Creep Into the Mind of a Book Cover Designer, by Linda Boulanger

Thank you, Karen, for inviting me to your monthly event and allowing me to share how I go about creating great book covers – information that may help your blog readers design their own covers or know what information to pass on to a designer and why.

As an author and book cover/interior layout designer, I’ve designed covers across many genres, though the process always begins the same way.

1. Gather information about the story

2. Consider elements that grab

3. Search for images that might work

4. Design the cover

Information Gathering

One of the most important aspects of designing a cover is to truly capture the story. My “tag” is: Your Readers’ First Glimpse of What’s Inside. When an author contacts me I immediately start asking questions. There’s a whole list but the information that helps me the most:

-Do you have a synopsis/blurb?

-Do you already have a “vision” or idea in mind?

-Are there particular covers you’ve seen that you are fond of/prefer?

-Any particular point in the book that comes to mind that would make a reader say “aha!” when they read the book?

Without either sitting down to read your book or getting inside your head, I am never going to know your story as well as you do. And the reality of either of those two things happening before I design a cover are … well, one is impossible and the other is improbable. You decide which is which. Same goes for potential readers. They don’t know your story yet so your cover needs to convey what they need to become interested.

Elements That Grab

Next, think about elements that attract. With millions of books being offered at the press of a mouse button, your book needs an eye-catching cover (and notice how small they are when you first see them – hint: give your cover the postage stamp/thumbnail test to make sure it stands out little as well as big). One of the major elements often used are eyes. Why? They help convey emotion. Look at the six covers I’ve included and see what each one tells you about the stories, as well as where your eye goes first. Was it to the eye(s)? That’s why we use them. However, eyes are by no means the only attention grabbers so study other covers in your genre to see what they’re using and what you like.


Where do the images come from? The best place to get images are stock images sites. I like the user agreements and ease of use provided by the following:

Dreamstime – Free and Royalty Free for a small fee

BigStockPhoto – Royalty Free for a small fee

Stock Free Images  – Offers truly FREE images

If you find an image someplace else, check for usage rights. Free and Royalty Free are not the same so don’t just grab something off the web and try to use it or you could find yourself paying hefty fines (that goes for blog posts and other internet usage as well). As a rule, you purchase the rights to use a royalty free image without having to pay each and every time you use it up to a certain number sold. That’s what it means on the sites I have listed and why I like to use them.

Also begin to look at images in different ways. Look at the Creepy Title covers shown. The one in the middle – using 100% FREE images from the Stock Free Images site – is a simple combination of the two pictures shown on the right. Would you have thought to put them together? Learn to rethink as well as considering additional elements that might be added. I took my girl and kitty images, added elements from some of the covers above, moved things around, and created something completely different. Does it work? Maybe. Maybe not. The key is not to be afraid to try.

Design a Great Cover

While I can’t teach you how to design, hopefully some of the things I do will either help you with your own design or when you seek out a designer. Regardless of who creates it, the end results should be the same:

-Arm yourself with a cover that will jump out at potential readers from the multitude of offerings.

-Provide a cover that shows the reader what they’ll find inside.

-Work for a cover you love and are proud to hold up and say “This is me! I wrote this story. Want to read it?”

If you have questions or need help, I’m never too far away from my laptop.


Linda Boulanger

Finding Linda:

Tell-Tale Book Covers – Cover Design Site

Author Site

Tell-Tale Book Covers on Facebook

Email: images used: © Dancer01 | Stock Free Images &Dreamstime Stock Photos © Everyfinn | Stock Free Images &Dreamstime Stock Photos


Filed under Book Cover Design, Guest Writers & Bloggers, Publishing

43 responses to “Creep Into the Mind of a Book Cover Designer, by Linda Boulanger

  1. Ms. Linda Boulanger: One of the best book cover designers around! From personal experience, I can attest that Linda has the wonderful (and uncanny) ability to interpret one’s cover concepts and transform those ideas into a work of art. Thank you, Ms. Linda: You are a brilliant graphic designer and wonderful publisher!

  2. Thank you so much for having me, Karen. I love everything about book cover designing and believe that shows in the covers I have been privileged to be a part of. Getting inside an author’s head and involving him/her in the design process as much as possible is the best way to create a cover that truly encompasses the story inside. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but it’s always worth it in the end.

  3. Linda Boulanger is terrific to work with! Whether you need work done on the outside cover or the inside story. She knows how to make authors look great!

  4. I think that people that attempt to design their own covers (unless they are unusually skilled themselves) are risking doing damage to their own product. You may have written a wonderful book, but without an equally wonderful cover to catch the eye, it’s probably for naught.

    I enjoyed seeing what the process is that goes into that mysterious “creation” of an excellent image. Thanks, Linda!

    • As one who has been on the author end of the process with me, Shawn, you can attest to the back and forth and how sometimes we get a good idea and then suddenly a GREAT idea comes flying forth, sparked by some little something (like how she looked with the first snow starting to fall as he kissed her for the first time there between their houses!) the author says. 🙂 Feels Like The First Time will always be one of my favorites though I feel as if it should be credited to you and Dawn as well as to me.

      • Shawn – I so agree, the cover is what can make or break the book-buying deal. Especially when shopping in a store like B&N, the cover is what attracts my attention.

      • The creative process with you was so much fun. I remember I came into it with several ideas, all of which you put on paper, and none of which worked very well (because I am not a good cover designer.) Then we pursued your idea of a couple silhouetted in the moonlight, which worked OK, until you sent me the fateful email that said “Wait a minute. I think I’ve got an idea!” How long did it take us to approve that final design? About 30 seconds. As soon as we saw it, we knew!

  5. Awesome post! As a self-published author, I find the information here very valuable. It’s hard work trying to decide a cover and then making it work. As an author who is not a graphic designer, I find it very easy to make up great ideas that are almost impossible to do! 🙂 Thanks for the guidelines!

    • Accomplishing the impossible is one of my favorite hobbies, Vicki. lol. Seriously though, sometimes a designer’s job is to help an author narrow it down. As I mentioned in the post, I ask a lot of questions that help create a picture in my head that I will pitch to an author for a “yes we’re on the right track” or “not really…let’s go back to the drawing board” and we do! Most of the time, we nail it rather quickly. But it takes that special teamwork. Glad the tips were helpful.

  6. Linda Boulanger did my last cover and it is stunning. She has a great eye for covers. Thanks for sharing your process, sounds like a lot of work and i’m glad you enjoy doing it so I don’t have to. ;o)

    • Your cover for Quail Crossings really did turn out great, Jennifer (I finally saw a “live” version at the mall!) and you are fortunate to have such a talented family. I’m eagerly awaiting your sister’s design for your next cover and wish her well in her new design business.

  7. Great post! I am just starting out in the cover design business and I love your process. Sometimes, it can be difficult to find someone who “gets” the vision that the authors have in mind when working on their craft. You are one of those rare people who do. I wish you all the best and am looking forward to seeing more of your work.

  8. This post prompted me to head over to your site and I loved everything I saw. I’ll definitely add you to my list of cover designers and know a name to suggest when others are looking. Love all the praise I’ve seen today in the comments on your work. Thanks to Karen for sharing this. 🙂

    • Thank you. I really enjoyed your bedtime story yesterday here on Karen’s blog. You took me right into that little girl’s room and imagination (or was it?!). Perfect!

      You know, I try really hard to truly see inside each writer’s mind in order to design the perfect cover for their story. That most often comes with a bit of back and forth and I find I seldom walk away from a project without forming a bit of a bond or at least a new friend. I love that part of it as much as the design process.

  9. For Brandy – isn’t it great when you meet a professional (book-cover designer, editor, format artist, etc.) who “gets” you or can help you along your path? I’m always looking for guests for the blog. I have a theme week every month – we should talk!

    • Yes Karen, it is. We should all be so lucky. I would love to talk to you about your theme week. Just send me a message on Facebook. Thanks for this post it is great to read about the process of designing books from Linda, She is a true talent.

  10. Ursula

    Linda did my cover for the second book I released…She did such a wonderful job that I couldn’t wait to have her redo the cover of my first book…and boy did it make a huge difference! I find myself just looking at the cover in awe.
    Linda does a wonderful job of getting to the ‘meat’ of the story when she creates the covers. She knows just the right questions to ask. Both of the covers she did for me were better than I ever expected.
    I pour my time, energy and passion into my writing, it’s wonderful to have someone bring your story to life on the cover. I would recommed Linda’s creative talents, and have recommended, to anyone!

    • Love it, Ursula. The cover is the draw of the eye, yes? Nice to see all the fab testimonials for Linda here. I hope to have her guest again soon. Thanks for visiting the blog.

      • Ursula

        Absolutely! The cover gets me to pick it up, the blurb gets me to buy it. I won’t get to the blurb if the cover doesn’t speak to me!

    • Did you see Old Acquaintances up there, Ursula?! I thoroughly enjoyed working with you on both of your books, though I have to say anytime I’m creating a new cover for a book that already has a cover my nerves notch it up a bit for some reason. However, Ursula gives the best descriptives and I knew this story before I ever read it (which I actually have now and loved it!) and knew we could do great things with it. I’m so thankful for Ursula and all the authors I am fortuned to work with.

  11. Very helpful to get an idea of what to look for both in a book cover design and a designer! Your covers are lovely. 🙂

    • Love the Ben Franklin quote in your blog header, Lara. But then the one you have with the “All Men (and Women) Dream” post is great as well. As a mother of an invincible newly 9 year old, I live watching him do exactly what you describe in that post.

      Thank you for the compliment on my covers, though again I must say I consider them all joint ventures with the authors — and they often begin as an idea that seems impossible, and yet together we dream big. It’s an exciting process.

  12. Great post Linda! I love the covers, especially since I’m a Horror author. 😀

    • Living in Egypt must be exciting and I love that you’ve used that in your writing. Horror was a complete shift for me from my “fluffy” romance first love though I set about them using the same process. I love that little cold fingers on the back of the neck feel I get when I look at a horror cover that’s truly captured the essence of what’s inside. Horror also lends itself to a wide variety of capturing elements which I greatly enjoy as a designer. Glad you stopped by.

  13. Wow, I’m late to the party but so interested to read how you go about designing a cover, Linda. You’ll definitely be added to my resource list.

    If you aren’t familiar with the new site The Future of Ink (, you might want to hang out there and start participating in the conversation. There are lots of folks there who write ebooks and might need your services. Mostly business/nonfiction writers, though, so if you’re more into fiction, that may not be worthwhile.

  14. Thanks, Elizabeth. I will definitely nose around The Future of Ink and enjoy sharing such sites as resources for others as well. Although my cover site currently shows a majority of fiction covers/formats, I do actually work with non-fiction writers. Your comment has made me realize I need to showcase some of their covers as well. I have a couple of new ones in the works, in fact, that would be perfect examples. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

  15. Great insights, Linda! It is your personal investments in your projects that make you so good at what you do. I love watching your covers come to life…the place a story begins. You are such a talented, and inspirational woman 🙂

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