Guest Post — Amy Green, Senior Fiction Publicist with Bethany House Publishers

7 Nov

Don’t judge a book by its cover is the adage, but you know you do! 😉 It is one of the things most readers look to to decide whether to open its pages. Have you ever wondered how publishers come up with that very important element? Amy Green, Senior Fiction Publicist with Bethany House Publishers is here today to give you insider’s info on the making of a book cover. Thanks Amy for sharing with us today!

(Be sure to enter my 10 Year Blogiversary Giveaway. Link is at the bottom of this post.)


Behind the Scenes of Fiction Cover Design

A lot of people look at Bethany House’s lovely fiction covers in all genres and decide that whatever goes on to create them must be some kind of complicated, mysterious design magic.

Which . . . is completely true.

But, in case you’ve ever wondered, this is how the magic happens.

The book’s editor will ask the author to provide information to help the designer, especially any strong preferences or ideas they’re envisioning. How much information they provide varies. Some will have a full Pinterest board of fashion choices, actors they would cast in their book, setting inspiration, and book covers they’ve loved. Others will say, “Um…there’s this important tree in the plot and the main character has brown hair. I think blue eyes? Let me check.” 

Authors also describe scenes that could make a good cover image, the tone of the book, and the personality of the characters — it wouldn’t make sense to have a carefree, lighthearted hero portrayed as a brooding Mr. Darcy!

After the editor assembles this information with a solid synopsis so everyone knows the book’s plot, representatives from editorial and marketing meet with our creative director, Paul Higdon, for the cover direction meeting. That’s when they plan a general starting point for the design. For example, you might hear things like, “Let’s have an outdoor scene and a more contemporary font to distinguish this series from the last one” or “Be sure to emphasize the rich colors and opulence of the setting,” or “We’re going to go with a backlit silhouette look in a suspenseful pose.”

Once a designer is assigned to a book, they get all of those notes and the author’s information…and get to work! The designer will create several “comps,” or rough sketches, sometimes literally—creating line drawings or using stock photo placeholders to give the team a general idea of layout and composition choices. A larger team of editorial and marketing members (usually about six people) meets to give feedback at this point, choosing a few poses and ruling out other ones.

Now the designer has to get the actual images to work with. Sometimes this means choosing models, renting costumes, and planning a photoshoot, other times it’s searching for and finding the perfect image to buy rights for. (This is especially true for covers that don’t show a person or only show a person in the distance or from behind.)

Now comes the intense design work, mostly in Photoshop, to combine the images with the right author name type, title treatment, color washes or filters, little scrolly corner things that I don’t know what to call (“flourishes,” I’m told), and all the other artistic elements that make a book cover look like a work of art.

After creating several different, much more final options, the creative team meets again to give feedback. This is where things can get crazy. Someone might say they like the background of Option 3 with the model from 5, but the coloration of 2. Another person might thing the model in 5 actually looks more unpleasant than suspenseful, can we do some work to soften the expression? And a third might point out that the cursive font is only readable if you already know the title, so it might be better to switch to a more boring but legible option. 

Arguments are made about what the market (aka readers) would respond to best, votes are taken, and most of the time there’s a clear winner…with a number of tweaks ranging from small (let’s take out the text “A Novel”) to huge (the “Frankencovers” with parts of many options).

[Picture 3]

After that, the cover is presented to both the author and our sales team for feedback. Authors often give the thumbs up right away, but other times they’ll point out changes (the wrong type of saddle for the era, for instance). The sales team usually loves our fiction covers too, but every now and then, they’ll ask for changes because of what they know will work for buyers and customers.

And then, after all that work, the cover goes out to all of you to oooh and ahhh about, usually seven to ten months before the book is ready to enter the world. We often pass along reader feedback to the designers who did all the hard work so they know that others are appreciating their magic-level skills.

If you’re interested in seeing specific examples, hop on over to the Bethany House Instagram account, where we do one video a month about cover design, showing you comps and covers that were almost-but-not-quite the final pick.

So, readers, that was the big picture overview. Is there anything else you’d like to know about the cover design process? Or share in the comments what was most interesting to you. (I’m no designer, but I’m at most of these meetings, so I see how things are done.)


Amy Green is the senior fiction publicist at Bethany House Publishers, which means she connects authors to readers through interviews, book signings, reviews, social media, and more. Her debut novel, Things We Didn’t Say, is coming out in November 2020, but for now you can find her blogging about the behind-the-scenes of publishing at








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8 Responses to “Guest Post — Amy Green, Senior Fiction Publicist with Bethany House Publishers”

  1. Carrie November 7, 2019 at 10:38 am #

    What a fun post! thanks Amy!! (and Beckie!)

    • rbclibrary November 7, 2019 at 10:42 am #


  2. Rebecca Maney November 7, 2019 at 11:12 am #

    I would love to be ” a fly on the wall” during this process, because cover design sounds like so much fun!

    • rbclibrary November 7, 2019 at 1:33 pm #

      It does!

  3. susiesellnergmailcom November 7, 2019 at 3:20 pm #

    What an interesting post! I remember a publisher asking for readers’ reactions to possible covers. It was interesting to participate in that process as a reader.

    • rbclibrary November 7, 2019 at 5:37 pm #

      I have loved doing that too.

  4. Paula Shreckhise November 7, 2019 at 8:47 pm #

    I loved the behind the scenes of covers! Wow so many for Whose Waves These Are. I do like the one that was finally chosen. The Spice King cover was right on, too. So powerful and masculine!
    Wow Amy is coming out with a novel? I can’t wait! She is such a great ambassador for Bethany House!
    Thanks Becky!

    • rbclibrary November 7, 2019 at 9:44 pm #

      Isn’t that great news! Looking forward to reading it.

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