Our thanks to J.C. Sasser for this guest contribution, a realistic look at the book cover design process and how you might arrive at the right cover for your book.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to collaborate with my publisher and their cover designers in the creation of the book cover design for Gradle Bird. Below is the 10-step process and the final reveal of Gradle Bird’s cover.

Step 1: My publisher asks me for some ideas on cover design.

These were my ideas and inspiration:

Step 2: Publisher calls to let me know he’s not impressed.

Publisher: “Jana, you know, I love your title. Do you know why I love your title?”
Me: “No, why?”
Publisher: “Because I don’t know what a Gradle Bird is.”
Me: “You read the book, you ought to know.”
Publisher: “Don’t be a smart-ass. I need you to dig deeper. What does a Gradle Bird look like?”

Step 3: Author digs deeper.

This is the result of my dig:

Step 4: Designers produce first round of covers.Step 5: Review and critique first round of covers.

They are each interesting, but not quite right.

Step 6: Drive my publisher insane by sending him idea after idea after idea.

I realize something: I secretly want to be a book cover designer.

Step 7: Publisher asks book designers to dig deeper.

I wait, fingers crossed… hoping they get the right “mix” of elements I want to see – unique, intriguing, southern gothic!

Step 8: Designers produce second round of covers.Step 9: Select two covers for Koehler Books Cover Polls.

After we pick a couple, the publisher puts them up on the website where people can vote on their favorite cover http://www.koehlerbooks.com/cover-polls/

Step 10: We Pick the WINNER!

What I learned through this fun but sometimes nerve-wracking journey:

  • It is an iterative and deeply emotional process
  • The book cover must incite a visual first impression and a visual narrative of the text
  • I am an author, not a book cover designer

Below is a great TED Talk video on what book cover design is all about. Take a look, and then tell me, what do you think of the process? Any authors want to share your experiences with your own book cover design?

J.C. Sasser is the author of the much-anticipated debut novel, Gradle Bird, releasing from Koehler Books June 15, 2017. The book has been selected by the Pulpweed Queens Book Club as a 2017 book club read. To learn more, visit JCSasserBooks.com or pre-order Gradle Bird HERE.

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2 thoughts on “10 Steps to Book Cover Design: from an Author’s Birdseye View

  • March 27, 2017 at 3:40 pm
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    Terrific piece, and thanks for sharing. I told the story of my book cover on a Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/stevepiacente/bella-cover-story/

    • March 29, 2017 at 11:14 pm
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      That’s fantastic, Steve, and another GREAT way for a fiction author to use Pinterest — we’ll share that ’round!

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