Indie Author Weekly

088: Process for choosing cover image & design

December 01, 2020 Sagan Morrow Episode 89
Indie Author Weekly
088: Process for choosing cover image & design
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Indie Author Weekly
088: Process for choosing cover image & design
Dec 01, 2020 Episode 89
Sagan Morrow

In this episode of Indie Author Weekly, I want to share about my process for how I have chosen cover images and design for my books in the past. I’ll be doing an illustrated cover for my next romcom, which I’m pretty excited about, so that got me thinking about cover images and design in general. 

This is not something that comes naturally to me. I’m a writer, not a designer! I outsourced my design to Acepub for the Polyamorous Passions, and they’ve been pretty good. I chose them right from the start because they were recommended by Kobo Writing Life. 

I still don’t feel as though I’ve totally nailed the decision-making process of choosing cover images and design, but I’ve definitely learned a lot! So if you feel like you aren’t a design person, don’t worry. I’m right there with you. This episode is for you. 

A caveat here: this process is based on my experience with a) hiring out the cover design to someone else, and b) using stock photos for my covers. I’ll be getting a custom illustrated cover design for my next book, so that process will be a bit different! I’ll share about that experience in a future episode if you like. 

Okay! So, here’s how I’ve chosen cover images and designs for my books. Let’s break it down into an easy step by step process... TUNE IN to this episode to get the inside scoop!  

Resources & links mentioned in this episode:  

Let's chat about this episode:  

Support the show (https://saganmorrow.com/secretpodcast)

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Indie Author Weekly, I want to share about my process for how I have chosen cover images and design for my books in the past. I’ll be doing an illustrated cover for my next romcom, which I’m pretty excited about, so that got me thinking about cover images and design in general. 

This is not something that comes naturally to me. I’m a writer, not a designer! I outsourced my design to Acepub for the Polyamorous Passions, and they’ve been pretty good. I chose them right from the start because they were recommended by Kobo Writing Life. 

I still don’t feel as though I’ve totally nailed the decision-making process of choosing cover images and design, but I’ve definitely learned a lot! So if you feel like you aren’t a design person, don’t worry. I’m right there with you. This episode is for you. 

A caveat here: this process is based on my experience with a) hiring out the cover design to someone else, and b) using stock photos for my covers. I’ll be getting a custom illustrated cover design for my next book, so that process will be a bit different! I’ll share about that experience in a future episode if you like. 

Okay! So, here’s how I’ve chosen cover images and designs for my books. Let’s break it down into an easy step by step process... TUNE IN to this episode to get the inside scoop!  

Resources & links mentioned in this episode:  

Let's chat about this episode:  

Support the show (https://saganmorrow.com/secretpodcast)

Hello friends! Sagan here. Welcome back to Indie Author Weekly, where I share my behind-the-scenes journey of writing and self-publishing books. 

If you’re new to this podcast, I am a productivity strategist for multi-passionate creatives: I help people manage their time and energy effectively, through customized, actionable strategies that work for your unique life and business. When I’m not teaching about productivity to solopreneurs, I spend my time writing books, such as my Polyamorous Passions romantic comedy series. And that is what this podcast is all about: the adventures of the author life. 

Get podcast episodes and writing updates delivered directly to your inbox at SaganMorrow.com/behindthescenes—link is in the show notes.

Now let’s get into this episode of the Indie Author Weekly podcast. In this episode, I want to share about my process for how I have chosen cover images and design for my books in the past. I’ll be doing an illustrated cover for my next romcom, which I’m pretty excited about, so that got me thinking about cover images and design in general. 

This is not something that comes naturally to me. I’m a writer, not a designer! I outsourced my design to Acepub for the Polyamorous Passions, and they’ve been pretty good. I chose them right from the start because they were recommended by Kobo Writing Life. 

I still don’t feel as though I’ve totally nailed the decision-making process of choosing cover images and design, but I’ve definitely learned a lot! So if you feel like you aren’t a design person, don’t worry. I’m right there with you. This episode is for you.

A caveat here: this process is based on my experience with a) hiring out the cover design to someone else, and b) using stock photos for my covers. I’ll be getting a custom illustrated cover design for my next book, so that process will be a bit different! I’ll share about that experience in a future episode if you like.

Okay! So, here’s how I’ve chosen cover images and designs for my books. Let’s break it down into an easy step by step process, shall we?

First of all, think about the feel of your book. 

What is your genre? What emotions do you want people to have from reading your story? What do you want people to think of when they read your books? Your cover design should reflect that. 

This is something I’ve historically had a tough time doing! As I shared about in Episode 14, I actually redid the cover design of She Wants More just 2 months after releasing that book, because I realized that the cover image didn’t have nearly the right lighthearted romcom feel that I wanted. Originally, it was a man holding a camera, because the love interest is a photographer… and I revised it to have a much more romcom, flirtatious feel to it with a man and woman holding each other in the updated version of the cover.

You can see a side-by-side comparison of the two covers when you join my email list at SaganMorrow.com/behindthescenes.

Second, consider the colours and fonts you want to use. 

Since my series is called Polyamorous Passions, I really liked the idea of red as an important branding colour: red is traditionally a passionate colour, after all. The only issue with this is that it’s difficult to find images that match the exact red colour used in the title, so now, I kind of need to avoid red dresses in stock images and that kind of thing—it tends to clash with the base red colour used in the branding. So that’s certainly something you’ll want to keep in mind.

Since my stories are fun, lighthearted romances, I wanted a whimsical, stylized font: something that’s fun and aesthetically pleasing, and also still readable. That’s why I chose Hesterica. It took quite a lot of searching through fonts, but I love it! I’ve actually since made it the main cursive font that I use everywhere else in my business, such as with my business name and e-course titles.

Third, the image itself should somehow reflect the story. 

You don’t want to just slap a random stock photo on the cover of your book and call it a day! What can you do to capture some element of your story? 

For example, Helen’s workplace is a really important element of her story in Books 4 - 6 of the Polyamorous Passions series, so the covers all have a sexy office vibe.

Fourth, compare what this cover looks like compared to others in your genre. 

You want your book to stand out, and also at the same time, you want readers to recognize what to expect from reading your book. I like looking at the Amazon bestseller list in my genre to see if there are any recurring patterns in cover design styles, colours, etc.

Fifth, if it’s a series, make sure there’s cohesiveness! 

This was my other big problem with the original cover for She Wants More—it didn’t match with the other books in the trilogy. Since then, I’ve been very careful to find stock photos of the models in a few different possible positions so that this is easier to do. You want the covers to have cohesion, without them looking identical to one another.

Sixth, take your time. 

For my latest romcom, Her Bad Idea, I created a spreadsheet to track the URL of a bunch of different stock photos from Deposit Photo. I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted for the cover, so I tried using a bunch of different keywords as search terms, such as “burlesque dancer” and “sexy couple dancing” and “romantic dance.” Anytime I saw a photo that looked like it could theoretically be a decent fit for my story, I’d add the link to the spreadsheet. I wound up with dozens and dozens of URLs. 

A couple days later, I went through and deleted any that weren’t quite right after all. I narrowed it down to about three or four, I think, then let it sit and thought about it for a while—especially considering how the image would look with my red branding and the Hesterica font, and also how it would look on an Amazon page full of books. 

By the way, the cover design for Her Bad Idea is my favourite cover of any of my books so far! You should definitely check it out—search “Her Bad Idea” on your favourite e-bookstore, or visit SaganMorrow.com/books. Link is in the show notes.

Seventh, listen to designers and ask for other opinions. 

Your book cover designer knows what they’re doing! You hired them for their expertise. If they have recommendations, or if they say, “This would look better if we change this aspect,” then they probably know what they’re talking about. When in doubt, ask a trusted friend for their thoughts; they’ll be able to have more distance from the project than you. One of my best friends is an avid romance reader, so I find her input so helpful when I’m trying to decide between a couple different cover options.

The other thing I’ve found really handy is to post on Twitter or Instagram Stories for feedback from my followers: I’ve provided them two or three different possible cover designs and created polls or asked for their opinions. People love sharing their thoughts on stuff like that! And if they are your followers, then they’ll probably be interested in reading your books, so you should REALLY listen to what they have to say. 

So there you have it! That’s my general process, thus far, for choosing a cover image and design. To recap, in case you want to replicate it, this process includes: 

  1. Think about the feel of your book
  2. Consider what colours & fonts you want to use
  3. Make sure the image reflects the story in some way
  4. Compare this cover image idea to others in your genre
  5. Make sure that book covers within a series have some degree of cohesion
  6. Take your time
  7. Listen to designers and ask other people for their opinions

Now, I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you buy books based on the cover? What type of covers are your favourite? 

Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram, @Saganlives, to chat about it, or to let me know if you have requests for future episode topics. The more you tell me what you’d like to see more of on this podcast, the better that I can accommodate that. 

If you enjoyed this episode, please take 2 minutes to share this podcast on social media and subscribe and rate it on Apple Podcasts—any time you share it or leave a rating or review, it helps more listeners find the Indie Author Weekly podcast, so every bit counts! I really appreciate your support. 

And let’s stay in touch: Get podcast and book updates delivered directly to your inbox, plus unlock awesome bonuses such as free chapters of my books, at SaganMorrow.com/behindthescenes—link is in the show notes.

Thanks so much for tuning in to the Indie Author Weekly podcast, and I will see you in the next episode.