Tips on Cover Design & Illustrations for your book

The Cover

You will only purchase a book that has first attracted you by its cover. A well-designed cover can sell a book; a poorly designed cover will lose a sale.

I have been a professional graphic designer for 7 years but when it came to designing the cover of my first novel I was unable to create an excellent product. I was too close to the project.

Most self-publishing companies offer cover design templates or custom cover design in their publishing packages but I never saw a cover sample I liked. I researched other options online.

Ultimately I settled on a website called 99 designs. Here is the link to the cover design section of 99 designs.

Once I signed in, I set my price then created a contest for the cover design. I gave information about the book, any information I required on the cover, and some pictures I had from the book. Multiple designers began competing to win my approval of the cover design. During the decision making process I was able to post an opinion poll on Facebook for readers to help choose the cover; this created anticipation for the soon to be released novel. I chose one designer who I continued working with on the side until the design was complete.

The winning designer, Tara Mayberry, will be featured on as an independent contractor. She is easy to work with and timely in her responses. Here is a link to her website:



When I wrote The Common Hours, one of the characters in the book was a young artist who dealt with the loss of her mother through pictures she drew of her mother. I cannot draw but I liked the idea of the art being included in my novel. One day, while browsing through Instagram I came across some drawings a casual acquaintance of mine posted. The style of the drawings matched the style of drawings I had in mind for the book. I messaged her to see if she was interested. Once I determined a price per picture, and a general time line for completion of the pictures, I had her sign and notarize an illustrator agreement.

Your illustrator can be a family friend, an artist in your church, or an online contact through various illustrator companies. Using a local artist made it easier to go back and forth as she perfected the look of the drawings. In order to help my artist capture what I had in mind, I set up a photo session with a friend who dressed in period costume. I chose the photographs which best communicated the mood I was trying to create. These became the inspiration behind the drawings my artist created. Although I set a timeline, I was flexible enough to allow my artist time to perfect her creations.


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Tina Stephens

Author of The Common Hours

Editor in chief at Armchair Books




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