How to Find a Cover Designer

I believe I mentioned in one of my recent Friday Write-Day posts that I had begun the process of finding a cover artist for my novel. I did this not because it was part of my strategic process of preparing for publication — that would have been the smart thing to do.

No, I posted a rather haphazard job announcement on Upwork, completely unprepared for the 31 freakin’ proposals I got in response over the next two days.

The next week and a half was spent sorting through proposals and deciding which ones to decline for what felt to me like wholly shallow reasons like, “that’s not the style I pictured for my cover.” How dare I?!

Luckily, I had a close friend available to help me narrow down my list until I finally agreed to work with one promising artist. I believe this project will turn out well, but I did not go about it in the right way. Here’s how you can learn from my mistakes.

How to Find a Cover Designer for Your Novel

1 – Use a professional platform.

I cannot say enough about Upwork, the freelance network I signed up with and posted a new job to within about twenty minutes. The layout is clean and professional, and they include a built-in payment system based on either a fixed rate, hourly rates, or even scheduled payments based on progress of the project. My only other idea was to scour an artists’ platform like Deviant Art trying to find a style I liked. Don’t do that. Use Upwork.

2 – Have an artistic style in mind going in.

I saw a lot of great artwork from a wide variety of artists. I initially had trouble narrowing down my list because I liked everything too much. Some of them just weren’t right for a fantasy novel, however, and making that decision to decline someone felt a little ruthless, but necessary.

3 – Have questions ready for potential freelancers to answer.

I ended up using questions that Upwork provided in their template, but these became important as I sifted through proposals and decided who to reach out to for more details:

  • How would you describe your illustration style?
  • Do you have suggestions to make this project run successfully?
  • Do you have any questions about the job description?
  • What part of this project most appeals to you?

It was heartening to receive  numerous proposals where artists said they were interested in my story in particular, and that helped in my decision process.

4 – Have a budget in mind.

I knew how much money I could spend on a cover design project, but I did not do any research regarding how much these projects typically cost. Turns out, cover design projects can sometimes run as high as $3,000. If you know you have a budget ceiling, you might consider stating this in your initial proposal, or at least saying that your price is negotiable.

5 – Prepare materials to send to any prospective hires.

I generally knew what I was looking for in my cover art, and I had descriptions of the characters it would feature written out in my story, but I had not prepared any character outlines for my artist to reference. While it didn’t take me long to put these materials together, it would have been nice to have them ready to send.

Cover Design Project

Despite my unprepared-ness, I have agreed to a contract with an artist who I anticipate will design a beautiful cover for my novel. I’ll start pumping up the artist’s portfolio once the agreement is official (and they start sending me proofs and sketches!).

And just for funsies and to showcase my professional skills in MS Paint, here’s the cover mock-up I sent to the artist:


This is why I’m hiring an artist.

What has been your experience with cover artists? How did you find them? Let me know in the comments!

Steve D

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