Tips on Hiring and Working with a Book Cover Designer (And New Cover Reveal for Dreamlander!)

As writers, we know an eye-catching book cover is vital for captivating potential readers. Recently, I got to work with the talented team at Ebook Launch to update the cover of my portal fantasy Dreamlander. Today, I’m excited to share my experience and insights to help you find and collaborate with the right book cover designer.

First, a little background on this project. As many of you know, Dreamlander was published in December 2012 and has been easily the most popular of all my novels. So it seemed appropriate that for its 10-year anniversary, the book should get a little refresh! I’m incredibly happy with the results, and I hope you’ll love it too! To celebrate, I’m doing a paperback giveaway over on Instagram, so be sure to check that out as well.

Today, using my recent collaboration with Ebook Launch on Dreamlander as a case study, I’m going to walk you through the step-by-step process of hiring and working with a book cover designer. We’ll explore the process of finding the right designer, budgeting and pricing, preparing for the design process, and achieving an effective collaboration.

(Please note that the links throughout this post are affiliate links. I only participate in affiliations with products or services I personally use and love.)

Finding the Right Book Cover Designer

Finding the perfect book cover designer may seem daunting, which is why thorough research is essential to ensuring a successful match. Consider these key factors as you explore your options:

1. Review the Designer’s Portfolio

Reviewing a designer’s portfolio will give you insight into their range and versatility, as well as their style preferences. When I was searching for a designer for Dreamlander, Ebook Launch’s book cover portfolio immediately stood out, showcasing a variety of styles and genres that aligned with my vision.

You’ll want to find a designer whose style preferences match your own, ensuring a smoother collaboration and a cover design that reflects your story. Make sure the designer you choose offers examples of work in your genre and preferred style in their portfolio, and ask yourself whether their style complements your book’s genre and tone. If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track.

2. Examine Testimonials and Reviews

Check the designer’s testimonials and reviews from other authors. These provide valuable insights into the designer’s work ethic, communication style, and ability to deliver on time and within budget. Look for credible sources of reviews and affiliations with industry associations (e.g. like the Alliance of Independent Authors).

3. Evaluate Availability and Responsiveness

It’s vital to collaborate with a designer who is available to accommodate your book’s timeline and will promptly respond to your inquiries, revision requests, and other concerns. Before beginning the design process, confirm that your chosen designer can deliver both the cover design and any additional marketing materials in time for your book’s launch. When working on the cover for Dreamlander, the team  at Ebook Launch communicated with me solely via email which may not work for everyone; however, they offered timely updates and always addressed my questions and concerns, which made the entire process smooth and enjoyable.

4. Consider Pricing

When searching for the right book cover designer, one of the top factors is finding one that fits your allocated budget while still providing value. Amounts can vary significantly, so carefully compare costs and the value each designer offers, keeping in mind that pricing doesn’t always correlate with quality. Reedsy has quoted under $750 USD on average as the cost from the designers on their website.  Look for clear pricing on the designer’s website to avoid misunderstandings down the line. Don’t forget to budget for additional marketing materials (such as social media graphics or promotional banners) or paperback or audio book versions.

Working With Your Book Cover Designer

Once you’ve found the right designer, you will typically need to navigate a couple of stages of the book cover design process. These include submitting a detailed design brief, receiving and reviewing initial concepts, collaborating on revisions, and approving the final design. In this section, I’ll delve into each stage in more detail, using my personal experience working on the redesigned cover for Dreamlander. I’ve also provided a couple of tips for a successful collaboration at the end.

1. Submit a Detailed Design Brief

The first step in the book cover design process is providing a clear and detailed design brief, which will ensure your designer understands your vision and can create a cover that captures the essence of your book. Most of the book designers I’ve worked with ask you to fill out detailed forms, guiding you to share the information they’ll need from you. Below is some of what I submitted to Ebook Launch for them to work with:

Book Title: Dreamlander

Book Subtitle (optional): What if one day you woke up in the wrong world?

Author Name: K.M. Weiland

Genre: Portal Fantasy

Description of your book:

What if it were possible to live two very different lives in two separate worlds? What if the dreams we awaken from are the fading memories of that second life? What if one day we woke up in the wrong world?

Every night, a woman on a black warhorse gallops through the mist in Chris Redston’s dreams. Every night, she begs him not to come to her. Every night, she aims her rifle at his head and fires. The last thing Chris expects—or wants—is for this nightmare to be real. But when he wakes up in the world of his dreams, he has to choose between the likelihood that he’s gone insane or the possibility that he’s just been let in on the secret of the ages.

Only one person in a generation may cross the worlds. These chosen few are the Gifted, called from Earth into Lael to shape the epochs of history—and Chris is one of them. But before he figures that out, he accidentally endangers both worlds by resurrecting a vengeful prince intent on claiming the powers of the Gifted for himself. Together with a suspicious princess and a guilt-ridden Cherazii warrior, Chris must hurl himself into a battle to save a country from war, two worlds from annihilation, and himself from a dream come way too true.

Describe the key elements you want on your cover:

This is to be a redo for the cover of an already published book. You can see the original cover here: [Note to readers: this link no longer shows the old cover, just in case you were wondering.]

I’m wanting to update the cover into more a current style. Particularly, I’m interested in styles that evoke mood more than character. Rather than featuring a person on the cover, I would rather something more stylistic and artistic.

The book is a portal fantasy, in which the main character is someone from our world who enters a parallel medieval land that is the “world of dreams.” It’s epic fantasy, with lots of battles and swordplay, but also romance. The cover examples below show more of the style I’m wanting this time around.

I do really like the teal green color palette the existing cover has. I wouldn’t mind keeping it, but don’t want to limit creative options either.

Please provide links or examples of other covers you like:

These are more or less ranked in the order I like them:

Love the colors and overall aesthetic here:

The ethnicity of this cover would be inappropriate for my book, which has more of a Renaissance European aesthetic, but I love the colors, the font, and the pop of the central image:

The font work on this one is gorgeous, and I love the symbolism of the central image and how it interplays with the actual letters of the title:

This is probably a bit too simple for me, but it does show the basics of what I’m hoping for, which is emphasis on title and color with a strong background visual:

Love the color, emphasis on title, and the images that are background but still strong and evocative:

This one is unique and immediately catches my eye when browsing due to color and contrast:

Again, this one is perhaps a bit simplistic, but highlights the general style I want, with emphasis on color, central image, and strong title treatment:

Same as above:

Of all the “too simple” examples, I actually like this one the best:

2. Review Initial Concepts and Collaborate on Revisions

After you’ve submitted your design brief, the book cover designer will present you with initial concepts. In this instance, Ebook Launch reached out before designing the concepts to clarify the direction they wanted to try:

“I love the idea of featuring a galloping black horse and a framing mechanism of dreamy/wavy circles—like a ripple effect on water. The circles/ripples represent the time portal. The black horse would be visually striking, invokes action and works in both contemporary and medieval settings. Other imagery could come into play (a sword, a castle) but they would be more like background etchings. What are your thoughts on featuring a black horse?”

I agreed and, in combination with the original information that I submitted, they started the designs. Here were the original concepts presented to me for Dreamlander:

I decided the second concept was more in line with my vision. However, some elements didn’t quite come together as I had hoped. For instance, I thought the horse/sword graphic appeared too simplistic or even “cartoony” when viewed at a larger size, and somewhat fairy-tale-like in thumbnail size. I also felt that the water motif/portal seemed too separate from the background.

To address these concerns, I suggested exploring alternative central elements, such as a castle, and adding more intricacy to the design. I also requested changes to the title treatment and font for my name to maintain visual consistency across my books.

Remember, it’s crucial to provide clear and constructive feedback to your designer at this stage, so they can fine-tune the design and ensure it meets your expectations.

After some more discussions, I received several revised options:


3. Approve the Final Design

Finally, after collaborating on revisions, you will reach the point at which you are satisfied with the cover design. The final version of Dreamlander‘s gorgeous new cover looks like this:

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At this point, make sure to review the final design thoroughly, ensuring it meets your expectations and represents your book effectively. Once you’ve approved the final design, your designer will provide you with the necessary files for publishing your book, as well as adapt it to other files you may be needing. In this case, Ebook Launch also prepared print and audio versions for Dreamlander. (Click on the images below if you’d like to purchase either version.)

Final Tips for Successful Collaboration With Your Book Cover Designer

Navigating the book cover design process requires, first and foremost, a harmonious partnership between you and your designer. To ensure a successful collaboration, keep these essential tips in mind:

1. Maintain Open Communication. Create a supportive environment where both parties feel comfortable discussing their ideas and concerns.

2. Provide Constructive Feedback. Offer specific, actionable suggestions that will help your designer refine their work, while also acknowledging their strengths and accomplishments. (Remember the compliment sandwich!)

3. Stay Flexible and Open to the Designer’s Expertise. Remember they bring valuable experience and knowledge to the table. Be receptive to their insights and recommendations. By fostering a collaborative spirit, you’ll work together more effectively to bring your creative vision to life.

Finding and collaborating with the right book cover designer is a vital step in your book’s success. By researching designers, reviewing portfolios, considering pricing, and maintaining open communication, you can foster a fruitful partnership and create an eye-catching cover that captivates readers. Remember to be patient, diligent, and receptive to the designer’s expertise throughout the process.

I  hope my experience working on Dreamlander provides insights for your own book cover design journey. If you’re ready to create a captivating cover for your book, consider reaching out to Ebook Launch and exploring their services. Best of luck in your creative endeavors, and may your book cover design journey be a rewarding one! (And don’t forget to enter the paperback drawing on Instagram!)

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Have you ever worked with a book cover designer? Tell me about your experiences!

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Author: K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

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  • May 8, 2023