This article is part of the Jobs Board Series, informational guides aimed at non-creatives seeking direction on how best to approach, communicate, and work with a professional book cover designer.
Blog post cover illustration by Victoria Sieczka
What are example covers?
Example covers (sometimes called comp or comparative covers) are existing book covers that resonate with you. They give your designer a clear sense of your preferences, vision, and design sensibilities.
These are covers that you find visually appealing or that reflect the specific mood and style you want for your book. Together, these examples create a mood board that provides your designer with key visual references for the entire project, ensuring the final design aligns with your original vision.
Why are these useful to my designer?
These examples are more than useful – they’re essential. When a designer initially inspects a creative brief to decide whether or not to accept a project, the example covers tell them if they’re right for the job. Once we’ve signed on, mood boards help us make sure we’re going in the right direction.
So the designer is going to copy the example covers I provide?
Not at all. You don’t want that and we won’t do that. Example covers act as a guardrail, not as a template, and experienced designers know how to utilize them as such.
How should I choose ‘the right‘ comp covers?
- It’s helpful to see example covers from the same genre as your own book. It always throws me off when I get a work of fiction as an example cover for a business book I’m working on.
- If you have a specific reason for choosing a jacket that is outside of your book’s genre, just explain what part we’re supposed to focus on.
- If you can find multiple examples of a cover that’s achieving the same thing in different ways, that’s super helpful. That way we know it’s not about this specific cover and more about a graphic or design device that’s being employed.
- If you love one part of a cover but dislike another part, be sure to explain that in words.
- “I love this font but I don’t like the image used behind the text.”
What is NOT a helpful comparative cover?
- A big-time bestselling book with a boring design is NOT a good example cover. Make sure that you’re choosing an example based on the way it LOOKS and not based on the total copies sold.
- A one-word title that entirely fills a front cover jacket is NOT a good comp cover for your book with a lengthy title. The designer won’t be able to achieve what that book achieves when your title is 10 words long. Think about it: how we handle the word “Thrive” on a page will be different from how we can handle “How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big.”
- A jacket that was likely produced outside of your current budget. Don’t show your designer a cover with a custom, expensive, and highly involved illustration if your budget doesn’t allow for something that complex.
- Covers that showed up on Amazon thanks to their algorithm when you were browsing for books are not good example covers. That algorithm isn’t based on anything design-related. Relying on Amazon is lazy – go to a bookstore and see what grabs your eye in person!
Can I show my designer examples of designs that are not book covers?
Absolutely. Just explain why you chose those items.
Where should I look for example/comp covers?
This website, for starters.
YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE!
Your own bookshelf.
The portfolio site of your favorite cover designer.
Your favorite publisher’s homepage.