How to Work with a Book Designer

Sophie Playle

I’d like to welcome Lorna Reid of Author Packages to the blog today!

Lorna is a past client of mine – I edited her novel Rise of the Reapers – and after expressing my admiration for her cover, I was excited to hear about her and her partner’s venture into book design.

SP: Tell us a little bit about Author Packages. What do you do and how did the idea come about? What are your ambitions?

LR: The idea came about after I became very frustrated trying to find a cover designer that I liked for my fantasy series. My partner – a designer for over 20 years and someone I hadn’t wanted to bother with my problem – listened to my complaints and that night created a cover for me that I fell in love with.

After a lengthy discussion, I convinced him that his abilities and considerable design experience would be perfectly suited to a business in the indie-book space. He eventually agreed and Author Packages grew from there, offering book cover design, formatting, hosting, and merchandise services. Since custom merchandise is something that we also do as part of our day job, we thought it a no-brainer to offer it as a service too, especially as there isn’t currently much out there for authors in that area.

We’d love to grow to the point where Author Packages is a robust business and one that can sustain us long into the future.

Seeing our cover designs out there is intensely rewarding – to know that you are part of an author’s journey is a great feeling and a real privilege, just as I imagine it is for an editor.

SP: Why should an author hire a designer instead of going the DIY route?

LR: DIY covers are really not recommended! Unless you are an experienced designer and highly adept at using the right software, it is strongly recommended that you hire a professional designer. Across the board, some of the most familiar names in the indie-publishing space, such as Joanna Penn and Joel Friedlander, all recommend this route (and for good reason).

A professional cover gives a book the best possible chance and will help it to stand out from the crowd. DIY covers, on the other hand, often stick out a mile for the wrong reasons, and they can send out a signal that perhaps a book’s content is also below par.

Ultimately, an author has but a few moments in which to grab a reader’s eye, so a professional cover design is not something to be skipped – it’s the best piece of marketing a book will have, so it’s really worth taking the time to get it right. Joel Friedlander’s Book Cover Design awards are a great place to see some of the best and worst in design.

SP: I couldn’t agree more! So, how much can an author expect to pay for a professional cover design?

Costs can vary, depending on where you go and the quality of the service you’re paying for. With us, for example, an author can expect to pay anything from £249/$310 to £349/$430 (although other companies can charge more) depending on whether they want only an eBook cover or both an eBook and Print cover. We also include a number of complimentary extras, such as 3D mock-ups of covers, which can be a great help for authors planning marketing campaigns or who want professional mock-up images for their site or social media accounts.

Book cover design can seem like a large investment, especially when an author may well have already paid for professional editing services, but it is worth it for a professional-looking book that can compete with those in the traditional space. Like much in life, you get what you pay for and professional work is an investment in your book.

My advice would be to always make sure you are happy with a potential designer’s samples, FAQs, and are clear on their pricing before jumping in. It’s a big decision (and an exciting one), so take the time to get in touch with a potential designer if you are uncertain about anything.

SP: Good advice. Do most cover designers also design and format a book’s interior (for either print or digital) or should an author hire someone else to do this?

LR: No, most designers will tackle just the cover, for either print or eBook. Interior formatting is usually a separate service, although many companies will offer it as part of a package. Again, it’s one of those things where it can save an author time and energy by getting someone else to take care of it while they concentrate on other things.

As much as self-publishing gives us control over our own work, a smart indie knows when to delegate.

Often, as you approach the final hurdles of indie publishing, you can get bogged down in dozens of tiny things that you either forgot about, didn’t know about until the last minute, or deliberately put off. Dealing with those things can suck away your time, so if you can delegate something like formatting and feel confident enough in doing so, go for it – it’s one more thing off that seemingly never-ending list!

SP: What can an author do to get the most from their designer? How can they help things go smoothly and make sure they get a design they’re happy with?

LR: Communicate! So often, people don’t communicate enough with the people they are supposed to be working with and it can lead to delays or misunderstandings. That can be anxiety inducing and unhealthy.

If an author wants the best possible cover, they need to be prepared to sit down and give as much information as they can at the start of the process.

A good designer will want to know as much as possible in order to deliver the best cover for a book, so an author should take the time to give them what they ask for, whether it’s themes, key scenes, tone, genre, etc. I’d say to anyone who’s uncertain or nervous about this big step that it’s not meant to be intimidating, honestly! No one’s asking you to come up with all the ideas (and in many ways it’s best you don’t have your heart set on that super specific thing/scene!), just talk about your book, about the feelings it inspires, the colours, the setting … It’s all helpful.

Similarly, if an author has any questions or concerns, they shouldn’t sit on them and worry – they should get in touch and talk to their designer. They’re people too and some of them may have been in the author’s shoes at one point – they’ll want to work with you to do the best by your book.

Like an editor (or whoever else has helped an author on their way), a designer wants your book to succeed. Trust them to do the best for you. And like I said earlier, it’s better if you don’t have a scene or specific character set in your head – it often doesn’t make for a great cover – less is usually more and your book will suffer if you have everything and the kitchen sink on the cover. Trust your designer’s instincts and if they recommend that you don’t go with something it’s usually for a good reason.

SP: Can you tell us a bit about the process, from the ideas stage to final design?

LR: When an author decides that they want to go ahead, we ask them to fill in a form and give as much information as possible about their book. This can include, genre, tone, imagery, setting and more. The more information we have the easier it becomes to really drill down to a great concept that will, hopefully, perfectly encapsulate the book.

We offer a direct line of communication through private message, so the client can talk in real time with us if they wish, instead of email – we think that good communication is important to a successful working relationship.

From there, we may have a few more questions or need further clarification, but otherwise, work begins on creating an initial concept, which is then passed to the author for feedback or approval. If the first concept isn’t a good fit, then we can try another and go back and forth, making tweaks and refinements until everyone is happy and we’re good to go. How long it takes can depend on many things and usually varies from client to client.

Once the client is happy and signs off on the design, their 3D mock-ups are created, along with any other extras they have chosen, and that’s them one step further along their publishing journey.

SP: In your view, how best can an author can use branded merchandise in their marketing?

LR: Branded merchandise can be used in a number of different ways and an author is only limited by their imagination. When we get down to it, people like stuff. They love free stuff or exclusive stuff, or something that can further immerse them in a world they love.

Merchandise is a relatively untapped market in the book world (a few huge series aside!) and a great potential avenue for author revenue.

Whether that’s selling merchandise through a store, or at events, or producing merchandise to be used as giveaway items to draw in readers to a mailing list or site, it’s up to them.

In the past, I’ve personally created a bundle of merchandise to send out as part of a reviewer goodie bag. It included a bag with some badges, a coaster, and other bits, like a ticket to the fantasy sport that appears in my book – they went down well! So whether an author wants merchandise to sell, or to giveaway as part of a swag bag or contest, it’s well worth considering as a marketing tool.

SP: Thanks for chatting to me, Lorna! It’s been super interesting.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into book design. If you’d like to hire the Author Packages team to do any design work for you, quote the code ‘LIMINALPAGES10’ in your correspondence to get a 10% discount! Visit to see what’s on offer.

Sophie Playleis a professional fiction editor. She specialises in developmental editing, critiquing and copy-editing, and loves working with authors and publishers who are passionate about high-quality storytelling. Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction and literary fiction are her genres of choice. She's an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and has a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, University of London. Find out more:

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