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Creating Powerful Covers

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Despite the age-old adage, everyone judges a book by its cover—booksellers, librarians, educators, and, of course, readers. At Little Pickle Press, we have developed a rather unorthodox way to create our covers. To follow our formula for success, you would take the following steps:

  • Brainstorm cover concepts collaboratively with your editor, author, art director, and marketing professional(s). If you do not have all those resources, then work with your graphic designer to generate a few completely different designs for your cover.
  • Vet the cover concepts with your team or inner circle of trusted advisors to eliminate some and narrow the field to three distinct options. If you have more than three, the process becomes harder to manage.
  • Send your cover concepts to representatives of your distributor’s sales force or your other book reps. Set up a call with them to collect their feedback, and take copious notes. You will be amazed at what you learn from this exercise.
  • Also send your cover concepts to your librarian friends. Offer them an advance copy or a first edition copy (possibly a signed one if you can manage that) in exchange for their expertise. Circle back with them individually to collect their feedback. It will probably be different than the input you received from the sales representatives.
  • If your book is for people under the age of 23, send your cover concepts to your educator friends, too, and offer them an advance copy or a first edition (possibly signed) for their time. Collect their opinions. Not surprisingly, their feedback will be different from the feedback you received from the sales representatives and librarians.
  • Solicit input from your own community of readers and consumers. An easy way to do this is by setting up a landing page on your website that has the cover concepts, a tool for collecting votes, a field for comments, and a place for people to provide their names and e-mail addresses. Offer a certain number of first edition copies as a giveaway to encourage participation. Create Facebook memes and use all other social media platforms to promote the solicitation and giveaway.
  • Give the cover concepts to your e-book developer and ask for feedback. Because digital covers render differently and are perceived very differently than print covers, you might decide to make the cover for digital versions of your book different from the cover for print versions. Ask whether your e-book developer could and would collect opinions about cover design from e-book buyers. Offer a giveaway of the e-book as an incentive.
  • While you are collecting opinions on front cover design, send the book’s final, edited manuscript to potential back-cover blurbers. Include some folks who will surely respond with favorable comments but also be bold enough to solicit others with strong brands and name recognition who are aligned with your cause, care about your subject, or are passionate about your genre. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Always send back cover blurbers several copies of your book as a thank you.
  • Once you have collected all the feedback, re-assemble your editor, author, art director, and marketing professional(s) to study and discuss what people said. You will notice some patterns emerging. Decide which design has the most promise and have your designer refine it.

If you can send the new version back to any sales representatives, librarians, educators, readers, and/or e-book buyers, take that opportunity to collect additional feedback and further polish your design.

Case In Point

We followed this exact process to arrive at the cover design for A Bird On Water Street, by Elizabeth O. Dulemba, with great success.

Here are the original cover concepts that Leslie Iorillo, our art director and graphic designer, generated for our team’s consideration:

Here are the three design directions we circulated:

Three Directions

Once we chose a cover design to refine, after collecting and analyzing feedback, Leslie Iorillo performed a color study:

Color Study


Our final cover can be seen to the right. The first comment that most people make when the book comes up in conversation is, “What a great cover!” A Bird On Water Street was a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Okra Pick, the National Book Festival Featured Title for Georgia, a Gold Mom’s Choice Award Winner, a Gold Moonbeam Award Winner, and an eLit Gold Medal Winner.

And the best part is that when you solicit the opinions of interested parties, you not only create a powerful cover; you also establish a community of people who consider themselves stakeholders in your book’s success.


RanaRana DiOrio is founder and Chief Executive Pickle of Little Pickle Press and a member of the executive committee of IBPA’s board of directors. Little Pickle Press is dedicated to helping parents and educators cultivate conscious, responsible little people by stimulating explorations of the meaningful topics of their generation through a variety of media, technologies, and techniques. To learn more: @ranadiorio, @LPP_ Media, and rana@littlepicklepress.com

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