Do you need a great book cover designer?
In this article, I’m going to walk you through the process of finding, selecting and hiring the best book cover designer for your specific project.
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, it’s absolutely crucial that you have a great book cover designer who can help communicate what your book is about in a 2,560 x 1,600 cover image.
It sounds like a simple task, but there’s a lot you need to know to avoid costly mistakes…
How Much Should You Pay for a Book Cover Design?
Prices for book cover designs range from free (“I’m new and I’m giving away free book cover designs to build my portfolio”) to $5 (from Fiverr.com) to $500 – $5,000 (either a scam or ripoff, or just a REALLY high-end designer who can charge way more than what you should probably be paying).
To give you an idea of what book cover designers cost, I surveyed several small to medium-sized publishers and found that every single one of them pays somewhere between $50 and $350 for book cover designs, with most falling in the $100 to $200 range.
Those prices include eBook front covers, print cover designs (including spine and back covers), and audiobook cover designs (which is basically just resizing the eBook or front cover design).
So what does this mean for self published authors or new authors looking to hire a book cover designer…?
If you’re paying more than $350 for your book cover design, chances are you are overpaying.
Now, there are some exceptions to this, of course.
For example, if your cover design requires unique illustrations or custom graphics designed from the ground up (like drawing and rendering your character from scratch to appear on the cover) the price will be higher than average.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how much you want to spend on a book cover design. I just don’t want you to spend $5,000 on a really ugly book cover like a student of mine did before he met me. Getting ripped off isn’t any fun, and it’s easily avoidable by following these steps…
It’s also really important that you don’t get ripped off or scammed by a shady book cover designer.
That’s why you need to make sure you protect yourself by taking the following precautions…
How to Protect Yourself from Getting Scammed
- You should always get at least three quotes from different professionals for any book cover design project
- You must review the designer’s portfolio so you can make sure the work they’ve done before is up to the standards needed for your book cover
- You should never pay upfront for cover design work so they don’t just take your money and run
- You should ask for and call references to make sure the designer is the type of person you work with
- You make sure they respond promptly to all your emails and/or phone calls because many (but not all) cover designers can be very slow in getting back to you which can delay your publishing plans
Finding a great book cover designer isn’t easy, and there are a lot of ways you can mess it up by paying too much or hiring the wrong person. Hiring a book cover designer can be expensive if you overpay, and that extra money you save could be put to better use in editing or marketing.
How to Find the Best Book Cover Designers
There are many places you can find book cover designers.
Let’s start with the cheapest for those of you on a tight budget and move to the more expensive options…
Finding Cheap Cover Designers on Fiverr.com
Fiverr is a website where folks offer services starting from $5, including book cover design services.
You can find book cover designs on Fiverr from $5 up to $55.
Now, most folks think that book cover designs from Fiverr are just bad because they’re cheap—but there are some fantastic cover designers on Fiverr.
In fact, I would argue, some of the best cover designers work on Fiverr…
Some designers on Fiverr have designed more than 10,000 book covers!
That means there are folks there who have created more book covers in a few years than most professional designers create in an entire lifetime—and all that experience means they are able to pack in a ton of experience in a short amount of time.
So, is it possible to find some great cover designs for cheap? Absolutely! (But it doesn’t always work out that way.)
Here’s what you should know about getting cheap cover designs on Fiverr…
Only Use Creative Commons Zero (CC0) Licensed Stock Photos
The designer better be using ONLY free stock photos that are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means the pictures are completely free to be used for any legal purpose. If your cover designer uses photos that are NOT licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, you may be in liable for legal trouble and penalties later on.
Here are some sites that offer only Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licensed stock images:
Either ask your cover designer to provide proof they are using a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) licensed stock image, or pick the image(s) yourself on one of these sites and send it to your designer.
You Can’t Communicate Outside of Fiverr
When you hire a cover designer on Fiverr, you can’t call them up on Skype or the phone. You can’t exchange emails. The only way you can communicate is through Fiverr’s messaging system or the gig page after you purchase the cover design gig (all projects on Fiverr are called gigs).
You Can Ask for Changes and Revisions, but They’re Not Guaranteed
You can ask for as many changes and revisions as you want on Fiverr, but that doesn’t mean you will always get them. I have found most designers there to be very kind and hard-working and accepting of revision requests, but that’s not always the case.
Most service providers on Fiverr are TERRIFIED of bad reviews so they will often offer you a refund or revision if you’re not 100% happy with their work. This is because a single 1-star review can dramatically reduce their sales and rankings on Fiverr (even more so than a bad review for your book on Amazon, largely because so many sellers are “gaming” the system by simply refunding every unhappy customer before they get a bad review).
If you see a designer on Fiverr with 99% 5-star reviews it doesn’t mean they’re the best designer—it means they’re the best at offering refunds to folks who aren’t happy with their work.
Expect to Pay More Than $5
Yes, you can get great cover designs for just $5 on Fiverr, but you should expect to pay more than that. Even if you just buy the basic gig package, you will often need to either
a) find the stock photo(s) so the cover designer doesn’t have to, or
b) hire several designers until you find a book cover design you love.
How is it Possible to Get a Great Cover Design for Just $5?
You have to realize a couple things to understand why it’s possible to get great cover designs at such low prices…
1. Free stock photos exist—meaning there are no hard costs to design great covers
2. Most of these designers live in 3rd-world countries with a lot of poverty like India, Pakistan, Mexico, etc. The average income in India is just over $2 per day. That means an Indian designer who creates one $5 cover each day on Fiverr can help his or her family escape poverty.
Designing two or three covers a day can allow them to help many of their extended family members escape poverty as well.
Would you work hard and sharpen your skills in order to get your family out of poverty? Of course!
3. Covers start at $5, but the average order is closer to $15-$25 for the best designers on Fiverr because they offer upsells, faster turnaround, additional mockups, and other perks when you pay more.
4. Book cover designers need a lot of orders to make ends meet no matter how much they charge, and Fiverr can deliver hundreds of new customers each month to the top designers. Since Fiverr is doing all the marketing work for them, they can focus 100% of their time on creating cover designs instead of trying to find new clients.
5. Folks who love to only design book covers love Fiverr because they can focus all their energy and work time on simply doing work. If you’re a creative person with a distaste for busy work, marketing and administrative tasks, Fiverr is a simple solution that allows you to only do the work you love, ignore everything else, and bring in up to several thousand dollars each month designing book covers.
6. Commuting sucks and many jobs are disappearing so the appeal of simply doing online jobs from home is greater than it has ever been before. Many folks end up earning more working from home on Fiverr than they could working in a corporate job with a two-hour commute. That means they can spend more time with their family, earn more money, and do more work they actually enjoy doing. It’s a win-win-win for a lot of freelancers.
How to Find Cover Designers on Freelancing Sites
There are hundreds of websites you can use to find literally hundreds of thousands of freelance book cover designers and contractors at all experience levels.
Here are the top sites I highly recommend you use when starting out in order of importance:
Upwork is the biggest website in the world created specifically to connect freelance contractors with small businesses, entrepreneurs, authors and artists. There are more than 12 million freelancers registered with the site.
Guru.com and Freelancer.com are both much smaller, and I only use them when I can’t find exactly what I’m looking for on Upwork.com.
Consider using these two freelancing sites as your backup plan, and focus on Upwork.com when you first start looking for a cover designer.
How to Post Your Cover Design Project on Upwork
Now that you know where to find 12 Million+ freelancers who are ready to help with your project, it’s time to post your job so that these freelancers can apply to do the work for you.
Once you create your account at Upwork and fill out your profile, just click “Post a Job” at the top of the website.
When you do so, you will see a page that looks like this:
If you just need a book cover designer or web designer for one book project, select the part-time option on the left. If you’re looking for someone to work for you at least 30 hours a week for at least 3 months, select the option on the right to find workers you can hire for longer-term jobs.
Once you select the right option, it’s time to select the category and subcategory that describes the kind of work you’re looking for.
Here’s what the job categories on Upwork look like:
Make sure you select “Design & Creative” and “Graphic Design” to find book cover designers. You can also look for talented designers under “Logo Design & Branding,” but most of those folks who design book covers will also be listed in the Graphic Design category as well.
Once you’ve selected the right category, it’s time to name your job posting:
When you name your job posting on Upwork, make sure to be as specific as possible so you will attract the right freelancers and automatically weed out contractors who are not a good fit for your project.
Posting something generic like “Looking for a book cover designer” is a bad idea because you will end up getting tons of freelancers applying who may only design book covers for fiction or nonfiction and not for your specific needs.
Try to include as much detail as you can when selecting a name for your job.
WRITING THE JOB DESCRIPTION
Next, it’s time to write a job description to clearly explain what kind of work you need done and what kind of freelancer would be a good fit for your project.
Here’s a recent job description we posted on Upwork that turned up some very good cover designers for us:
TCK Publishing (www.tckpublishing.com) is looking to hire a few superstar cover designers for long-term work to help design outstanding book covers for our eBooks, print books and audiobooks.
We publish fiction and non-fiction in every major market.
We demand excellent work, but we are not nitpicky. We want you to be able to use your full creativity to do the job right. We will not micromanage you.
Sometimes our clients will have specific images, themes or ideas for the cover design. Other times, we will simply give you basic information on the book and what it’s about and let you decide what themes or ideas to run with to design a great book cover.
Please let us know what your rates would be for long-term work (several projects each month) and what your turnaround times would be for the following types of covers:
* Ebook front cover only
* Spine and back cover (assuming front ebook cover work is already done)
* Conversion to audiobook cover design (assuming front ebook cover work is already done)
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION
Here are some things you’ll definitely want to include in your job description:
- Who you are and what you do
- The exact kind of work you’re looking for (such as an eBook-only book cover design for a self help book about creativity)
- Ask for a list of references
- Ask to see a portfolio or examples of past work (most good freelancers on Upwork will have a portfolio or past work samples listed in their profile, so you can check that out when reviewing applicants)
Next, you’ll need to enter the skills needed to do the job. This is where you can laser target your job posting to only attract freelancers with the exact skills you need.
When you start typing in the “Enter skills needed” box, Upwork will automatically suggest skills based on what you’re typing so you can see the skills that are available on the site. You can only select from skills that already exist on the site. For example, if you type in “Book Cover Designer,” you will get an error message. Instead, when you start typing in “Book Cover,” Upwork will pop up with the suggestion for “Book Cover Design” – just click that suggestion or hit enter, and it will appear in the box.
Make sure only to include skills here that are absolutely necessary for the job. Freelancers who don’t have the skills you list in the job description will not be able to apply, so if you add irrelevant skills (like Web Design when you only need a book cover designer) you will miss out on some potentially excellent freelancers.
These are the skills we recommend you list for your job if you’re looking for a cover designer:
“Book cover design”
How Much Cover Designers Cost on Upwork
Next, you must select how you want to pay your freelancers, either as an hourly rate or a fixed price per project. I highly recommend a fixed price for cover design projects so that you can estimate your exact costs ahead of time, rather than paying an hourly rate and not knowing how much it’s actually going to cost until the work is done.
There are a few more options you can select to customize your job such as requiring a cover letter or adding screening questions. None of these are necessary for cover design work in my opinion.
All you really need to know to determine if a cover designer is capable of creating a great cover for you is how good their cover designs are (by reviewing their porftolio and past work) and if they can communicate effectively in written English (by reading the message(s) they send you and their profile).
If someone is a great cover designer but has trouble communicating their ideas in written English, I usually pass because it’s hard to get on the same page with book cover designer with a language barrier.
INVITE THE BEST COVER DESIGNERS TO YOUR JOB POSTING
Once you’ve filled out all the information above and posted your job listing on Upwork, you’ll be able to invite the top freelance book cover designers on Upwork to apply for your job.
Here are a few things you should consider when reviewing applications from cover designers on Upwork:
Job Success Rate
I look for 90%+ Job Success rate on Upwork. Anything less is a definite no. Anything below 95% goes in the “maybe” column.
Ignore folks who have no previous experience designing book covers unless they have a stellar portfolio of design work that is exceptionally good. You don’t want a noobie with poor design skills learning on your dime.
Check Their Portfolio
Next, check their portfolio in their Upwork profile page. You should be able to see samples of their previous work. If you don’t like what you see, move on and find someone else.
Sending a Message Test
If everything checks out, I will then proceed with a message test. I simply send the cover designer a quick note via Upwork that says something like this,
It sounds like you may be a great fit to design the book cover for our book on small business marketing. Please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss the project in more detail.
I send this email in order to
1) test if they actually respond quickly and
2) take the conversation to my email inbox where I can more quickly and easily connect with them.
Hiring Your Cover Designer
Once you’ve gone through this process, it’s time to start negotiating cover design rates and getting some mockups created.
There are a million different ways to go about this, but this is what I recommend to make sure you end up hiring a cover designer you like working with who does great work and that you don’t get ripped off.
When the cover designer first writes you the email as you asked them to do in your message on Upwork, respond with something like this:
Email 1. Getting a Quote and Terms
Thanks for responding so promptly! I really appreciate that.
I am currently talking to several designers to find the right fit for my book.
Can you please let me know what your rate would be for this project?
[Describe the work you need done]
Also please let me know:
- What would your turnaround time be?
- How many mockups would you provide?
- Where do you get your stock photos?
- How would you verify that all stock photos are licensed for unlimited commercial use?
- What software do you use for cover designs? (most folks use a combination of Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign)
If you have designed any book covers in this same niche/subgenre before, can you please send me some of those samples to review?
Email 2. Hiring Your Designer and Clarifying Terms
If they respond positively and you want to hire them for the job, write them back an email like this:
Great, thank you!
I’m excited to see what you can do for the cover design on YOUR BOOK TITLE.
Here’s what I suggest:
I would like to try you out to see if you can deliver a great book cover that is a good fit for this project.
Here are the specifics on the cover design:
- Include any stock photos, images, characters, or other graphics that must be included in the cover design
Let’s start with an eBook-only front cover design to make sure it’s a good fit
Please design one mockup for the cover. It doesn’t need to be high-quality or print-ready at this point—it’s just a mockup to see if we’re on the same page.
If the first mockup looks good to me, I will hire you to design a minimum of 3 mockup and we will decide on the final cover design from there.
If the first mockup is unacceptable, I will either request changes or let you know at that point that I don’t think it would be a good fit to work together.
You must be able to deliver the first mockup within [DEADLINE: usually 7-14 days] or I will have to find another designer for this project.
The price will be [PRICE YOU AGREED ON] and I will pay via [PAYPAL or other payment service] upon delivery of the final cover design ready for publishing.
I’m looking forward to working with you!
Email 3 and Beyond
Once they decide to work with you and send the first mockup, I’m sure you can take it from there.
Remember to be kind when asking for changes and adjustments.
If you do get a first mockup back that is absolutely unacceptable, simply let the designer know that it’s not a good fit to work together and move on.
There are plenty of great book cover designers out there, so there’s absolutely no point in working with someone who can’t deliver the quality of work you deserve to make your book stand out.
Great Book Cover Designers Looking for Work
Want to find a good cover designer without going through a ton of portfolios and job proposals on Upwork?
Try out some of these recommended book cover designers:
Kelly Martin, Experienced Book Cover Designer
Kelly Martin has done some great cover designs for several big publishing companies including TCK Publishing.
Here are some of the book cover designs she created for us:
You can contact Kelly, see her book cover design portfolio and inquire about pricing on her website at kam.design
What to Do After the Book Cover is Done
Once the book cover is finished and you’re happy with it, it’s time to get your book published!
You might find these articles helpful:
- How to Find an Editor for Your Book
- How to Self Publish Your Book on Amazon Kindle [With a Free Checklist Included]
- How to Self Publish Your Book in Print with CreateSpace [Free Checklist Included]
Do you already have a book cover designer you love? Mention them in the comments and let us know!