Behind the Scenes: Book Cover Design Process

Recently, I shared an exciting sneak peak at the cover for Case of the Robbed Recipe.

While we wait for the final version, I thought this would be a great chance to teach your child a little bit about what happens behind-the-scenes when creating a book cover.

Introducing the Book Design Brief

A book design brief is a document that contains all the author’s requirements and ideas for their book cover. The cover artist consults this brief as they create a visual interpretation of what the author has asked for.

One of the worst mistakes an author can make is trying to micro-mange the design process. We are masters of the written word, not visual design! A smart author will choose a skilled designer, communicate the required information, and then trust the designer’s judgement.

This can be scary when your book baby is on the line, but it is critical for success.

Elements of a Good Design Brief

A design brief tells the designer which element is the most important: cover symbol, author name, series title, or book title. The cover will contain some—if not all—of these elements, but only one can receive top priority due to limited space.

Cover symbols can be almost anything:

  • The picture of a man and woman on a romance cover.
  • The picture of a starship on a sci-fi book.
  • A graphical magnifying glass on a mystery cover.

Anything that communicates what the reader can expect from this book is a symbol.

Research and Reconnaissance

I gathered a large stack of chapter book titles from my library and local bookstore. I put them into a pile and took notes on them according to a few parameters:

  • What are the book’s physical dimensions?
  • Approximately how many pages are they?
  • Does the image on the front fill the entire cover?
  • How does the title text look and where is it presented?
  • How does the series title look in comparison to the book title?
  • Are there any common elements of the cover illustration?

What I Used

After assembling my notes, it was time to capture my vision for Robbed Recipe’s cover on paper. Here’s a portion of one page:

Author Media has an excellent book design brief template you can download for free. This is what I used.

I also created some mock-ups in Canva.

The mock-ups where helpful to show her where I was envisioning thing such as the title text, the publisher logo, and the size of the elements relative to each other.

Sarah said that between the two documents, she was able to focus most of her time on developing the illustration for the cover rather than guessing what was in my head.

And that’s exactly the goal. The more organized you are as an author, the easier it is for your freelancers to do their job. Which means less time for them, and less expenses for you. A win-win!

What’s Next for Collar Cases

Sarah is colorizing the paperback version of the cover right now. She’ll also need to design the back cover, including elements such as the back cover blurb and the ISBN.

She also is going to resize the paperback cover to the appropriate dimensions for the audiobook.

There are a few additional small steps, but those are the main tasks before we dive into paperback illustrations for book one. Meanwhile, Trista Shaye is narrating book two right now, and book three is in the hands of the editor.

If you want to get a head start on expanded-universe Collar Cases material, head over to my newsletter signup and select “Juvenile Fiction.” Your child will receive personalized detective training via email, written by Alex and Mittens themselves. At-home activities and further training will be released periodically.

By signing up for the juvenile fiction portion of my newsletter, your child is automatically enrolled in the members-only Collar Cases community, known as the Bowwow Barkers. To learn more about the benefits of being a Barker, go here.

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