Does a book cover need a creative brief?

logo_greenWhen Crosshair Press launches officially in January 2015, one of our books will be my epic science fiction adventure, Nameless. After writing my fingers off for the inside, I realized I was going to have to work just as hard on the outside too. So that’s why I hired a graphic designer to build me an epic cover worthy of my epic story. But how did I tell her what I wanted for my cover? Did I give her an idea of what I was thinking? And how did I do that efficiently and effectively?

Introducing the Creative Brief

creative_briefA brief is basically a summary of something, usually a project. We use them all the time at my office job. The brief contains all the relevant information about a project, what it’s about, who it’s for, etc. A creative brief is slightly different because it contains elements that are subjective.

A regular brief will tell you how many copies to print. A creative brief will tell you what the book feels like—is the writing gritty or suave?

When I realized we were going to need a Creative Brief, I Googled one and put all the elements I thought were important in it. So far, everyone who’s seen it thinks it’s more than adequate.

Why do you need a creative brief?

Confused-Figure-with-Question-MarksA really great cover brief will force you as the author to think about what you want on your cover. Do you want special text or an image? If an image, do you want a person? Do you want an object? Are you taking the photos yourself or are you buying stock photography? Do you want bright colors or muted colors? How large will the book be? How many pages? What kind of font?

How many pages is your book? How many pages is it once it’s been properly formatted? What trim size will your book be? One of the most common sizes is 8.25×5.25 but on Amazon’s CreateSpace (the platform we use) the most popular trim size is 6×9. Do you have the right template downloaded? Are you using embedded fonts?

If your head isn’t swimming yet, you aren’t doing it right.

What even goes on a cover?

One thing I had decided was that I wanted a person on the cover. Why? Well, even though my book is technically science fiction, it’s not written in traditional science fiction style. It has a lot of character elements in it, and I wanted people to look twice when they saw the cover and the genre.

The stock photo of the girl who looks like Xander (
The stock photo of the girl who looks like Xander (

My main character is a girl named Xander. So I figured it would make sense to put her on the cover, and I went searching for stock photography. If I had known anyone who looked like her, I probably would have hired a local photographer to take pictures.I was fortunate enough to run into some stock images on that had a girl in it who looks exactly like Xander. So I included that with the creative brief.

If I couldn’t find anyone who looked like her, I would have sent photos of actors or other people who resembled her and had the designer do her own research. But doing it myself saved time and effort on the designer’s part.
But that’s just a tiny part of this whole process.

So you know what the person on your cover looks like. Are you sure you want to put a person on your cover? That’s what I thought I wanted. And then one of my dedicated readers (who also happens to be one of my best friends) threw me a curveball. She wanted a symbol on the cover. That’s what would intrigue her.

A symbol? Like what? Something from the book? Well, that was a good thought. I hadn’t even thought about it. I was glad I’d picked a designer who would send me options. I liked the symbol idea so much I asked the designer to give us a second option to choose from. And she did!

But what … there’s more!

But before I tell you what options she gave us, there was a huge question we had to answer. Who is this book for? Maybe you don’t think it’s important now. I didn’t. But what I learned about demographics really changed my perspective on a lot of different types of marketing.

Check back in next Saturday to find out what I learned about how knowing your audience can help you decide what goes on your book cover.



A.C. Williams

Amy Williams left a lucrative career in marketing to write novels about space cowboys, clumsy church secretaries, American samurai, and alternate dimensions. Along the way, she also discovered a passion for teaching other creative professionals how to use technology to make life easier. Through video instruction or one-on-one coaching, she teaches software, blogging, basic graphic design, and many other useful skills that help creative entrepreneurs get stuff done minus the frustration.

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