• Sofia Sawyer

5 Tips for Finding Cover Designers

Earlier this year, I had decided to self-publish. I was all ready to go, researching the endless information on what needed to be done. I joined Facebook groups, attended webinars, and studied books. Fast forward to April, and I was privileged enough to sign with a literary agent for my Christmas Romance Saving the Winchester Inn. In signing with the agent, I believed the process of studying and understanding the world of publishing would need to stop.


Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

As I worked with my agent, I found the traditional publishing route is super long. Like, way long. And even after going back and forth with edits, polishing the manuscript, getting the query and pitch right, and waiting for months after submitting to editors, the book still might not get sold. Whether it gets picked up or not, something about this whole thing became glaringly obvious: there’s a lot of wasted time.


The writing community is amazing. I’ve learned so much from indie, trad, and hybrid authors. One thing that stuck out to me was the fact that even if a traditional publisher buys your book, it doesn’t mean they take the reins and you get to sit back and relax. No. Your work is not over. For one, they expect you to market your book. Being a first-time author, I don’t properly know how to do that. Sure, I’m a marketer in my 9 to 5, but book marketing is a whole other beast. It’s a different audience and requires you to know different platforms and tools I have yet to use.


Therefore, I decided to self-publish (again) some of my other books as I await the fate of Saving the Winchester Inn. If it’s sold, I will have used the waiting period as a chance to build up a fan-base (hopefully) and learn the ins and outs of marketing effectively (again, hopefully). So when the book is *finally* published, I’ll have built some excellent skills to market it. And, if the manuscript doesn’t sell, then I wouldn’t have wasted a year or so of my life waiting to launch my writing career.


If there’s one thing I wished I’d done when I first started writing, it would have been to start doing all this stuff sooner. I know it’s scary to put yourself out there, and sometimes it may feel like you’re never ready. But once you finally get to the point that you are—eager to get your books out into the wild—you’ll realize there’s a shit ton to learn before you can even get started.


Anyhoot, I’ve been ramping up to self-publish my romantic suspense manuscript. Therefore, I’ve been spending these last few weeks scouting out editors and cover designers, which has been a learning process in of itself. If you’re a newbie too, here are a few things I learned through the process of finding cover designers.


Look at the Best Sellers and Top Rated


Looking at the best sellers or top rated books in your genre category and subcategories on Amazon is a good starting point. Depending on the category, it can be a little tricky to break it down (if you know of an easier way, PLEASE LET ME KNOW). For example, I checked out the mystery/thriller category.


I went to Amazon, selected the “Books” dropdown on the search bar, and searched. From there, you’ll look at the “Shop by Category” section and select the category most related to your book. In this instance, it was mystery/thriller. From the semi-top under the orange text displaying the category name, I selected “best sellers.” From there, I was able to look at best sellers in the paid and free categories. This list changes pretty regularly, so I’d suggest looking back to see if themes change.


For larger categories, you may not have the option to select bestsellers, unfortunately. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find top rated books. This is still very valuable. I would suggest breaking it down as far as you can. For example, romance is a massive genre with a ton of categories that fall under it. To break it down, go to the left-hand side and click on a subcategory. From there, you can filter by top-rated.


As you go through this exercise, look to see if there seems to be a common theme in the design. Do illustrations work best? Punchy colors? Sharp contrast? Sexy people? Aside from identifying a specific look within the category, make sure you’re also noting ones that resonate with you. It’s your book, after all.


Look at Your Favorite Authors


I read a ton, typically the genres I like to write. Therefore, I sorted through my Kindle for book covers that really wowed me. When I looked at the front matter of the book, I usually found information on who edited the book and the name of the cover designer. Most of the time, this information is found on the copyright page or the acknowledgments page.


After I get their names, I’ll do a Google search to see if they have a website, Facebook page or group, or if they’re available on any of the freelance sites.


Reach Out to Your Writing Community


If you aren’t already in the many Facebook groups dedicated to writers, be sure to join. If it’s a particularly large and active group, you’ll be able to do a quick search within the group to see if other people have posted a question about cover designers. From there, you can see the responses. If the group is smaller, just leave a post and see what people suggest.


Or, some of the larger groups may have a standing post with all the information on there. For example, 20BooksTo50K® is a group that has a stared post that leads to a Google Doc with valuable information, including links to a lengthy and active post that provide cover designer suggestions.


Additionally, if you feel comfortable reaching out to authors posting on social media, feel free to shoot them a message. I’ve messaged a handful of authors on Instagram recently, and they were more than happy to share the name of their designer.


Leverage Freelance Sites


You can also look for designers on one of the many reputable freelance sites. What’s great about these sites is that you can see customer ratings, their resume, and a portfolio of their work. Also, you have some form of protection when it comes to payment since it’s processed through a third-party.


A lot of people have suggested Upwork and Fiverr as options for freelance sites. I personally leveraged Reedsy because I was familiar with their platform before.


Important Note


I’ve found that several quality designers have a decent waiting period. The same is true for editors. Majority of the designers I’ve reached out to have about a two to three month waiting period before their schedules open up. Then, it can be another few weeks for the completed design. Some designers may not even accept new clients until the following year! If you have a specific deadline for when you want to publish, or you have a particular designer you absolutely love, make sure you keep that in mind.


It’s been quite the learning experience these last few weeks, but I somehow feel energized by it. It’s exciting to learn these new things and to feel like I’m actually making progress with my writing career. I can’t wait to see what comes out of it!

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