The Development of a Book Cover

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 11.14.01We all know that the maxim, ‘ you can’t judge a book by it’s cover,’ is nonsense when it comes to the actual reality of this metaphor. I’m not sure about exact numbers but somewhere in the region of 80% of the buying decision is made from the front cover. Most of which is made in the first few seconds.

The cover is hugely important and so it’s important to get it right. When you accompany this with Author Branding as well, having a good relationship with your Cover Designer is compulsory. I’m fortunate in this regard because my Cover Designer happens to be my best friend, Simon Raine, who I’ve known since I was 5. In this post I’m going to show you the progression that my latest cover has made and explain how the iterative process worked.

Like I say, I’m lucky to know someone who can do this for me but I think some kind of relationship between the author and even a freelance designer is important. It’s a strange dichotomy because it’s like trusting someone else to put a face on your baby. You have to trust this person, respect their creative opinion but ultimately you, as the author, have to be happy with it.

I imagine that any cover will require some level of two-way interaction in order to bring it home. It’s also one of the benefits of being self-published, we actually have a say in this component. So, let me explain how Simon came up with the final design at the top of this post which, by the way, I’m ecstatic about.

Firstly, I sent him a cover brief which details a number of different aspects of the book. You can see it below:

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 10.44.44


Next comes Simon’s opening gambit. We decided together this time that it would be quicker if he concentrated on sketches at first so that I could give him direction without wasting too much time. Here’s an example:

Plaster Scene Concept 01


I was keen to replicate the themes from my first novel, The Great Corporate Escape, and so the silhouette of a man was in keeping. I liked this sketch a lot at the time and so it was then just about putting the right colours to it.

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 10.56.58



It moved to this because we were focussing on it being a night scene but this did not fit with the summery feel I wanted it to have, so we went back to the drawing board.

Huts Sketch 01

I really wanted it to have a sixties feel because of the story and so this led to the next version which suddenly became a lot closer.

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 11.02.22

However, at this stage I still wasn’t happy with the colours so we then had a whole host of different versions, which each got nearer than the last.


This pretty much nailed the colours and then it was all about getting the font right. Simon had a great idea to put the green and white lines in the background and this really brings the image out.


Then finally we looked at some 60’s posters and found this font and, at last, I was happy. Simon breathed a huge sigh of relief and went to lay down.

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 11.14.01


This is how my baby was given a face. So, as you can see, there are a number of iterations before you finally reach the end point. The strength of the relationship with your designer is critical in order to pass on your vision.

Just to finish, here’s a comparison between the two covers. They’re similar enough without looking anything like each other. Perfect.

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 11.25.06


Until next time…





11 responses to “The Development of a Book Cover

  1. Reblogged this on mishaburnett and commented:
    A nice piece of the evolution of a cover.

  2. Very interesting, and something to look back on when I get to this stage. Thanks for this 🙂

  3. Very cool post! I went through the cover design process last year, but I did it through a third party middle-man, so I didn’t have nearly the control you did with your cover. I think the final cover looks fantastic, so nicely done 🙂

  4. Hope you don’t mind – I’ve copied your concise and elegant Cover Design Brief form.

    Covers are exceedingly important, even for ebooks (where the reader won’t be holding an actual book with its cover showing). Or maybe even MORE important for ebooks – since that’s how most people first see the book for sale on one of the online retailers.

    I think it’s a bit easier to have a cover done if you have a genre to evoke on it; I’m struggling with all the bits and pieces of designing the ‘look’ of a cover which somehow says ‘mainstream,’ so I keep my eyes open for articles like this one – thanks for the illustrated example, and good luck with the books.

    • Not at all, feel free to use whatever you want.

      Try and find examples of other covers you like the look of. This can help in communicating the right look and feel that you’re going for.

  5. Simon Raine is surely a great guy and a fine designer, but I am not convinced that this cover is right for the book as you describe it. I have not gone to Amazon to see what kinds of covers adorn the books your book should be shelved with (you mention Hornby, Nobbs, Fielding), and perhaps this fits. It certainly says late-1960s-early-1970s, and it says humor, but does it suggest the theme, subject, setting, issues? I did not think of the “plaster casters” when I read the title, my bad, and I can understand why you do not want a title that screams genre (wandering the mystery or western shelves reveals how important key words are in genre titles, I think, but I know you are not writing in a traditional genre). I sheepishly admit, maybe if the artist had been the estimable Jessica Raines, not Simon Raine, I would have been utterly approving. If any book ever earned the right to include something vaguely phallic on the cover, yours appears to be it. An aside: I know you believe that self-publishers should have covers that look professional, and I think that the industry practice seems to be to have the words “a novel” or “a novel by” on the cover.

  6. Hi Michael, just discovered your blog (and pointed a friend to your Scrivener howtos). I really enjoy step-by-step accounts of the creative decision-making process. You only get this kind of insight if you work closely and collaboratively with your artist (or indeed editor, or any other project partner).
    I like your limited-palette covers, and the carry-through of the author font between titles. As you say, similar enough, but not restricting your new artwork.
    Will be checking back for more;) Good luck with your book.

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