By Boni Wagner-Stafford

May 3, 2023

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The Chemistry of Book Cover Design


There’s a lot that goes into creating a great book cover design. And it’s never just what the author likes. One of the comments we get a lot here at Ingenium Books is…. “oh my goodness I love your covers!” Yes, thanks. We do, too. And we love our cover designer, Jessica Bell. Jessica is a total creative: she’s a singer-songwriter, author, publisher, and designer. And in October 2022 she published a new book — about cover design: Can You Make the Title Bigga? The Chemistry of Book Cover Design.

We have worked with many designers, some of them even pretty good. But our experience with Jessica has been… well, stellar. She’s done every single one of our book covers since about 2019. As soon as we sign a new author, we secure Jessica’s calendar for the cover. She also designed the Ingenium Books’ logo.

Ingenium Books Logo

Back to Can You Make the Title Bigga. I devoured this book within a couple of hours. I laughed in several places; thankful I didn’t recognize myself in any of her bad-client email exchanges and that I did recognize several of Ingenium Books’ cover designs in her examples of elements of what has worked.

Here are a few of the best things that I like about Bigga:

  • Pulls back the curtain on the process a designer and publisher or author go through
  • Explains why a book’s cover is not created to please the author, but the reader… and why that is not the same thing
  • Further underscores the reasons NOT to do a DIY cover, if you’re a self-publishing author, unless you are a book cover designer like Jessica is
  • Talks about the nuts-and-bolts stuff like ISBNs, trim sizes, paper choices as well as design concepts
  • Helps the reader understand the designer’s experience so readers can become better clients of their chosen designer, if indeed they’re hiring the designer directly.

The Ingenium Books’ Design Process

As our publishing company and its model have evolved, so too has our process around cover design. How the process works now:

  • Our team reads the draft manuscript — it doesn’t need to be final, but it needs to be close enough to get a good enough sense of the story, the style, and the structure
  • One team member digs into competitive research: similar titles, categories, keywords, trim size and page count and pricing
  • Another team member simultaneously begins to write the design brief: which is a detailed, multi-page document covering strategic issues like positioning and environmental scan, reader audience, key symbols or objects used in the book, representative samples, and of course then incorporates the competitive research that is complete by team member #1 above
  • The design brief and competitive analysis documentation gets reviewed by the publisher and once approved, it goes off to the designer — Jessica
  • Once we receive Jessica’s concepts, we again come together as a team to review the concepts. We share our reactions and feedback.
  • The publisher makes a determination which of the concepts will be the books’ cover, and this is communicated to Jessica
  • A cover reveal presentation is prepared for the author: we include elements of our competitive analysis, the strategy behind our design, we share the design of course, and then we highlight specific elements within the design and explain the relevance and importance of each one. Nothing makes its way onto a cover without there being a reason for it.

Our team’s experience and our authors’ experience are both supported by a strong foundation from Jessica, our designer.

Why Cover Design is So Important

In case you’ve just crawled out from under a rock and you haven’t heard this yet, the cover of your book is really, really, really, really important. From Jessica’s Can You Make the Title Bigga:

“The book’s cover is the first thing a potential reader will typically see, even before reading the description. It’s important because it’s a reader’s very first (and un-influenced) impression of your book. Don’t judge a book by its cover? Bollocks.“

-Jessica Bell, Can You Make the Title Bigga

Whether you’re self-published, indie, hybrid, or traditionally published, we are all working to create a book that acts like a magnet to the target audience and actually sells books. And when you’re ready to know more about what goes into designing a great book cover, you’ll want to read Jessica’s book!

We give Jessica’s Can You Make the Title Bigga? The Chemistry of Book Cover Design a solid four-and-a-half stars out of five. Just before you go and grab yourself a copy at the link above, here’s a closing quote from Jessica:

“There is never a last word in book cover design. It’s always evolving and changing. The key is to understand your market and audience, and start from there. So instead of closing this book, how about you don’t close it…”

Jessica Bell, Can You Make the Title Bigga

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