- what's involved in cover design?
A well-designed book cover should draw the reader's attention and communicate with them. It should be unique but fit nicely within its genre. It should be creative but executed with attention to detail. A designer attends to a great many things when working on a book cover. Here is what's typically involved:
We take your imagery and prepare it for use on the cover. This may be a photograph you have provided, a selection of carefully selected stock images we have sourced for you, or an illustration. Our designers may blend, adapt, filter, color, crop, light, tone or extend images as required for the desired effect.
The typeface choice and setting for your title is key to your cover. A font gives your book a clear personality, serifs are traditional, sans-serifs modern and scripts creative. Kerning, adjustments, tweaks and shaping can then turn lettering into a unique title 'logo' for your book. The title logo should be easy to read, aesthetically pleasing and complement the content, genre and imagery of the material. With the title font is set, a clear visual hierarchy for the rest of the cover material included the author name and back cover text can be applied.
The back cover of the book is often not given the attention it deserves. This is an opportunity to give readers a further insight into your book. For books sold online the back cover is often included for customers to preview before purchase. Every little detail, your book synopsis, author bio, author bio, pricing, publisher details and endorsements needs to work perfectly with the front cover design to create a cohesive product for sale. A barcode is then generated from your 13-digit ISBN and placed on the back.
Every printer provides a template to layout a cover page ready for their machines. The exact measurements on the template are determined by the trim size, binding type, spine width and printing process. The design must be arranged and aligned carefully taking every cut, wrap and bend of the cover into account. Any cover produced for one printer is therefore specific to their processes and cannot be submitted elsewhere.
Finally the cover design is exported with the correct pre-press settings. This means things like the right color model for commercial printing, the right ink levels to avoid over-saturating the paper and with the right fonts embedded to prevent the file being rejected. The page will also have all the right print markings applied for things like registration, bleed and crop marks as required.
- how much will my job be?
The majority of covers we design are $400 USD. The author tells us the sort of thing they have in mind, often providing some examples they like, an image they want to use or some guidance as to the sort of imagery they want us to source for them. Our designers then take all this and turn it into a polished, high-impact cover design all laid out on the right template with the right measurements ready to print. If an additional fee is quoted for the cover it is usually for one of the following reasons:
This applies if you have no clear idea what your cover should look like and would like our designer to produce 3 or 4 samples to choose from. We will need to review your material quite carefully in order to mock-up a variety of concepts that really fit your message. We are happy to produce these at an additional cost of $80 USD each.
This would apply if the images we are working with require a significant amount of manipulation to use. For example, if we have a photo we are asked to include but much of the detail, colors or sizing need to be carefully worked on in Photoshop. Or, if new artwork needs to effectively be produced by manipulating and blending lots of separate stock images together.
Sometimes the only way to create the artwork you want for a cover, is to illustrate it from scratch. For example, if you want to depict a character or scene from your book, no stock imagery is ever going to encapsulate all the specific features you need. So tell us what you want and one of the talented illustrators we work with will draw and color it for you in a suitable style. Please do keep in mind that commissioning an illustration will increase timelines significantly.
- what comes first—book or cover?
When designing both a book and cover we will always create the front cover first, then typeset the book interior and then finalise the cover on the template for print.
front cover first
When designing a book and cover we think it's incredibly important that the two look like they are meant to go together as a package. We have always found the best way to achieve this is to design the front cover first. This way decisions have made for typography, layout, colors and imagery that we can go on to reflect in the interior. As an example, the typography choices for your cover may well then be reflected on the halftitle and title page, as well as in some of the headings.
cover layout last
However, even though we will always design the front cover first, we cannot finalise it for print until the interior is complete. This is because the spine width of a cover can only ever be calculated when the final page count of the interior is known at the very end.
- what do I need for the back?
Many authors try to pack far too much onto the back cover and overcrowd it. Your back cover is there to set the scene and entice people to open and read more. Here are some of the things you might choose to include:
Keep it short. You want your words to stand out and not overwhelm the reader. This should be a 150 word blurb that describes the major points of your book. If written well, these words are the sales pitch that will hook a reader to buy your book. However, this is not a synopsis so don't write loads or give away the whole plot or big idea. If you're stuck for ideas, look at other covers.
This should just be a very short few lines written in the third person. If you want to include more detail you can always have a dedicated about the author page inside. For fiction, it is important to show who you are and how your background might influence the way you write. For nonfiction, this is your opportunity to list training and experience that qualify you as an expert on the topic.
If you choose to include this, it should just be a headshot. A nice clear, high-quality, close-up photo of your face - no other people or pets. If you have multiple contributors and more than one photo, do ensure they are similar in size and style.
Maybe a 1-2 line short, powerful statement about the book. This is typically written by a celebrity or another author in the same genre. Another nice visual alternative is for us to include the stars from a highly rated review, or a statement about a previous bestseller.
If you have your own publishing company you may want to include the name and website near the barcode. Even better, if you have a logo to include we will place this for you as well. If you are publishing under our label then we will include these details for you.
We will generate a scannable EAN-13 barcode from your ISBN and place this on your back cover as required. This cannot be edited or resized as it may become unscannable. If your cover is being produced for KDP then typically a white box will be placed instead, in line with their guidelines, ready for the printer to place the barcode themselves.
- should I include the book price?
This is entirely up to you. There is no requirement to include a price on the back cover. However, if you do then just keep in mind the following considerations:
You will need to display a price for your book for each currency you intend to sell it in. However, exchange rates fluctuate so in a years' time the equivalent price in another currency might be very different, but the price printed on your cover displays the same.
If you decide you want to display a price, this should be the RRP. We will include this as printed text either above or below the barcode depending on what works best for the design. Keep in mind this is just a recommended retail price, each retailer can still sell the book for any price they like.
not in the barcode
While it is possible to embed the book price as part of the scannable barcode, we would not recommend this as it fixes the book to be sold in one currency. For example, if the book is $14.99 then the code ends 51499 where the 5 indicates USD and the 1499 is the price. Instead, the end of the barcode should be set to the default 9000 which means there is no fixed price.
- can I add embossed or gold bits?
This all depends on your printer, not your design files. In order to achieve a cover with these premium effects, first the base cover is printed in ordinary CMYK process color. Things like gold foil, spot UV, embossing or flourescent inks are then added afterwards onto the base cover as a separate process.
Most POD printers cannot achieve these premium effects on their printers. As a result there is no point us adding these features to your files as they cannot be manufactured.
If the printer you have chosen does offer premium effects then we can absolutely produce the additional alpha channel files they will need. Just tell us what effects you want and where you want them and for $64 USD each we will create each additional alpha channel file for you.
- why is my casebound off-centre?
There is a specific design consideration for casebound covers that does not apply to perfectbound or dustjackets. There are two options for a designer to choose from:
A casebound cover has an indented line on the left side which bends when you open the book. This is the gutter area where the spine board is connected to the front cover board. For some casebound covers the text and image may be centered visually across the front cover, ignoring the fact it bends.
centered on board
For others covers the design works better if it is centered on the front board only. Some customers may just prefer the look of this as well. Our designer will make a choice on a case-by-case basis as to what is most appropriate for your design. Whatever choice is made, the marketing jpg we produce for you will show the content centered.
- can I add text to the spine?
This depends on your printer and your page count. All printers will have a spine type safety requirement meaning they will not permit spine text on a book with fewer than a set number of pages as it is just too thin to print accurately.
Ingram Spark do not permit any spine text for page counts below 48.
KDP do not permit any spine text for page counts below 100.
However, even if your printer permits spine text for very few pages, we still might not recommend it. By the time you have allowed space around the
spine lettering (known as the spine safety area), the type itself will be so tiny it may just look better without it.
- how do I print my file?
We will send you a final print-ready pdf file. If you are using our publishing or print services then you can simply keep this for your records as we will submit this file for printing on your behalf. If you are using another printer then you will need to submit the file for print to them directly.
Prior to payment we will send you a review pdf labelled 'WzWReview-Filename' that will be set to display on your screen in double-page spreads to resemble the appearance of a book with a review watermark across the pages. Once happy, you make final payment and we return your print-ready file. Your final file will be labelled 'WzW-Filename'. It will display as single pages, without the watermark and may include a bleed area with crop, bleed or trim marks as required by your chosen printer. This is the file you need to submit your printer.
If you are using Amazon KDP or Ingram Spark for printing then you will do the file upload in your own account. We cannot do this for you but we do have a few tips to keep in mind. Be sure to upload the correct file for printing, that means the 'final' file we sent you and not an earlier review file. Next be careful to select choices for color, paper, binding and trim size exactly as agreed in your quotation as your file was prepared to this exact specification. If images in your book go to the edge of the pages then for KDP you must also select the option that the file includes bleed. Should your file show any errors in the previewer, do just check the above items have all been entered correctly before you contact us with details and include a screenshot of the issue.
Once your files have been uploaded, you must get a printed proof before placing any batch orders. Books look different in print from the way they appear on screen so this is your opportunity to flick through the pages and appreciate the final product before committing it to distribution or to a large print run.
- will it look different in print?
A common notion is that if you can get an image to look exactly as you want it on screen, it will look like that in print. On one level this is fair enough, after all how are you going to edit your image, if not by looking at your screen.
However, screens and prints are two entirely different technologies. Screens emit light, prints just reflect it. Screens also have a much wider range of brightness than paper prints. And most notably, screens display in RGB (red, green, blue) color, printing is done in CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, key/black) inks.
Our designers will look to calibrate screens and re-balance colors as best as possible. However, the RGB color spectrum is simply larger than the CMYK spectrum. That means there are certain RGB screen colors that cannot be completely reproduced on paper with CMYK inks and will instead look a little dulled. In many cases the difference is not noticeable other than for very bright colors like fluorescent orange or sky blue.
In summary, reviewing your cover on-screen is just an intermediate stage in creating your printed cover. You must always review a proof of your cover design, printed on the same machines and with the paper finish you have selected for any future copies. Only by reviewing this proof can you really appreciate what the colors on your finished cover will look like.
- what if I need changes?
If when designing your book, we get every aspect of the design perfect for you first time, then that's super. But we don't expect that. Receiving your feedback and making adjustments is all part of the design process so changes may be requested at any stage.
We will initially send you a cover sample file. You can request a further hour of changes to this without charge.
Once your design has been set onto the final cover template, with the right spine width, we will return it as a review file. Any further changes are then subject to a $48 USD minimum fee.
Once you have made payment we return your final print-ready file. After this point, changes are much more expensive. Even the smallest change requires a design update plus printer re-submission which are likely upwards of $96 USD. So take the time to check your review file carefully your avoid this.
- what's this on my pdf?
When you receive a book file from us there may sometimes be settings, features or marks you don't recognise. Whether or not your file shows these just depends on what your printer guidelines specify. This is a summary of things you might see:
If you notice that your final book pages are fractionally larger than the trim size of your book, then your book has bleed. Bleed is the printing of images or colors that go beyond the edge of where the sheet will be trimmed. It gives the printer a small amount of space to account for movement of the paper, and design inconsistencies.
Some printers specify that certain little black markings are required on a file. These help them to align and calibrate pages on their machines for manufacture. Markings include bleed marks, crop marks, trim marks and registration marks. These may appear as little lines, cross hairs or color bars. They will be trimmed off as part of the book making process and will not appear on your printed pages.
When reviewing your PDF file you may notice some very feint white lines. These “hairlines” are the result of the transparency flatteners used to create PDFs, and sometimes appear around the edges of text and images boxes. The line will not print when your book is produced and are only visible on your computer screen at certain zoom settings.
If your book has a background on any of the pages you may notice a think white strip on the binding edge of your file. This is required by the printer because binding glue does not adhere to paper when the latter is covered in ink.
This is the first recto (right-hand) page you’ll see when you open your book. It simply displays the name of the book, with no byline and no subtitle. Half title pages have been included in books for centuries and they have the advantage of being the first page attached to the cover as it opens, rather than that being the title page.
Your file may include blank pages. Empty left-handed pages are often used to force key content like a new chapter, to start on a right-handed page. POD books must also have an entirely blank final page where the printer will include their barcode and details.
- can I have source files?
We are happy to share source files with customers upon request. For a $48 USD admin fee one of our designers will prepare, package and upload your files so you can save these on file should you wish to make changes in the future. However, unless you have plenty of experience, we would strongly recommend you do not attempt to edit these files yourself for a number of reasons:
Our team is extremely experienced with a wide range of design software packages and will select the best software for each job. In the main, book interiors are created in Adobe InDesign with any graphics work done in Photoshop or Illustrator. In order to open and edit your files you would need to have purchased all the latest software and be familiar with using it.
In order for your source file to appear correctly, you must also have the right fonts installed. The license for a professional typesetting font means we can only embed it into your final-form PDF, we cannot include the font in your source files. We are happy to provide details on how to purchase these licenses for yourself but please keep in mind that a full professional font family can be expensive.
If your PDF includes licensed imagery from our stock libraries, we cannot include these with your source files. Under the terms of the license, we have access to use a huge number of images but they may only be embedded into final-form material. The original image files themselves cannot be sent as this is considered re-sale.
After any updates, your final files will need to be exported to PDF using Acrobat Professional. This means applying all the correct pdf distiller profile for things like colorspace, transparency and font embedding as well as including any required print marks for bleed, crop marks and spreads set as required. If any of these are set incorrectly then the printer is likely to reject your files.
- can I get a marketing image?
In addition to your cover pdf, you may want a high resolution jpg of your front cover. This can be used for marketing on your website or uploaded to retailers to accompany your sales listing. We include this marketing image as default for every cover we design.
In addition we have a service to create a 3D version of your cover. This looks more eye-catching and professional compared to a flat, rectangular 2D front image. It can be great to use on your website, social media or in printed marketing material.
- what are your terms?
We do not have a written contract for you to sign. Instead we ask that you have read this know what you're buying section and accept our general terms and conditions which we have tried to make short and readable.