We work with many first-time self-publishers here at MHP, and sometimes during the cover design process I sense the author getting a little frustrated when the cover design seems to become more involved than they expected. They underestimate the level of development required to get a finished cover.

Here’s how authors sometimes expect the process will work:

  1. ‘I’ve provided my brief. Can’t wait to see the finished product.’
  2. ‘Hey, here’s my finished cover. Looks awesome. Thanks MHP!’

Now let me take you through what really happens:

  1. ‘I’ve provided my brief. Can’t wait to see the finished product.’
  2. ‘Hey, here’s my first cover concepts. Actually, they’ve followed my brief exactly but now I think that wasn’t such a good idea. Instead of a close-up image of a flower representing growth with soft colours, I think it should be all text and bright red and yellow. With a fire engine.’
  3. ‘Michael explained to me that it can’t be all text and have a fire engine. And he also asked why a book on property development would have a fire engine.’
  4. ‘Great. Here’s my second cover concepts. Bright red. Perfect. No flowers. Awesome. Let me show it to a few of my friends and see what they say. I’m sure they will love it.’
  5. ‘Ok, so four of them asked what happened to the flower idea and three of them don’t like red and yellow, and nineteen of them haven’t replied to me yet…Nobody suggested a fire engine though, so Michael was probably right about that…’
  6. ‘Michael asked me if the people I showed it to were in my target readership. Probably should have thought about that. He also asked why I showed it to 26 people.’
  7. ‘At Michael’s suggestion, I showed it to four trusted people in my target readership, explained my aims for the book, and got some really useful feedback.’
  8. ‘Okay, so I saw this great romance novel in a bookshop the other day…maybe we should try a cover like that?’
  9. ‘Michael asked me whether my book was a romance novel.’
  10. ‘Okay so we’re back to all red with text. Now it’s starting to work…hey, how about we make that bit pink?’
  11. ‘Okay Michael, you were right…pink was a bad idea…back to red please.’
  12. ‘How about lime…okay, sorry Michael…I’ll stop now.’
  13. ‘Hey, we’re nearly there……how about I post it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn and ask people to comment?….A camel, you say?…..Okay, I don’t want a camel…’
  14. ‘Wow, this is harder than I thought…are we ever going to get there?’
  15. ‘Oh……my……god……that’s IT! I love it! I love it! Oh…nailed it……so nailed it!…Why didn’t you just do that the first time………?’


So, the point is, covers are hard. We had two covers last year where we nailed the final design on the second round of ideas, but that’s rare. Expect some back and forth, expect to see a few ideas you’re not sure about, and don’t be surprised if you get a bit confused at some point. But don’t worry – with expert help you’ll get through. When I sense the frustration setting in, I always say to our authors we’ve never put a book out without a cover.

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