Cataclysm and Calvin: the book cover design process

Cataclysm and Calvin: the book cover design process

Today we’re talking books. In particular, two brand new books.

I was hired to illustrate and design the covers for these new books, and I want to walk you through the steps we took when designing these covers, to give you a better understanding of how this process works.

First contact

However you find my work, via Goodreads, facebook, twitter, or this site, the first thing we should do is have a chat. In both of the above examples, my clients were based in the States (and I’m over here in sunny England), so all of our discussions were conducted via email.

Email is usually a good way to communicate, but I am also available on Skype and traditional phone. Whatever works best for you.

You tell me what your book is about, what genre, and any ideas you had for the cover.

I will tell you my thoughts on the sort of thing that could work as a design, suggesting a handful of ideas for the illustration and the overall cover.

At this stage, it is merely a discussion and you are not committed to using my services. Having said that, I’ll be working hard to come up with ideas you will like, and I’m hopeful you will be keen to move on to the next stage.

Paperwork and payment

If you like the sound of the ideas I am suggesting, we would then discuss the price for the work.

The exact price will depend on a number of factors, such as whether you want just an ebook cover or a paperback as well, and I will provide a quote based on the ideas we have discussed and the information you have given me.

Once you are happy with the price, I will send you an Acceptance of Commission, which documents what we have agreed and sets out the terms of our agreement. It’s no Stephen King novel, but it is still an important read, as it lets you know what you can do with the cover (and what you can’t). Have a read through and ask me any questions.

I will also issue an invoice via Paypal requesting 50% of the payment. The remaining 50% is payable only after you have received the final cover designs, formatted to the requirements of your printer.


With the paperwork out of the way, I get started on the sketches. With Calvin Reads the Bible, we had a clear winner in terms of the ideas that had been suggested, so the sketches were simply a process of refining that one idea. For example, Donnie was able to offer suggestions for the depiction of his characters, bringing them more in-line with the descriptions in his book.

sketches for calvin reads the bible book cover progression of an idea

When working on Cataclysm, we had agreed a general idea for the cover, so the sketching stage allowed me to present several different compositions. Tommy then selected the one he liked the best and we moved on to the next part.


Using the agreed composition and design from the sketching stage, I produce a more-detailed pencil sketch of the artwork. This allows you to see the outline of the actual artwork that will appear on your cover.

This is sent out for you to review and I will incorporate any changes you would like. Once you are happy with the pencil artwork, it’s time to produce…

The final artwork

Depending on the style of illustration, the final artwork could take several forms. Whatever the style, though, at this stage we are creating the final imagery that will appear on your cover.

I will get this ready and, again, send it across to you for review. Of course, you are still able to request changes at this point. With Cataclysm, for example, I redrew a small element of the main character that wasn’t quite right, to make sure we had the best possible picture for the book.

The design

With the artwork agreed, it is time to finalise the overall design.

I will have suggested some rough placements of title and author name in my original sketches, but this is where we really get in to the details of the design.

With both of the above books, we had several options when it came to colour schemes. I produced versions of the cover with different colour options, and we batted these back and forth. Having seen my initial ideas, Tommy and Donnie both had ideas for colours they would like to see, so I produced some more variations and added those in to the mix.

Working with each author, we settled on the colour combination that worked best for their covers, and that led us on to…

The type

Alongside the colours, we were also working on the typeface to use. If you would like to understand some of the intricacies of these choices, please have a read of this blog post all about the topic.

Again, I presented some options and, based on the feedback from my authors, I adjusted the design and gave some further options to pick from.

With all of these choices, it really is a collaboration. I will provide options based on what I think will work well for your cover design, and you will get to give your input based on what speaks to you as the author. Between us, we will pick the option that makes everyone happy. (Although, I will tell you if I really don’t think an idea is right for your book. That is only fair.)

Is that it?

Not quite. I know this seems like a lot, but you have to remember that your cover is the face your book shows to the world and it is really important that you make the best decisions for your cover. By breaking the process down into stages like this, you get a chance to assess and appreciate each element that goes into your finished cover.

And, in reality, this can be a quick process. Both of these book covers were completed within a month, from first discussions to final designs.

So what is left to do?

If you’re releasing a paperback then we will need to design the full wrap for the spine and back cover as well. To do this, I will ask you for some additional information, such as the page count and the information that you want to include on the back cover (eg your blurb).

I will produce a full wrap design for you to review and, again, incorporate any changes you would like made to the overall design. Once you have agreed that, then we’re almost there.

Final documents

This is what it’s all about.

I will send you the final documents you will need when uploading your book. The exact format of these will depend on which printers you have chosen to use (KDP, Createspace, Ingram Sparks etc).

You will also get your free 3D mockup of your cover (included with every cover design contract) for you to use in your marketing and promotions.

3d book cover design example

And that’s it

You just need to pay me. Don’t forget that bit. Please. It makes me sad. And hungry.

And, of course, if there’s anything else that you need then you can always get in touch. Some quick reformatting of your design for a particular marketing need is rarely going to be an issue, so just let me know if you need anything like that.

If you’re thinking of expanding to other formats (eg audiobooks) then, again, let me know. There may be a fee for this, depending on the work involved to reformat the cover, and we will certainly need to extend the licences granted in your Acceptance of Commission, but I’m always happy to discuss options with you, and to help out where I can.

More reading

If this blog post has whetted your appetite for some more reading then you have lots to choose from:

Grab yourself a copy of Cataclysm or Calvin Reads the Bible (these are UK links, or just search for them in your local Amazon store).

Find out more about book cover design on my Information for Authors page, or browse the previous book-related blog posts in this Journal.

And finally, if you would like to hire me for your own book cover, then get in touch here or drop me an email at

My wife and I are taking part in two open water swimming events this summer, in support of the Chestnut Appeal for Prostate Cancer. We would love it if you could sponsor us. We’re one down and one to go – Plymouth Breakwater Swim is next on 13 August.

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