At SparkPress, we may be at the start of our Spring 2018 season—but we are already starting work on creating the gorgeous covers for our Spring 2019 season. But a cover doesn’t come out of thin air. We want our covers to be stunning and true to genre, while still drawing inspiration from the source. Of course, we want our brilliant designers, authors, Ingram sales team, and readers all to be on the same page, drawn into the visual.

Our handful of cover designers do not have the time to read each book before creating the perfect cover (and in many cases, the manuscript isn’t even complete before the cover is designed!), so we have an internal cover memo for our authors to fill out to help shape the image in the mind’s eye.

We aren’t going too in depth here (our cover design process is one of the secrets to our success!), but here are a handful of the questions we use to create our covers. Asking these questions may help you both better understand your book and start to envision how it could best be visually represented.

Make a list of ten adjectives that describe your book.
This will be salient themes, and will likely help determine a color pallet.

Make a list of ten adjectives that do NOT describe your book.
This is just as important as the adjectives that do. This tells our cover designers what to avoid.

Where does your book take place? In what time period?
This may seem obvious, but if left out when describing your book, the cover could end up totally wrong. Be as specific as possible.

Who is your ideal reader?
Describe in detail. Gender? Age? Interests? Different versions of a cover may appeal to different demographics, so identify your ideal reader to give the cover designer a direction.

Having examples of book covers you like that you think could be similar is always a good idea. If there is a central theme, mood, or symbol, this may also inform the designer of a direction or important element to include.

While your happiness with the cover is important, remember to keep an open mind. People should be able to guess the genre based solely on the cover. Our publisher and cover designer have years of industry expertise and know what works best; after all, the goal is to sell your book into the marketplace, so we need you to work with us. If something isn’t working for you, tell us, and we’ll do the same. It’s not going to be exactly what you imagined. But if we work together, we think you’ll be happy—and so will the sales reps!

Please note that this collaborative process is unique to the hybrid publishing business model. In traditional publishing, authors often get very little say on their covers.

Hungry for more cover design tips and knowledge? Our Art Director, Julie Metz, has a series on this blog, Ask the Designer, where she discusses some of the interesting aspects of crafting covers for our authors.

Check out Julie’s three most recent Ask the Designer posts here:
Do Mystery and Magic Have a Color?
Intense vs. Playful Cover Design in 2017
Finding the Right Visuals for Fictional Worlds