Last Updated: June 20, 2021
The book cover design stage of self-publishing is an exciting process for indie authors, as they can experience their book visually come to life as it prepares for the marketplace. When getting ready to work with a book cover artist or self-publishing design company, there are key components you must have in place in order for your cover designer to successfully complete both the graphics and formatting of your book cover. While some elements are optional, be sure to have these important elements ready:
Getting ready to publish your book, choosing the right platform is the first and important step. With many great, popular options for indie authors including Amazon's KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), IngramSpark (which allows for distribution through Barnes & Nobles), BookBaby, and Lulu, this will be the basis for printing and distributing your book to your readers. Each platform also has specific cover templates that you must generate, download, and share with your cover designer.
How you would like your book to be presented to your readers is next in determining the type of design and specifications needed to get started. Choosing an e-book, paperback, hardcover wrap, and/or dust jacket cover all require different formatting with different design components as well. A dust-jacket, for example, contains front and back interior flaps that allow for more content (for example, an author bio, series advertisement, or dedication), whereas a paperback or hardcover wrap does not. Be sure to have your desired formats selected for your cover designer so that they can plan the design and formatting accordingly.
While seemingly simple, the book cover size you select will play an important part in the eventual cover template you will need to generate and provide to your cover designer. If you were to select a paperback cover size of 6 inches by 9 inches, for example, you must also have your manuscript formatted to a 6 inch by 9 inch page size to ensure consistent formatting. This transitions to the next vital component below:
Having your manuscript finalized and formatted is an extremely crucial step in having your book ready for any type of printed, full-cover design. This is due to the fact that each publishing platform (such as KDP and IngramSpark) generates specific cover templates that match both the finalized page count and page size of your formatted manuscript. Page counts from unformatted and/or incomplete manuscripts will generate invalid templates that will prevent your book from being printed. This is due to the fact that page counts alter the spine width of books during production; even a small difference of a 230-page book versus a 240-page book will make an impact on spine width. As a general rule, it is best to wait on any print cover design until the formatted page count has been obtained and finalized to avoid any issues.
As a direct result of having your formatted manuscript and final page count ready, the book cover template is a requirement for all print cover designs. Self-publishing platforms such as KDP and IngramSpark both have cover template generators that will allow you to create the templates you need to supply to your cover designer. Typically, these book cover templates will ask for the above information, including the cover type (e.g. paperback, hardcover wrap), your selected cover size, the page count of your final, formatted manuscript, as well as the desired page/paper color. Once the template is generated, you can share template with your cover designer in a variety of valid formats, including the .PNG, .PDF, and .INDD file versions of the cover template.
While it is rare for an author to not have their book title ready for their cover designer, it does happen on occassion and can cause some problems to occur during the design process of the front/e-book cover. A title of 'The Lost Kingdom' versus the title of 'The Lost Kingdom of the Arcadians,' for example, can alter the layout and composition of the cover due to fluctuations in title words and length. Be sure to have your finalized book title ready for your cover designer before any art or design work begins, especially if the cover designer was hired to do any custom lettering for your cover as well.
For the same reasons as the book title, be sure to have your author name ready, let it be your full name, pen name, or other preferred author name.
If you would like your series name to appear on the cover, definitely share it with your cover designer so that they can include it seamlessly into the design, especially if you wish to include a symbol, emblem, or other series graphic on the cover as well.
Like the series name, be sure to provide your cover design with your tagline so that they can incorporate it on the front or back cover design.
One of the most important aspects of marketing your book, having your finalized blurb ready for the back cover ready is a must. Be sure to clearly indicate important areas of your blurb, including breaks between paragraphs as well as any possible headers or quotes that you would like boldened or emphasized by your cover designer.
If you are generating your own ISBN, be sure to share it with your cover designer so that it can be placed in the appropriate location on the back cover. This may not be needed if publishing solely with KDP, as KDP allows for a free ISBN that is generated and added to the cover after the full cover design is uploaded to their platform. The ISBN can also be sent in a variety of file formats, including .JPEG, .PNG, and .PDF.
Definitely have your author bio ready to share with your cover designer so that it can be incorporated seamlessly with the back cover copy. Most author bios are brief paragraph and can include a website link and/or social media handle as well.
Have a high-quality photo of yourself ready to supply your cover designer with to accompany your author bio. Due to the limited space on most back covers, it is optimal to provide a clean, well-lit headshot of yourself in .JPEG, .PNG., or .TIFF format.
Last but not least, if you have your own publishing company or press with a logo that you can share with your designer, be sure to send it in .JPEG, .PNG, or .SVG format so that it can be added to the spine and/or back cover.