How to Commission a Great Book Cover Design

Despite the saying, readers do indeed judge books by their covers.

A great book cover design catches readers’ eyes and gives them an immediate understanding of the book’s genre, intended audience, and tone — and in many cases, its overall quality as well. This information then helps readers decide whether clicking on the book’s listing is worth their time. If so, they’re all the more likely to purchase the book in question.

Can you see why a great cover design is essential to your book’s success on the market?

If you want your book cover to make a positive first impression on readers, it’s important that you hire a designer to create a cover for you. Unless you are well-versed in cover design theory, market trends, and design software, any book cover you create yourself is likely to fall woefully short of the quality that most readers look for when purchasing a new book.

Fortunately, there are a wide variety of cover design options available to writers on nearly any budget, including pre-made covers that can cost as little as $30 USD. If, however, you absolutely cannot afford to spend a dime on your cover design, I highly recommend working through the step-by-step design tutorials Derek Murphy offers at

Would you rather commission a cover design instead? Great! Let’s break down everything you need to know about securing a fantastic cover design for your book, including the most popular cover design options favored by independent authors.

Photo by  Alexander Mils  on  Unsplash
Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash


The price you’ll pay for a cover design will depend on whether you need a cover for print, ebook, or both.

Ebook cover designs are often less expensive because they don’t require a back cover and spine. However, if you plan to publish both print and ebook editions, many designers and design companies offer discounts on these bundled services.

Some will even design an audiobook cover for a small additional fee.


If you’re planning to publish for ebook only, you can commission your cover design at any time before publishing. However, to commission a print book cover, you’ll first need to format your finalized manuscript. Why? Because designers need your book’s finalized page count before they can accurately size the spine of your book cover.

They also need to know your book’s trim size (i.e. the length and width of your book) and the color of the paper you’d like your book to be printed on (e.g. white or cream), the latter of which also affects the width of your book’s spine.


Every design company and freelance designer will have a unique process when working with authors.

Most cover design companies can take on commissions at any time and offer a purchase form to make commissioning your cover a cinch, with turnaround times often spanning just one to two weeks.

On the other hand, freelance designers often ask that you query them via email to ensure they have availability in their schedules to work on your project and to ensure their services are the best fit for your book. Don’t be afraid to contact freelancers with any questions or concerns you might have. A good designer will always want to ensure their services are a great match for your book and needs.

Photo by  Kimberly Farmer  on  Unsplash
Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash


When commissioning a cover design, give your designer a thorough overview of your book’s genre and intended audience. If you have a book blurb or back cover copy (which you will if you’re commissioning a print cover), give this to your designer as well. This information will help your designer create a book cover that is most likely to catch the eye of your ideal reader.

If you have a specific vision for your cover, or even simply a few design elements you’d like included, don’t hesitate to share this with your designer as well. Just bear in mind that the design you’ve envisioned may not be what will help your book sell best.

For example, many authors ask to have a specific scene from their book illustrated on their front covers. This approach was popular among some commercial fiction genres in decades gone by. But nowadays, illustrated scenes aren’t common on book covers, and including one on your own isn’t likely to snag readers’ interests.

That said, sharing a few design ideas in your brief can help your designer create the best cover for your book and audience. For example, if your romance leads are both black-haired, your designer will need this information to choose the best models for your cover. Or, if you want your children’s book to feature the color green, it’s important to let your designer know.

Communication is key to receiving a cover design you’ll be proud to share with the world. Speaking of which, if you have a specific deadline by which you need your book cover, share this information with your designer upfront, as it may affect whether they’re available to work with you and/or whether they will charge you an extra fee for a rush on the commission.

Where can you source your cover design?

The following are book cover design companies and marketplaces that allow authors to connect with freelance designers. These companies and marketplaces are well-trusted within the indie author community. However, please be aware that I haven’t had personal experience with all of them at this time. (Note: Pricing and services included are subject to change.)

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