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If you’re an indie author on the journey of producing your own book, one of the roles you get to play is the Art Director of your book’s cover. Professional cover designers are trained in typography, photo editing, and design—but they’re not expected to know anything about your book or your visual preferences.
Communicating your vision is your responsibility. Luckily, a document called a Creative Brief exists to help you convey your intentions to your graphic designer. If you’ve never heard of a Creative Brief, no worries. Here’s all you need to know to create a document that communicates your wants and needs to a graphic artist so you’ll get a professional, attention-grabbing, hard-to-resist cover.
Anatomy of a Creative Brief
Below is a list of the elements of a Creative Brief. You can use this article as a template for creating your own document to communicate with your graphic designer.
Part 1: Administrative Info
Working name of project: Let the graphic designer know the way you refer to your book, if you have a nickname that’s different from the exact title. Otherwise, you may spend some money undoing a silly mistake.
Project Due Dates: List the kick-off date (the date the project starts) the dates that your final materials are due, and the dates of all intermediary deadlines. I like to schedule 3 rounds of edits.
Project Goals: List the overall goals of your project simply and clearly. For example, your goal may be to create a series of 3 attractive, powerful covers to “brand” your line of instructional books about flower arranging. Be explicit that the books are part of a series and should share the same format, font, etc. Perhaps each book should have its own unique color but they all need to feel like they are in the same family.
“Must Have” Information: List out the content that’s included in all book covers, the title, subtitle, author and illustrator names and the series name, if it’s part of a series. If you’re an indie authors and have created a name for your publishing house, list that too. Include the logo file, if you’ve got one, in a high-resolution format.
Content: All books have certain blocks of content. Write this up and edit it before you give it to your graphic designer. Any changes you make to the text after the graphic designer has it can lead to additional expenses—so do your prep work ahead of time. The content includes:
- Author Bio (about a paragraph)
- Author Photo (highest quality resolution)
- Photographer Credit
- Book Blurb (a paragraph or two)
- Testimonials (short quotes from other authors or experts)
- Awards your book has won, if any, and the graphics that accompany them
Price and ISBN: It’s your responsibility to acquire an ISBN. There are many sources for this, including many of the print-on-demand resources. So look into the options available to you. You are going to want to instruct the designer not to print a price on your book so you can have pricing flexibility as your book sales grow and change in the future. Also, when you order your ISBN, opt not to include the price in the bar code.
Part 2: Creative Info
Visual ideas: Think about which character and objects represent the spirit of your book and list them for the designer. If you have a preference about other elements, such as you prefer images from nature or love the style of certain artist, list it here. You may want to copy-and-paste covers of books you admire. Or if you’ve already got a book or two that’s for sale, make sure the designer sees them so they can all share a visual theme.
Mood of Cover: Define the mood of your books because you can’t expect the designer to read them. Put on paper the aspects you want to convey with the design, for example: “I want these covers to reflect the high quality of these books. We want readers to feel confident and assured that these books are professional, that the books will guide them in an approachable and friendly way to make the best flower arrangements for their homes.”
Genre samples. List the genre and provide some samples of book covers you like. List the elements you like and explain why. Your book should look like it fits in with other books of its genre so your potential readers can easily recognize it. (Sure, you can be creative and make your book look different from other titles in its genre, however if you do so, you will risk losing sales. If you want to sell as many books as possible, don’t stray outside your genre’s cover norms.)
If you want a book cover that reflects your vision and matches the quality of the writing inside, give your designer clear direction and thoughtful notes on your vision. Provide all the information your cover designer needs in a carefully prepared Creative Brief.