There are many free photo resources as well. These sites have their own terms and conditions. Some simply request credit, others have detailed Creative Commons licenses.
Most graphic designers know where to get stock photos from and how to use them without risking legal pursuit. However, you can't always trust them to properly use photos. I've seen so-called professionals steal photos. These people will likely never have to deal with the consequences, but you, the author, will.
What Your Designer Needs From You
You should have a good idea of how you want your cover to look. This may seem super overwhelming at first, but you'd be surprised at how easily you can decide on what you want after taking a trip to your local book store. Go to your book's genre's section, and pull out at least five titles by different authors and even publishers.
Note the way the spine is set up. Do you want to display your full name after the title, or just your last name? Examine the copy on the back and the contact information. How much room will your book have for reviews after the synopsis? Can you get away with a small photo and your website?
If you really can't decide, your designer should be able to help you.
You should give your designer the following:
• your book's title
• the pen name you are publishing it under
• the synopsis
• any other particular details
For example, give her a description of your main character so she can find the appropriate stock photo. If you have a specific color palette in mind, pass it her way. The same goes with typography and other details.
You deserve a cover that can be the best it can be. With good communication, ample time to complete the project and go through drafts of the design, and patience, you and your designer can produce a beautiful, professional cover that will stand out on the shelves.
stalk the author
For more tips on indie publishing, visit Elizabeth Barone's website at http://elizabethbarone.net.
Elizabeth Barone writes drama with grit. She writes the weekly serial for busy women, Sandpaper Fidelity, and is the author of many short stories. Her debut novel, Sade on the Wall, was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest in 2012.
Elizabeth lives in Waterbury, Connecticut with her fiance and tiny cat.