Book Cover Design

Choosing a book-cover design is  fun and exciting – it’s also pretty nerve-wracking.  Recently I have been deciding on a cover for my novel, Piggy Monk Square. This was first published traditionally in the UK and was quite successful at the time, as it was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, optioned as a film, commissioned as a screenplay, and became the Book On One’ on RTE radio.

However,  books tend to die off gradually over years as traditional publishers only really market them in the beginning. If you are with a small publisher even that marketing can be very limited. They can’t compete with the marketing power of the huge publishers who buy their books places on those 3 for 2 tables at the front of bookshops.


Even the decision of whether to display a book spine out, or front cover out, can be bought…Realising there were opportunities arising with the advent of self-publishing I decided to bring my book back to life.

However, resuscitation took time, the rights belonged to the publisher so I had to wait to come to an agreement with them. It was a long wait… then my publishers sold their company to a bigger publisher. I decided to use the opportunity to have the rights revert back to me so I could self-publish. I therefore declined to sign the new contract with the new publisher and after some delay I received confirmation that the rights had reverted to me.


Piggy-Monk-Square-CoverThis has been quite a series of adventures up the learning curve and the latest has been getting a new cover. I was never totally happy with the old cover and talk about this here on this post. 

I had an idea of what I wanted but I wasn’t absolutely clear.  My story is for adults but it is narrated by a nine-year-old girl and although there is plenty of humour there is also darkness, crime and mystery.


I would advise any writer to know what their central image is – not just for the cover but because it helps keep you focused on the tone and mood of your story.

My central image was of a policeman shining his torch down some basement steps towards a little girl.  Later, when some of the designers attempted this I knew it was wrong for a cover.  The image carried an undertone of sexual abuse which was not in the story and was not what I wanted to convey. You have to remember that the visual depiction of an event can actually suggest something a little different..

I still knew I needed a compelling image of a girl and I knew I wanted steps or stairs. The action of the book takes place in a basement and researching book covers I found that stairs tend to be a signifier to readers that there is mystery and darkness in the story. Don’t worry too much about avoiding clichés – you can add originality. They convey vital information to your potential readers who need to know what sort of book yours is before buying. Equally it is crucial not to mislead them with the wrong image.


I decided that using a book cover design contest would be a great way of getting a range of different ideas without breaking the bank and I used the services of 99designs.


There were 398 entries from  over 70 designers and I had a difficult task whittling them down to just six. I eliminated the designs as I went along. This was difficult at first but became easier as I began eliminating the ones that looked amateurish or homemade. I also looked at the biographies, experience and references of each designer. Once I was left with designs of sufficient quality I began judging them against the following main criteria:

1. Does the design convey genre?

2. Does the design convey a sense of the story?

3. Does the image compel you to ‘look within’ even when viewed as a tiny thumbnail on Amazon.

I know these are very broad criteria but faced with 398 designs you need to keep a sharp focus on the main elements. I also ran a couple of polls on social media just to make sure I wasn’t going completely wrong by selecting designs that put off potential readers.


A policeman goes missing in 1970s Liverpool. Two little girls could help but they’re good at keeping secrets.

When a bullying policeman chases two little girls he sees playing where they shouldn’t, he falls down some steps. Injured and unable to move he is trapped in the cellar of a derelict house and left to their mercy.

Nine-year-old Rebecca and Debbie are too afraid of trouble at home to tell anyone he’s there. Forced to keep a terrifying secret they soon find themselves dealing with the most terrible consequences.


This is the final cover by the contest winner, Pintado.  girl-on-book-coverI am really happy and excited about the new cover and am looking forward to publishing the book very, very soon – will keep you posted.

Back soon,


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