Writing – Fun with Covers! Here’s How to Get an Awesome Design

Getting the perfect design for your cover is a mixture of art and science... how do you know what will work and what's the process? Here's my rundown.

YOUR BOOK COVER – is perhaps one of the most important factors in getting people to actually – you know – download (and pay for) your book. So it’s worth putting in the time and budget to make sure you get it right.

But it’s so much more than just “a nice image”. The genre you write in, and the readers you’re trying to attract, have certain expectations when it comes to cover design – so the challenge is to come up with a composition that both satisfies the artistic side (eg – looks great) but also fits the market.

This is even more important when you consider investing in advertising campaigns – where the difference between an effective cover and an ineffective one can have a huge impact on your ROI.

So in this video, I’ll take you through how my designer and I came up with ideas for my new series, and how we went from “initial concept” through to finalised design. You can use the exact same process no matter what genre you write in – to get the perfect cover for your book that’s going to lead to more clicks and more sales.


And please leave a comment!

I’d love to learn about your process for getting covers done. Whether you do them yourself, or work with a designer, let me know how you handle it below.


  1. Cheynne Edmonston says:

    Great video, thanks Nick. Cover looks wicked.

    1. Nick says:

      Thanks Cheynne!

    2. Michael Sampson says:

      Very insightful Nick, of course i’m a nonfiction writer. My first book will be ready by the end of the year, I have designed it myself, but i’m working with a designer, for professional benefits. Yourself and Joanna, helped a lot in the early stages, with inspiration and information. Have a look at my blog; http://www.altruisticphilosophy.com Thank you.

  2. Susan says:

    I have been following you for years and still haven’t nailed the mail list. But, I am really enjoying this new series. Sci-Fi is not my genre but the cover design process was enlightening. great cover by the way!

    1. Nick says:

      Thanks Susan!

  3. Sean says:

    Excellent walk-though Nick. Thank you for sharing the process. Question – it seems you did a lot of the “thinking” part yourself. As in, you checked out other best selling covers (smart) but then came up with the rough concept yourself. Have you ever let a cover designer just surprise you?

    1. Nick says:

      It depends who I’m working with, really – I wouldn’t necessarily expect a cover designer to be a specialist in knowing what sells in a particular genre (as many of them work across dozens of genres) but I’ll always take their advice. I think of it more like a collaborative effort to come up with the concept. Also I am terrible at telling people I don’t like something so I prefer not to risk it LOL.

  4. Amy Waeschle says:

    I’ve done a hybrid approach where I shop for the image and then my designer adds it to their process to come up with the cover. I’ve also recently tried a new designer that does a more extensive background on my book and my preferred concepts (other covers, colors and backgrounds I like, intended mood). Both designers work well but the one who did more research cams out spot on the first time, plus I had more oconfidence in the design because she and I examined a lot of genre-similar covers together. This summer, I’m going to try another new designer who takes the reins completely, from choosing the image to helping with the subtitle. I’m curious to see what he comes up with.

    1. Nick says:

      Yes – I’m doing exactly that for re-branding my thriller series. I need a very specific look so I’m putting together mockups, sending the raw images over, and letting the designer make them good 🙂

      It all depends on who you work with, really. There’s always that balance of putting together something with artistic merit vs something that actually sells, and the two aren’t always the same!

  5. Davanna says:

    Thank you. Useful to see what your process is.

    1. Nick says:

      My pleasure!

  6. Tim says:

    Nick, your designer has done a beautiful job, and this is coming from a fellow graphic designer. Thank you for sharing the stages of iteration and your thought processes. This really helps to illustrate just what’s involved, and that part of the design process is the all-important incremental massaging of the detail to arrive at the desired result.
    You should ask Mark, your designer, to do a poster version of the cover for you—if not for your own enjoyment then something that could be used on a pull-up banner at your next book-signing gig.

    1. Nick says:

      Thanks Tim!

  7. Claire Chilton says:

    Thanks for the great video. This was really helpful since I’ve been working on a new cover recently with an aim to focus more on the correct genre (it’s still a WIP at the moment, but you can see it here: https://www.claire-chilton.com/demo/cover-demo.jpg).

    I’m not sure if I’ll end up using this cover or make a new one because I’m not sure the genre is right.

    I make my own covers, usually a mixed-up combination of stock art, 3D renders and digital painting. Combining a stock model with renders can add some great realism. Although you do end up blending body parts together, and feel a bit like Frankenstein.

    1. Nick says:

      Love it! You definitely have the skills there!

      1. Claire Chilton says:

        Thanks :). Like you, my favourite part of the process is the cover concept, so I love making them.

        Unfortunately, figuring out which genre my books fit into is not my gift, but hopefully I’ll get better at that now how important it is.

  8. Tereza Murphy says:

    Very useful video. Love the book cover!

    I know this is a bit like asking how long is a piece of string! But could you provide a rough bandwidth cost of basic stock and render versus unique design, so that we have an idea of what we would be looking at?

    1. Nick says:

      I paid about £650 GBP (around $800) for that cover – ebook and paperback – which includes all the rendering work the designer (Mark) had to do, which is pretty time consuming. You can definitely go cheaper but then you might not get something specifically designed for you and might be made from stock images (which, again, is fine if that’s what the genre is all about – sci-fi with starships is a little easier, for example).

      Otherwise a cover can cost anywhere from $50 for a pre-made cover to $200 – $1,000 for a custom design, depending on how indepth you go and how demanding your image is. Super wide spectrum! $500 for ebook + paperback is a reasonable median though from what I’ve seen out there.

      If you have the design skills to do one yourself then stock images are about $5 a pop or you can get a subscription where they’re much cheaper at larger scales. But word of warning there – it’s really hard to judge your own work. I’ve been learning photoshop for 5+ years and can cobble together a passable cover, but they’re nowhere near what a pro designer can do, so I stick to my skill set 🙂

      1. Nick says:

        As a comparison… the Martha Wells covers I show in the video are painted by Jamie Jones, who can charge in the region of $15k a day for movie work, so that puts it in perspective a little…

  9. Icy Sedgwick says:

    I sometimes do my own covers! Caveat: I have a background in graphic design and have been teaching it for almost eight years. Even then, I still prefer to get an illustrator to do the artwork, and then I just handle the typography. Sometimes you can be too close to the project to know if the design is actually the right thing for your genre (I say this having re-covered one series – and sales improved – while planning a redo of another).

    1. Nick says:

      Ha! I just read this having written mostly the same above. Spot on 🙂

  10. Selene says:

    I can’t find any setting for turning on captions? (Youtube has a pretty good automatic captions feature. Not as good as real manual captions obviously, but it gets the job done.) Alternatively, maybe start including a transcript when uploading a video…?

    1. Nick says:

      unfortunately, these videos don’t have captions yet! I’ll be looking into getting some done

  11. Mary Hagen says:

    Thank you for your interesting comments.

  12. Greg says:

    Good video Nick. I’ve just tried to find look-alikes for my cross over story of genetic engineering/dystopia in Amazon books. Looking at the covers I would not have a clue that half of the books there were about science fiction. Seems that when you move away from space travel/conflict tropes pretty much anything goes in terms of covers. I had a pretty clear image in my head that I mocked up to guide my writing. I may go with a professional version of that.

  13. Caroline says:

    Hi Nick, thanks for this. So far I’ve always created my own covers -with Canva- and used photos or artwork from people I know (with their consent). So, my covers are unique 🙂 Only for the latest novel I used a few photos I found on the internet, and have tried to trace who took them but no luck. Isn’t it so that photos that you can just download from the internet are ‘public domain’ photos? For everyone to use ? I mean, otherwise they would have used a program that would’ve put a ‘lock’ on these pictures. Here a link that shows the bookcover that reflects what the story is about. https://cmuntjewerf.com/book/return-to-les-jonquieres/ (Sorry, my site needs tweaking still). Thanks.

    1. Nick says:

      “Isn’t it so that photos that you can just download from the internet are ‘public domain’ photos?” – no, whoever took the photo generally owns the copyright, so unless it says otherwise you can’t use them. Sorry! Try UnSplash for royalty free photos.

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