Posted On January 8, 2016 by Print This Post

I Need a Book Cover – Now What do I do? by Carrie Peters

Welcome to book designer (and RU staffer) Carrie Peters – here to tell us what to look for, and how to be prepared for our ebook cover. Take it away, Carrie!

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to make book covers. I had some design experience, some Photoshop skills and desire. Out of that desire came a small book cover design company called Cheeky Covers – Ebook covers at cheeky prices. This past year I made over 200 covers. =)

The old saying A Picture is Worth a 1000 words? Yeah, it’s true. If you are an author in search of a cover for your ebook, it’s best to go into it with both eyes wide open. First, go to Amazon or Smashwords and study other books in your genre. Which ones are the best sellers? Take a good hard look at those covers. Something about them has caught a lot of eyes. Check out the placement and size of the characters. The fonts for the title. The colors, etc.

Don’t move! Stay there on Amazon a bit longer. Look at other best-selling books NOT in your genre. Again, study their layout and design. What appeals to YOU as a reader? What doesn’t? If you can remember, make a mental list. If you’re like the rest of us with too-many-things-on-our-minds, go ahead and start a Word document with things you do and don’t like. Things you might want on your cover.

LoaL_smLOOK! Go through some stock photography sites to see if what you want is out there. If you’re looking for a 6’ tall maiden in a red fur-lined pelisse, see if you can find it or something similar. If not, you may have to adjust your view of your cover.

Go Forth and Seek – go through the book cover designer sites. Check out their portfolios and their testimonials page. Read their ABOUT/BIO page and see if it sounds like someone you could work with.  Email some of their past clients and see what they thought about their cover and the design experience. Make your first, second and third choices.

Ok, so you’ve done your homework. You’ve got a good idea of what you’d like for your cover, you’ve found some photos that could work for your fabulous couple on the front. It’s time to contact the designer.

Introduce yourself, send a short blurb of your book and if you are on a short timeline, now is the time to mention it. You will generally receive a response in 24 hours or less. Didn’t get a response? Check your spam folder – I’ve lost more clients this way!

If your designer sounds like she can work with your time frame and your subject matter, you’ll start a dialogue that will make the difference between the design you want and the design you struggle to get. All that prep work you did is about to pay off.

NF_box_smThe designer will have a list of questions…answer as honestly as possible. Use your research to answer the questions. If you want a cover with a banner on the front, be very up front about it. If you really want to use “this” picture you found on a stock photography site, but is there any way you can get the dress to be blue? Ask!

What a designer can and can’t do – we can’t change clothes on your photographed model. Want to make the businessman photo you found into a 16th century barbarian with fur leggings? Chances are we can’t do that. Need hair color/dress color changed? We can do that. Hate the full beard and man-bun your model has? Er…sometimes that can be fixed, most times not without a LOT of photoshopping. Expensive photoshopping. Sometimes it really is easier to sound like Marie Antoinette and say “Off with their heads!” It leaves something to the readers imagination as well. Your model is holding a gun but you’d rather he held a sabre? Sometimes, we can do that. Again, keep your line of communication open, but always do ask about the price. You might think it’s simple to just stick a sabre in his hand, your designer might change you quite a bit extra for photoshopping that in there.

Communicate – Good communication with your designer is a must. If you’ve chosen your photos but don’t like the way the title blends in with her dress? Ask to see it in a different color. Don’t be antagonistic, just ask and say why you’d like the change. Are you on a tight budget? Tell your designer how much you have to spend, they’ll find photos that will work better in your price range.

BEK_smBe Specific – If you have a stock photo you want to use, but don’t want their heads on the cover? Say it right at the beginning. Do you want a castle in the background? A black horse featured somewhere? Gold lettering? Ask it right up front. You might find your “vision” is not exactly what you were looking for, but it will save your designer hours of work later down the road.

Ask for prices – Generally a price isn’t decided on until the actual photos are chosen. Some covers are beautifully made with one or two photos, some require 5 or more. A designer should be able to give you a ball park figure once the main photos are chosen.

Study up! –Your designer will send you some comp images. Don’t panic if they seem a bit blurry, things aren’t centered, the type is the wrong color, etc. These are comps. The images are not purchased as of yet, the text is a placeholder and they’re just to give you a general idea. Thought you really wanted that rearing stallion in the background? Now that you see it, you realize it isn’t the look for your book at all. Tell your designer to nix that idea. This stage is what I call the Jell-O stage. Everything can be moved around, it’s still all liquid and hasn’t quite set up yet. Tell your designer what you like and what you don’t, then you’ll get a second round of comps.

wyatt_smAsk your friends, but go with your instincts. Show your comp images around. Get advice from some of your author and non-author friends. But, go with your own instinct. Does something about the eyes on this character just give you the “feel”? Do you love the red title and everyone else likes the blue? Listen to what they have to say, but go with your gut instinct.

Ok, at this point in time you’re completely buried under in possibilities for your cover. Maybe two stand out. Maybe three. Line them up in a graphics program or print them out and just look. Which catches your eye the most? Chances are none of them will look like you envisioned at the beginning, but they’re improved – smoothed out – starting to feel real.

Below you’ll see the metamorphosis of “Finding Lara” by Kelly Lucille. Be prepared to change your idea of what you want on your cover, to what will look best on your cover.


Good. It’s time to take the leap and tell your designer which one you want for real. In no time you’ll have your cover to submit to Amazon/Smashwords and your book will be live and out there in the world for everyone to see.

Congratulations, my friend, and best of luck in sales.


Got questions about your cover? I’m in and out all day, but will answer as soon as I can!



Bio: Carrie Peters writes smart ass romance. She belongs to Romance Writers of America,  Romance Writers Online and was a former Girl Scout. Her badges included Collecting, Leadership and the coveted World Trefoil Pin. Carrie works as a restaurant manager, bookcover and website designer, and is learning to use a flat iron. Her claims to fame include: 50-pound bicep curls, stirring up a mean Mai Tai and concocting an even meaner Long Island Iced Tea. She lives in rural Iowa with four cats. For more about Carrie, head over to

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8 Responses to “I Need a Book Cover – Now What do I do? by Carrie Peters”

  1. This is awesome info! I love working with you on my covers. It still amazes me how we do all of this via email, and you take what starts out as a vague-ish idea in my mind and turn it into a cover that gives me a ZING. 🙂

    I’ve learned how important the thumbnail cover size is. Some things I wanted to do in the beginning didn’t show up, or it looked murky at that size. And since that’s the first view readers get, it’s important to make things look good at that size. Which you do!

    Posted by Donna Cummings | January 8, 2016, 4:51 am
  2. Morning Donna!

    I agree, thumbnail size is super important! You’ll want the entire image and the text to come across even though you might want a tiny picture of a raven in the corner of your cover (and who wouldn’t!?) remember it’s only going to show up as a small dot in the size you see on Amazon.

    If you don’t have the ability to resize the image to thumbnail size yourself, ask your designer!



    Posted by Carrie Peters | January 8, 2016, 8:18 am
  3. Hi Carrie,

    How much do you need to know about the story before creating a cover? What elements of the story, if any, should be on the cover?

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | January 8, 2016, 4:07 pm
    • Hey Jen!

      Usually reading the blurb and the synopses helps pinpoint the story. Sometimes I’ve asked to read chapters – and on occasion- the entire book if I feel the author and I aren’t connecting on what the cover should look like.

      As for elements on the cover – your cover needs to speak the genre you’re writing in – loudly. A cozy mystery has a certain look to it, as does a thriller, as does a rom com. But please, don’t try to put everything on your cover! It’s like the first line of your story, it doesn’t need to tell everything, just enough to lure the reader in.



      Posted by Carrie Peters | January 8, 2016, 10:02 pm
  4. This is fascinating! I’ve always been curious about how cover designs are chosen, down to the size and style of the font. I never paid much attention to cover details until some of my author friends sent me first – and second – drafts, asking for opinions, and mentioned their concerns. Especially with historical romance, there were a LOT of things I hadn’t considered!

    While I rarely (I won’t say never) buy a book because of its cover, I often pick up a book because the cover is appealing or intriguing or sometimes, just beautiful. And then if the back cover blurb and/or first pages hook me, I buy it.

    Thanks so much for this post – it really opened my eyes to how tricky covers can be!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 8, 2016, 11:15 pm
    • Hey Becke…

      I’m your polar…the cover has to hook me first or I won’t even look at the blurb most times. I’m a visual gal!

      Historical romance covers are difficult…getting the right time period and setting, making sure there isn’t a stray electrical pole in the… happens!

      Thanks Becke!


      Posted by Carrie Peters | January 9, 2016, 9:12 am
  5. Is there research on what makes certain covers sell? I wondered if certain colors sell better than others, or certain types of images or fonts on the binding?

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | January 8, 2016, 11:22 pm
    • Definitely research your genre…different styles and colors sell depending on each genre. Do you remember Fabio? Back in the day almost any historical cover with Fabio or a similar looking model would sell extremely well. Nowadays it changes….so be sure – as an author! – to do your research first before you even contact a book cover designer.

      Bindings aren’t as important as they once were when all books were in brick and mortar stores….now most self published print books are purchased on Amazon, and the spine has become somewhat superfluous…


      Posted by Carrie Peters | January 9, 2016, 9:15 am

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