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Working With a Cover Designer

Alessandra Torre, NYT Bestselling Author

Working with a cover designer for the first time can be an intimidating process. Luckily, we had two authors hold a roundtable on this topic at Inkers Con 2022. Patricia Bates and Caralyn Young provided the following tips.


You can purchase a premade cover from a designer or hire one for a custom design. The first path can often feel like looking for a needle in a haystack, but there are some sites like Book Cover Zone or The Book Cover Designer that have large libraries of premade covers. Purchasing from these sites is pretty foolproof, inexpensive, and fast. The negative of premade covers is that they often use stock imagery that will appear on other covers – and you might not find something that perfectly fits your vision and needs.

If you’re looking for a custom designer, one of the best ways to find cover designers is to ask other authors in your genre for their recommendations. If you don’t have access to other authors, you can always look on the copyright page of books whose covers you like (this is available using the LOOK INSIDE feature on – the cover designer should be listed there. Book Cover Design Marketplace on FB is also a great group to find designers in.

Finding a cover designer is a bit like dating – you might have to speak to several designers before you find one that is a good fit for you.


Here are the things to consider when picking a designer :

  • View their portfolio (which is normally on their website).
    • You want to make sure that their style appeals to you and that they work in your genre. It’s important that you pick a designer familiar with your genre and the trends/fonts/colors that will appeal to those readers.
  • Ask for and examine their terms of service.
    • How can the book cover be used? Is it (or the images used) exclusive to you, or are they stock images? Do they cover the cost of the images and provide all of the proper licenses for you?
    • The cost of the design sometimes includes images and fonts but often does not. If you want exclusive images, those can run into the thousands of dollars – so most designers work with stock images. That means that other covers will contain these same images, but often the designer can make them unique with their design skills.
    • It’s important that you understand the licenses you will have. A lot of stock images and fonts are restricted in their use, and you can only use them for 500,000 sales (if you sell more than that, that’s great! You can normally purchase a bigger license at that time). But what if you want to put your cover on and sell t-shirts, mugs, bookmarks, or bags? Does the license include that?
  • What is their turnaround time?
    • Cover designers can work in as little as 48 hours or as long as six weeks. They also often have a waitlist (sometimes as long as 6-12 months), so it’s important that you know their availability and turnaround time.
  • How much does it cost?
    • Designers often have tiered packages that can offer just an ebook cover, or a full suite of teasers, bookmarks, print, audiobook, and ebook options. They may also charge per round of editing, or restrict you to a certain number of changes, so it’s important for you to know what you’re getting for the cost. Don’t forget to ask about the images and fonts, and if they are included.
    • You also need to know the payment terms. It’s common for designers to ask for 50% up front and then 50% upon delivery – but if you are a new author who they don’t trust or know, they might ask for everything up front. If you pay with PayPal or a credit card, you will be protected against any problems that might crop up.
  • What are the deliverables? An ebook, audio, and print options?
    • You will often need all three of these things. You may also want an advance review copy cover that might be slightly different than the final – or a hardcover version with inner flaps.
  • What changes can be made to the cover after they deliver it to the author?
    • Are they the only person authorized to make changes to it? This is important because you might want to swap out a tagline, add a bestseller or award notation, change your pen name in the future, or publish a foreign edition with the foreign title. Some designers require that all changes go through them (and they charge for those edits). Ask if you can purchase the layered psd file if you expect to make changes in the future. They might charge for that, or they might include it.


Once you’ve found a designer whose terms and deliverables you agreed with, it’s time to open communication. Provide the designer with your genre, blurb, and a selection of example covers that you like. The more clear direction you can give them of your vision and preferences, the better.

If you are an Inkers Con 2023 attendee, be sure to check out Elements of Click-worthy Cover Design by Rebekah Haskell. If you aren’t a 2023 attendee yet, it’s not too late to purchase access.

The upcoming 2024 Inkers Con conference offers dozens of brand new classes (including Data-Driven Cover Design by Laura Hildago), Q&As, author discussions and more! Join us in Dallas or online!