Book Cover Design, Part Three

Let’s do a quick recap:

We looked at starting your research, where you made lists of design ideas, and built your own vision for your book cover. We had a little heart to heart about the different price ranges available to you depending on your budget.

Now, let’s take a look at how long it might take to go from lists and ideas to a book cover in your inbox.

What Kind of Time Will a Book Cover Design Take?

Anywhere from from two days, to two weeks, to eight months.

What kind of an answer is that? Well, every author has a different situation for their ideas and budget. It depends upon the artist or company you choose, and how much research you’ve already done on what you want. Perhaps my own experience will help.

I Thought It Would Take Two Weeks To Find My Own Book Cover

I like to think I’m a pretty decisive person. I was optimistic. In two weeks, I thought I would find and choose a designer, and have at least a draft in my inbox that I liked. Looking back, I realize now that was incredibly optimistic, but not realistic for where I was.

I wanted to publish my book quickly, but I didn’t really know my budget or what kind of design I wanted. I hadn’t really made lists or thought about my ideas for the cover design in an organized way. As a result, finding the right company or artist to with with took longer.

My Own Personal Timeline:

I finished editing my book with my editor in October of 2016, minus small tweaks. I thought that after everything else I had accomplished, the cover design would be quick and easy and then *poof* I would be done. How hard could it be?

Well… let’s just say that my lists became more like a tangled web with lots of question marks, and more than a few expletives. But that’s okay. Lesson learned. It’s February of 2017 and my book cover designs are still being tweaked. Cover design was the last step for me, and one that I definitely underestimated.

Back in October, I was convinced that CreateSpace (a company owned by Amazon) would be able to do a cover I would like. It seemed a safe option. They must have experience with fantasy books, right?

Well, that was until I realized I hadn’t looked at exactly what the service they offered included. I wouldn’t be able to provide much input, or change anything without change fees, and the $399 they charged didn’t include any customizing at all. Suddenly, CreateSpace became the worst rip-off out there for cover design. Who doesn’t want to provide input on their book cover? That’s part of why authors self-publish…

At the beginning of November, I spent hours pouring over independent artists on Upwork (See Book Cover Design Part Two to learn more) and I found an artist, Vanessa Mendozzi, whose book cover designs I loved. Of course, they were all fiction – not fantasy. But they looked gorgeous.

I contacted her, but we both quickly realized that fantasy wasn’t her passion, and that would show. To authors publishing more general fiction, I envy you, and recommend you check her work out. (Sorry, no idea on her pricing, we didn’t get that far)

By the end of November, I was making better lists (realizing belatedly how useful they were) and found a company I really wanted to work with: Bookfly Design. They were expensive, but their work was beautiful. I convinced myself that $799 was worth the price to pay for an ebook and paperback cover I loved, plus a few marketing extras.

Then, I contacted them. And they said they could fit me in starting in May. That’s right, this was back in November. Cue spiral of panic that no one good would be available at short notice. If I had waited for them, a book cover design would have taken about eight months.

By December, I had convinced myself that I might get lucky going with a company called Damonza, that had a few gems in their past inventory. Their Urban Fantasy book covers looked decent, so maybe they could pull something a bit more illustrated and classic for me. It didn’t occur to me that the lack of Epic Fantasy covers was pretty evident on their website.

Another lesson learned. I still think their pre-made covers are a great deal for $195 if you find one you like. A few weeks into customizing a design with them, and a few drafts later, I realized that I was looking for something with less CG, and very simple. Damonza does a good job with a lot of their covers, but they weren’t a good fit for my cover.

Now we’re in January. That’s what, at least two months of active searching and working with different companies and people, but with no tangible results. Experience gained? Definitely. Panic inducing? Yep. But I kept searching, and found 99designs through a google search.

I was looking for the guidance and experience that a book cover design company could offer, but with a wider range of artists and different styles from which to choose. 99designs was a perfect balance for me – they have a section of their website for book cover designs, and a fairly active network of artists that design there.

For a first cover, I wanted a little more hand holding, and a little less risk. I didn’t have specific artist in mind, and was open to different styles, hoping to see something that worked.

Their contests are relatively straightforward to set up – by that I mean as an author you create a job or “contest” that tells artists on the website what you want. Say, “Epic Fantasy Novel Needs a Cover” or “Spy Adventure in Underwater City”, or whatever you think will interest an artist in your design. Then, like in Upwork, you wait for artists to submit either a draft or a cover design. It’s pretty interactive. You rate them, give feedback and suggestions, and after a few days you should have a fair number of entries from which to choose.

Honestly, another reason I loved working with 99designs was their customer service. I must have chatted with them online about a dozen times at least with questions about the contest, and to make sure I wasn’t doing anything strange or weird. They gave me the confidence I needed to navigate both their website and communicating with the artists there, and that was extremely helpful.


In An Ideal Scenario

Let’s say you have a great list of what you want in a book cover. You know what kind of style, have a number of links to other books that you want to look like, and those lovely lists of what inspires you to show any interested artists.

If you did a design competition right away with 99designs, you could post a job with those links, and artists have about five to seven days to submit designs – for the better designs, a week allows the artists to produce better quality options, some even by hand!

After submissions are made, you have a few days to pick one or two you like, and then another two or three days to make final changes and adjustments with the artist before they turn over the design to you. You own the design. That’s important to know.

They do allow you to extend any of these stages to give you or the artists more time, which I had to do myself to get the best options available. But, in an ideal scenario let’s say you meet every deadline with no extensions. That’s just short of two weeks start to finish. Not bad at all. Ambitious, certainly. But certainly doable.

Congratulations, you have a book cover design.

No Timeline Is Perfect – But That’s Okay

Any planning we do can still go awry. Mine did. But that’s okay. Even websites like 99designs have their drawbacks, but this post is getting long so I’ll share some of the drawbacks I experienced in Part Four soon!

Stay tuned, and I hope you found this window into timing and book cover design helpful for your own research.