Publishing FAQs: Book Covers

The cover design for a new book is something I really enjoy working on, and it’s often one of the author’s favourite parts of the production process too. However, it’s not without its challenges, such as choosing a good image (particularly as a lot of the subjects of our books are quite abstract), and the cover design process can be an unfamiliar and daunting prospect for some of our authors. In this post, I answer some frequently asked questions about the book cover design process.

The series design for SLA is possible with or without an image

Will I be able to choose my own cover design?

We have standard designs for all our series, so the design itself will be predetermined, but this doesn’t mean that you won’t be involved in the rest of the process! There’s usually flexibility regarding colour and image, and even more scope for creativity if your work is out of series.

Do I have to have an image?

Not necessarily. Some of our series designs are possible both with and without an image, so you may be able to choose, depending on which series your book is in. If you opt for a cover without an image, you can still get involved in the design process by letting us know your preferred colour scheme. And if the series requires an image, we’re always happy to help you choose and source it.

The cover art for Wei Ye’s book was created specially by an artist she knows, Mu Zi

Will I be able to choose the cover image?

Yes! We like authors to have plenty of input when it comes to deciding on the image for the cover, as ultimately we want them to have something they’re happy with and can be proud of. We receive all sorts of different images, including photographs taken by the authors themselves, artwork commissioned specially for the cover, “word clouds” and more! We will do our best to accommodate your choice, although there are a few criteria it will need to meet…

Can I use this photo of people on a beach I took on holiday?

That depends – do you have permission from the people in the photo to use it for this purpose? If not, I’m afraid we won’t be able to put it on the cover. Furthermore, when submitting a photo as a cover image, you need to be careful not only of the people visible in the photo but also any logos or branding that are central to the image.

What about this drawing my child did?

Absolutely, providing it will work for the cover of an academic book and the image is of a high enough quality. Our designers need the image resolution to be at least 300 dpi for it to be usable, as lower resolution images will quickly become fuzzy once they’ve been enlarged to fit the cover. What looks good on screen may not come out as well when printed by a high-quality printer, so we have to check that the quality is sufficient.

A cover that uses a stock image

What if I don’t have an image of my own?

Not to worry – we regularly use stock image libraries like iStockphoto and Shutterstock to source images for our books, so we always encourage our authors to have a look through them when they have an idea in mind but no image of their own. The sheer amount of choice the image libraries offer can be quite overwhelming, and it can be a bit of a treasure hunt sifting through all the generic or staged images to find what you have in mind. However, they have an incredibly wide range of images available, and we’re sure to find the right one with enough digging!

An informal photo-shoot arranged by the editors

None of the stock images of children look natural, what can I do? 

You might be able to set up an informal photo shoot – perhaps you have young family members, friends or neighbours who’d love to feature on the cover of a book! We can provide a template letter of permission for you to give to parents or guardians to sign and are always happy to give the models a copy of the printed book in thanks.

 

Flo

Designing book covers

The book cover design process is one of the parts of production that usually gets our authors excited and I really enjoy working with them, together with Sarah (our production manager) and our external designers on the covers.

We start designing the covers right at the beginning of the production process, as soon as the book has been approved for publication in fact. The reason for this is that we like to get the blurbs and design confirmed early so that we can start using them in our marketing materials.

TCC booksEach book series has a standard series design and each book in the series must have a cover which conforms to this design. This gives the series a strong identity and makes our books easily recognisable. Anyone who has several of our books on a similar topic on their bookcase will soon see how similar the spines are! This conformity does not restrict the process however, and there is still plenty of opportunity for some creativity and fun during the design process!

Most of our series allow for a cover with or without an image and we give our authors the choice between having an image or a plain cover. Some authors opt to have a cover with no image as it can be hard to find an image which effectively sums up the contents of the book. In this case we at least give them a say in the colours we use!

Tourism and HumourOther authors are keen to have an image and we always make sure that they are then involved in deciding the artwork. Over the years that I have been doing covers we have been provided with all sorts of pictures, ranging from photographs taken by authors themselves to sketches done by a child of an editor to artwork created by the subjects of the book’s study, and everything in between! Where possible we try and use the authors’ first choice of artwork, but there are occasions when this is not possible, perhaps when permission can’t be secured from the copyright holder or the subjects of the image or a high resolution file can’t be obtained.

Teachers as Mediators in the Foreign Language ClassroomWhen authors want an image but don’t have one themselves I usually help them search image libraries for suitable artwork. Browsing image libraries can be quite fun and the wide range of images available is incredible. However, searching image libraries can also be quite stressful! This is because we sometimes struggle to find an image that looks natural and not too staged or because we have a clear picture in our mind of exactly what we want but simply can’t find it. On one occasion I actually went out with my own camera and set up the photo that was used on the cover!

Once the image has been chosen our designer draws up a proof, selecting colours which match the artwork or those that the author has suggested. The proof is then sent to the authors for checking and revisions are made before the cover is checked again. The front cover is then made into a jpg and we send it off to retailers and bibliographic databases as well as uploading it to our website.

Tommi with our beautiful display of books at a conference
Tommi with our beautiful display of books at a conference

At this stage the back cover doesn’t have any reviews on it, as these are requested at the time that the design process is started and we usually give people a couple of months to read a manuscript and provide an endorsement. Once the quotes are received they are then added to the back cover and then the whole cover is checked by the authors, Sarah and me; and then finalised for print. The most rewarding part of the process for both us and the authors is, of course, finally receiving the printed copy of the book. People often come by our stand at conferences and tell us how colourful and attractive our books are, and that really makes our day!

Laura