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The Importance Of A Book Cover Design Brief
Why You Must Have One

If you are publishing a book - whether it is is an ebook, paperback or hard cover - and you are serious about seeing it in print and making money from it, then a great cover will be a major element in its success. Think about one that caught your eye when you last went into a bookstore, or even looked at some online. Generally ebook covers are flat images (which online stores might display), plus an alternative 'curved cover' for a sales website display. These can be readily prepared using free software and a little learning - even I managed it!

Cover Technicality

However, if you want to see your books on bookstands and you are considering using a print-on-demand ('POD') printer, then you will need an outstanding cover that sells first to the bookstore and also to manage the design process yourself. Additionally, there are lots of elements that need to be sourced, such as a barcode and ISBN. There are very tight technical specifications to be met if your work is to get through the POD publishing process without re-work expenditure. If you want a knockout book cover, then unless you are a graphic artist with the requisite eye for design and skills, get it done by an expert. Once you have located a professional, then you will need to provide clear instructions on what you want.

To minimise misunderstandings, prepare a Book Cover Design Brief. You can refine the brief with your designer, but at least you will both be looking at the same cover requirement.

Outline Ideas

The designer will need a seed, so a book synopsis will need to be included, and you may have views on an overall design concept. Be flexible though - the designer is the expert and don't limit his or her artistic vision too much. The genre should fall out from the synopsis, but do be clear. Without knowing the book, what genre does 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' suggest to you? You should take this into account when you select your designer, as some specialise in particular genres.

If relevant, it can be helpful to the designer to provide brief descriptions of the principal character(s). Will this be one of a series?

The Main Elements of a Book Cover Design Brief

You should specify the 'trim size' of the book - its final size - as this will specify the amount of space the artist has for layout. If you want a hardback cover, then you may need a dust jacket design and the particular thickness of hardcover will be important.

The final brief will need to be specific about the exact pagecount, ISBN, cover price unless stickering, binding format and a host of other items, but the artist can work up some initial concepts whilst you are pulling together the final items.

Will your covers include Reviews - perhaps other authors, newspapers (most often on the rear cover)? These can weigh heavily in a buyer's eyes and you will need to advise the artist on this, so that the provision for some reviews can be included in the overall design (though the specific detail of the reviews may not be available at the time you formally engage the designer).

The brief must specify the print-on-demand company you intend to use. Each company has its own technical standards that the cover design must meet (by satisfying a 'pre-flight' test which software such as Adobe Professional offers). Re-work can be very expensive if you miss a print deadline say for the Christmas gift sales peak.

You may specify images for marketing, for email campaigns, and for book catalogues. Will you be producing a Kindle ebook? If so you will need a front cover image, and you may even choose to include a rear cover image.

These are some of the specifications that your Cover Design Brief must include. There are several others, but once you have the first template brief set up, then you can improve and recyle it in the future with the obvious changes.

Phil Marks
May 2011

Phil is the Editor at



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