How to Find Book Cover Artists for Your Nonfiction Book

by Bennett R. Coles

Book Cover Artists

Finding the best nonfiction book cover artists for your book project is essential for your success, because as book discovery has migrated to the world of search engines you’ll need to be competitive with established titles produced by traditional publishers.

When your book shows up side by side on a search with a bestselling title in your niche, the contrast between both covers will be immediately apparent. So it’s imperative that you aren’t tempted by low cost operators and hire instead an experienced nonfiction cover artist.

You Don’t Need Just a Good Cover Artist, You Need the Right One

If you do a Google search for book cover designers you’ll find pages upon pages of potential candidates showcasing many beautiful covers. However, you’ll also find that 99% of the covers you see are for fiction books.

The reason is that the vast majority of the millions of books that are self-published every year are fiction titles.

As a nonfiction writer, you need to find a specialist in your genre because the skills of a nonfiction book cover artist are diametrically opposite to those of fiction cover artists.

A fiction designer’s goal is to capture the essence of the story in the cover imagery. In other words, to create a visually appealing representation of the book’s characters and their journey. Fiction covers are about the book, not about the reader.

Nonfiction covers, on the other hand, must always be about the reader and not about the book. Their goal is to show a visual representation of the life of the reader after they put into practice the solution conveyed throughout the pages of your book.

While a fiction cover focuses on the character or characters in the book, a nonfiction cover focuses on the reader and their deep desires.

For this reason, you must find a book cover artist who understands how nonfiction works, who understands the needs of your target audience and who understands your reader’s aspirations.

Don’t Look for Cover Artists as a Commodity

In the age of the gig economy, exemplified by websites where you can find cover artists that’ll work for under $20, it’s easy to treat book cover designers as a low-cost commodity.

While this approach may prove valuable for fiction books, where you might want to keep your overall costs down in order to  test the book in the market before you commit more resources, it could prove disastrous for nonfiction.

The reason for that is that nonfiction titles are expected to be written by subject matter experts and as such your book will become a projection of your professional reputation.

Therefore, you can’t afford to cut corners and hire anyone but the most experienced nonfiction book cover artist that you can budget for.

Ask to See Lots of Nonfiction Cover Samples

Once you find the right candidate, ask to see as many nonfiction cover samples as possible – this will be proof of their length of service in the trade.

Then compare these covers with the book covers of bestselling nonfiction books in your niche to see how they measure up.

Ask How Many Sample Covers They’ll Make Available for You to Choose From

Another important question to ask is how many different covers they’ll include in their fee in order to give you greater freedom of choice.

Typically, you want to have at least three different covers to choose from, and by different I mean unique concepts, not the same cover with some twists.

Ask How Many Revisions Are Allowed Before Extra Charges Are Triggered

Once you decide on the main theme of your cover, you’ll want to be able to make tweaks to get it right where you want it to be.

So you need to ask the designer how many revisions their standard fees will allow before extra charges kick in.

Ask to See Their Contract, Fees and Terms of Payment

Always work with an artist who has a clear contract that details the services that they’ll provide, the fees, the terms of payment and, more importantly, how they’ll handle and charge for change requests.

The world of design is highly subjective and experienced book cover artists will not offer unlimited changes (beware of those who do).

What you’re looking for is a fair amount of changes to be covered by their standard fee and then reasonable charges for additional changes beyond that number.

Ask for Their Expected Timeline Based on Their Current Workload

Something else that must be stipulated in your contract is the expected length of time required to produce your cover design.

This must include the initial timeline from capture of your requirements to production of the initial set of covers plus the time between a change request and its execution.

These times will vary based on the designer’s workload, so you must ensure that their time frames fit the schedule of your self-publishing project plan.

Ask to Provide You With 2 or 3 References

Although having access to book covers produced by the artist in the past is a necessary first step, you’ll also want to talk with their clients so that you can learn details about the working relationship.

To this end, ask for two or three references. Any reluctance to provide you with references is a sign of inexperience (i.e. lots of sample covers but few actual clients).

Check for a Good Rapport

Finally, make sure that there’s a strong rapport in your interactions with the designer during the interview stage.

Creative endeavors require that professionals that you hire be good listeners and empathetic to your needs. After all, they may work with you for a few weeks, but you might have spent years on your book project.

If you feel you have to walk on eggshells when you communicate with your designer no matter how talented they may be, then that’s a sign to take a pass and go down the list.

Creative relationships demand openness and vulnerability and you must ensure that you can always work with your book cover artist on a basis of mutual respect and understanding.

In Conclusion

Nonfiction book covers are a critical element in your book’s potential success in the market and require a deep understanding of the needs of your target audience.

Therefore, you must hire a book cover artist who’s not only skilled in the visual arts but who also understands the psychology of readers in your niche so that they can tailor your book cover to their aspirations.

If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of writing, designing or publishing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.


Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.

Here are some related posts I highly recommend:

How to Write a Compelling Book in 12 Steps: A Must-Read Guide for Nonfiction Authors

How to Grow Your Business Writing a Nonfiction Book

Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.

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    Meliors Simms

    Very informative and full of practical advice, thank you

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