The planning which goes into the design of a book cover may surprise many authors, but it is something which needs to be meticulous for a great design which is true to the book itself, and this planning starts with gaining a complete understanding for the concept of the book. The concept is normally summarized by the author’s synopsis (something that normally only goes out to agents or publishers), this information includes the essence of the book and so the most important aspects, the alternative is reading the entire novel to gain this insight.
With most authors the timeframe doesn’t allow for the reading of the book, the same goes for your designer, they will also have a full workload and so reading an entire novel and then having drafts ready within a week or two can be a big ask. Having said this, we have read chapters of novels to gain a thorough understanding of the work, but this has been two to three chapters at most, the more detailed information coming directly from the author.
The information within a synopsis will usually break the book down into one to two pages, giving the reader a full idea as to the book’s content, conclusion, concept and details of characters within, however, for a designer the detail regarding specific scenes and characters may sometimes have to be fleshed out a little further to ensure a match with elements of the design.
Once the book cover designer understands the concept and details of the book they will need some of the technical info regarding the actual publication, this will be in reference to the size of the book, expected page count and chosen publisher, the more information here the fewer changes later.
It’s at this point that the designer has all of the information needed and can start to work upon the actual drafts for the book cover, but even so, they may not touch Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign for a day or so. The first stage will be to work on the concept for the drafts, this is usually done in rough so that ideas can flow and evolved into designs which best capture the essence of the book.
For ourselves we like to pick apart the brief and look for the key areas within the book’s concept, these areas are then worked upon with brain-storming sessions, here we take many ideas and condense them down into rough sentences and sketches, this can take a day or two per cover but it is a crucial element within the design process and one which we always adhere to.
Once the book designer has at least four conceptual ideas then the design process begins to take further shape, the rough sketches transfer to computer and their transformation takes place using Photoshop, this can sometimes be a lengthy process but one where the creativity of the designer shines.
A single draft from concept to presentation can take several days to get ready, but this will depend upon the requirements of the brief, if the cover needs more hand drawn art work then this single draft can take four to five days to get ready (from start to finish and including concept, research & development).
It just goes to prove that a book cover design is more than just an image with words, many hours of work and creativity will go into each and every design, the front page of each book you have ever read will have gone through a very similar process, one which is there to make the book the star of every shelf.