Do Publishers Always Design Book Covers?

You may have often wondered who has creative control over the books you read. Publishers typically have many roles, one of which includes the cover art of a book.

Publishing houses usually have designers who create book covers. Those who self-publish have more creative freedom to choose their designer and contribute to the cover of the book. However, authors can generally trust their publisher to do the right thing for the book.

Publishers often allow the author to have some say in creating the book cover. If you want to know more about whether publishers always design book covers, this article may be able to answer your questions. 

What Is the Role of the Publisher?

A publisher may be a group or a person who oversees the work or process of getting a book published. They are also responsible for distributing copies of the book.

When an author signs with a publisher, there are specific jobs the publisher will do:

  • Approaching newspapers and magazines to run reviews
  • Copy editing the book
  • Creating marketing materials
  • Determining which retailers will stock the book
  • Media training authors and illustrators
  • Promoting the book and creative control

As you can see, this is a lot to do. When an author has a publisher, it is up to the publisher to obtain the right cover art for the book. It is crucial to note that even the most incredible book ever written may never be read without a fantastic book cover to make people want to read it.

Publishers may be made up of separate publishing houses which serve as small companies within a larger company. The publishing team consists of editors, designers, marketers, and publicists. These publishing houses tend to publish specific genres or types of books.

Who Has Control Over Cover Design?

Publishers usually have control over the cover design, which can be difficult for the author. However, publishers often allow the author to have input concerning the book cover and how it should be set up. A good publisher will help produce a quality cover.

As an author, you should never ask your publisher to make decisions that will personalize the book. This judgment means they should not have the publishers make the cover with the author’s favorite color or make it suitable to their liking without considering what is best for the book. A good publisher will consider this.

The book cover must be suitable for the reader and make them want to read the book. The author may not like the decisions the publisher has made. However, it is up to the publisher to make these kinds of decisions.

In traditional publishing, the designer is usually an employee of the publishing house, and it does not necessitate any agreement in writing for the copyright to be owned by the publishing house. When the contract ends, the rights go to the author.

As a general rule, even though the rights go back to the author, those entitlements do not allow the use of the original cover design. When the contract ends, new cover art must be produced. Otherwise, the author can get into trouble.

What About Self Publishing?

The only time the author controls the book cover is when they are self-publishing. When an author utilizes their assets to create a book cover design, they own the copyright. The group of rights that the author retains from the cover art includes making products that display the book cover, which provides for coffee mugs, t-shirts, calendars, and other items.

The author’s assets allow them not to be contractually bound to the same rules and regulations that would come into play if the publisher designed the cover. It is the way to go if you want creative freedom, but you may be sacrificing the quality of the book cover. 

When a Cover Artist Designs the Jacket

The professional cover design is categorized into two classifications. The first is when the author uses their assets to create the cover. The other is when the author uses a third party to make the cover.

There are only two occasions in which the author retains ownership of the book cover in this case:

  • The artist relinquishes the copyright to the author
  • The cover artist is the owner of the copyright

When ownership is transferred to the author, you must write it. This contract is how the copyright is given to the author to have control. Self-publishing gives the author more creative freedom than if the author has a publisher who retains control over the book cover. Book cover art is also regarded as work made for hire.

Work-made-for-hire agreements must be signed before any work is done. Authors who want the copyright after it is created must sign a copyright assignment or transfer agreement. The artist and the author must determine the cover’s use if there is no transfer agreement.

If the cover artists create the book cover from their assets, they can transfer ownership to the author. As long as the handover is in writing, the author can use the cover art in any way they want. There can be all types of items sold that contain the cover art. 

When an Author Should Not Have Control

Most authors lack the proper training required to produce a quality book cover. There are essential elements to creating the perfect book cover that professional designers put into practice every time they design a cover. However, the author does not have the necessary experience.

Some authors get stuck on one idea for their book cover and try to force it instead of allowing a designer to take control. When an author gets stuck like this, they may end up with an amateur-looking cover. When you work with a cover designer, you get to see the cover brought to life.

Since the cover artist often works at the publishing house, the author should allow their team of people who are responsible for distributing the book to design the cover. It just makes things easier for everyone involved.


The publisher’s responsibility is to design the book’s cover. However, if you are self-publishing, you have the creative freedom to choose the designer for your cover art. The book cover is an important aspect of the publishing work. Authors can usually trust their publisher to make the right decisions concerning the book cover.