What if I don’t like the book cover?

What I don't like

Conundrum: You’ve hired a designer, they’ve sent you a book cover, you don’ t like it. What now? Lets consider at what stage you don’t like it, and how you can find a resolution.


Design in Theory and Practice

Stage 1: Prior to conceptualization, ideas and brainstorming.

When you hire a designer look through their folio of work. That’s the first indication of how you’ll feel when you work with your designer. If there’s a majority of work that appeals to you that’s a good thing! Don’t work with a designer who’s folio you don’t like.

You might see a book cover you love and make your decision then and there to hire that designer but that one book may be a diamond in the rough, compared to their other work. Get familiar with the work as a whole.


Stage 2: They’ve sent you some ideas/concepts and you don’t like them.

Be honest. This is applicable to every stage because you need to work with your designer to get something you really love. But it’s at this stage you need to have a mutual starting point, or it’s just going to go haywire. If you don’t like any of the ideas your designer has pitched to you then you need to both find a common ground. Send them covers that you like, designs you’ve seen that appeal to you. Give them a direction to work towards. If you have ideas then tell them, be open and communicative. It’s the responsibility of both of you to find the right direction for you- the client.


Stage 3: Concept agreed on, and they’ve sent you a cover you just can’t handle.

Communication is the key. Have I made that clear yet?

Before you come rushing back to your designer with your arms waving around going “What the Batman is this?”

give yourself some time. Put the cover aside for a day and let your initial impression of it settle. Come back to it with a fresh, clear mind.

Sometimes authors return to a book cover and realize that although it wasn’t what they expected, it actually works.

Others return and still feel that the design is wrong for them.

That 24 hours is vital.

If you find you’re not happy with it after 24 hours, write down what it is that doesn’t make you happy. There’s been an obvious miscommunication between the initial ideas and the design. So it’s up to both you and your designer to guide each other back to that mutual point.

Okay so you’ve written down what you don’t like about the cover. I encourage you to write more than just “ALL OF IT”.

What I don't like

Be specific. When you’ve written your list of what doesn’t work for you figure out why. Why doesn’t it work for you? What would work for you?

Approach your designer with feedback just as you would approach a writer. What’s required is constructive feedback.  Start with:

“We began with this concept and I think there’s been a miscommunication somewhere because I don’t feel this cover conveys the cover we agreed on. So we can get on the same page, this is what I feel about the current design and how it could possibly be improved-”

If you’re not sure what I mean by constructive feedback, it comes in two pieces.

1. What you don’t like about it (what you don’t like about the design, not the designer).

“The font face doesn’t appeal to me.” “The image is too bright.” “The atmosphere is too dark.” “I can’t read the text.” “The image is ___”

2. How it could possibly be improved, or a new direction go in.

“I imagined a font face that is more hand written.” “Could we darken the image, or try a different one?” “I want to give the atmosphere of romance and suspense, instead of just suspense.” “Could we make the text larger?”


Stage 4: The final design.

Maybe you gave feedback and they still didn’t get it. Maybe they have their own idea of what they wanted to do for your book cover. What the hell did I get myself in to? you’re asking yourself. This isn’t what I wanted.

This is a difficult situation to be in. If you’ve paid your designer and they produce work you don’t like, should they give you a refund?

1. Check your contract. What does it say? Does it say the designer keeps the payment? Is there a refund involved?

2. If you have made a deposit but not the final payment- are you required to make the final payment? Again- check the contract. If this is not outlined then you need to be very open and honest with your designer to discuss a solution.

3. Why aren’t you entitled a refund if the work you hired them for doesn’t work for you? This point of view is often taken when dealing with artists and it comes down to one thing: Treat your designer as you would anyone else who you are paying for a service. You asked for a product and they provided it.  They have put hours and energy in to working for you and they deserve to be compensated for it. Unlike other standard services they may give you an opportunity only to pay half up front and half at the end- don’t take this for granted. Respect the work your designer has done for you, even if it’s not what you want. You don’t have to like it, but acknowledging that they put that time and effort in to designing your vision is important.

4. Can you take the ideas of the last designer to the next? What if the idea was yours originally? If it was yours originally then you can pitch it to the next designer, but ensure it is your conceptand not the last designer’s. If you’re unsure go over your last correspondences to be clear. If you’re still unsure then ask the last designer if you can pitch the design to your next designer- that means you’re covering all bases.

Although these situations do happen it’s the responsibility of both of you to to ensure you are in alignment at each stage of the project. If it has come to a point where the final product is something you hate this is a lack of communication of both parties.

I believe with honest communication, feedback and flexibility, that the chance you will get a cover you hate will dramatically reduce.

Lets face it. We put our trust in people and sometimes it doesn’t turn out. Relationships go sour, other life priorities come up, shit happens.


Step 5: When you finish dealing with your designer.

Make a conscious decision to end the relationship without aggravation or negativity. You may have feelings of spite or frustration- as you would if you paid money for any product anywhere and didn’t get what you want. It can be hard to do this- but let it go. Having all that negative energy pent up inside you won’t do you any good for the next designer you plan to work with, or carrying it with you as you go forward to market and publish your book. You know when things went wrong last time so talk with your next designer about that situation. Work it out with them.

It’s important to have that clear body of energy so you don’t block opportunities and relationships you will gain on your journey. This doesn’t mean you have to be happy with the work they did for you, it means you are making the choice to let the past be the past and you can move forward easily and with excitement about your book.

What if I don't like my book cover

So before even strike up a business deal with a designer keep these in mind:

– Be patient and open minded.

1. The graphic designer has more experience in this field than you do, and if they insist on an idea or element remaining that way ask them to explain why.

2. Graphic designers are just like writers- they can be very sensitive to feedback! I’d like to say that since graphic designers have to deal with feedback and critique in every one of their projects they should be thick skinned this isn’t the case. Designers hope that the design they produce is great first up- just like writers. Designers also need to work through feedback in order to produce a sparkling, perfect end result- just like writers.


-Be communicative.

Relationships will only flourish if you are honest, kind and allow a positive give and take.


-It’s the commitment of both you and the designer.

Getting a book cover that you like means you telling the designer what you like and giving them guidance and constructive feedback. It is their responsibility just as much as it is yours to be apart of the design process.
Reading ‘how to find a book cover designer‘ can help guide you as to where to find a designer that works for you.

How much does a book cover cost‘  an give you clarity if you want to go with a professional or a hobbyist, and how much you should expect to pay.


Have you had a negative experience with a designer? How did you resolve the situation? 

Comments 1

  1. Pingback: What if I don't like the book cover: Part 2- Redesigning an old book cover | Book Cover Design

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *