Covered   6 comments

Interview your cover designer (even if it’s you!)(talk about other covers they have worked on, what you love about their work, etc.)


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Who Designs Your Covers?

Right up front — I design my own covers. When I first started, my daughter, who is an artist, designed my first two covers and they were quite good, but a catastrophic computer failure wiped out those cover images just after she left on a world tour (otherwise known as being a starving musician across America). She recommended a friend, a college student, who helped me rebuild the covers for The Willow Branch and Life As We Knew It. They are Ivyl’s basic design, but with new images and we fixed some of the things I didn’ t like. He started to design the cover for Mirklin Wood. Halfway through collecting the various images, he suggested I learn how to do photo editing and computer collage. It would, he explained, save me money (or moose-stew and blueberry pie, which is what he preferred over money) and it would take care of that fact that he was graduating and leaving the state. I’ve completely designed all the others with input from friends, my family and random coworkers and church members.

What Do You Like Best About Working with Yourself?

I’m cheap. Seriously – money is an object and if I spend my money on cover design, I have less money for editing and marketing.

I’m not a true artist. I can draw, but my inner artist has perspective problems. But Ivyl points out I’m a photographer and I also managed to get a B from a university art class where the professor was a real artist. She was pretty convinced I could do it and so was her friend, who is now a scrimshaw artist in a western village concerned about what CoVid19 is going to do to the tourism industry his income relies on. Cover design is really collage and I’ have always been good at collage. The computer eliminates the need to endure the smell of rubber cement.

But I also like that I know my own mind. I don’t have to describe what I want to another person who may not have read the book. Ivyl had and the design went easily, but there were still issues with conveying my vision. Ethan hadn’t and working on Mirklin Wood was a struggle. He did a good job, but it took a lot of effort.

What Are You Aiming When You Start a Cover Design?

I like covers that give you some idea of what you might find in the book, which is one reason I don’t use cover mills. So, for example, The Willow Branch has a moon that isn’t really a moon and it harbingers the arrival of a goddess who sometimes takes the form of a raven. And you can get that from the cover.

Objects in View features a lot of roadblocks and surveillance by drones. You can see that from the cover. I want readers to be intrigued by what they see and want to check out what’s inside. By the way, that features almost entirely my own photography. I ran around my town and took pictures of cars with their taillights on, then cropped the images, masked the license plates and layered in the collage.

Although most of my images come from the Internet, I try to find unique pieces or edit the images in such a way that nobody is going to recognize it as an image they’ve seen a million times. For example, the moon on the cover of The Willow Branch is a NASA photo that we spun on its axis so it doesn’t look like Earth’s moon.

I always go for some striking image, often a pop of color or contrast in every cover. The brake lights in Objects in View, the aircraft’s yellow standing out against the blue of the storm in Gathering In, and the barn in Life As We Knew It all grab attention in a thumbnail and, hopefully, make the reader go — “Ooo, what’s that? Gotta check it out.”

I want the cover image to look good in print. With the ebook it’s all about the pop, but with the print book, the images need to look good, especially the typography. One of the things I like best about working for myself is I own the image, so I can make changes whenever I want and test them on the live audience on Amazon. I have made some remarkably small changes and seen an almost immediate bump in hits on ads, for example.

How Long Does It Take You to Design a Cover?

About a year, or as long as it takes me to write the book. Of course, I don’t work on it every day, but typically, I start to get a basic idea for a cover while I’m writing the book. In the case of “Winter’s Reckoning,” which will come out this fall, I started to get the cover idea while I was writing Gathering In and actually had the cover more or less complete before I started to write the book. Sometimes it just works out that way.

As I write, I’ll start looking for images to edit. I’ll keep track of where I got them, so if I use them in the final design I go pay the royalty. I’m always looking for that pop of color or contrast and then when I have a rough collage going, I go back and really neaten up the constituent images and layer them into the design. I might do several dozen tweaks. I might toss an image I liked in favor of another one that’s stronger. I finally save it as if it were a piece of artwork and then work on the typography.

What’s Important about the Typography?

I’m actually qualified in typographic design. I trained as a journalist back when small-town newspaper folks had to do everything without computers, so I try to spend extra effort in getting the typography right. You say a lot with the font you use and the placement in the image. While I might take a lot of time on the collage that forms the picture, I will definitely spend several passes at getting the typography right.

Now, when I say right – I mean on the print book. It’s really not necessary to make the typography legible on the e-book. A pop of color or contrast will attract attention to the thumbnail, but ebook customers have all that writing available to them left of the thumbnail in whatever font size they prefer. My focus is on a good or even great cover image. My attention to typography is for the print book and is a matter of personal pride.

Would you ever consider working with a professional cover designer?

Yes, if the price were right and we came up with a final product on our first project that was worth the effort. I recognize that others have talent beyond mine. I also recognize that indie publishing is a numbers game and if I’m spending thousands of dollars bringing a book to market before I’ve even sold one copy, then it’s not a business so much as a very expensive hobby. I already have one of those and at least we can snuggle under my quilts.

Are You Looking for Customers?

No, although if someone would like me to mentor them in DYI cover design, I’d be okay with that. I think, in doing someone else’s cover, I would have the same problem Ivyl and her friend had, trying to read the mind of the author and not quite getting it right. That’s a lot of money to charge someone for not quite getting it right and if I’m going to charge money for something, the final product needs to make them happy.

What Advice Would You Give Other Authors Considering DYI Design?

It’s not for everyone. I had a background in pedestrian art, photograph and typography. All I needed was training in photo editing. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do that. Perhaps you can DYI a mockup for your cover designer, so you can show him or her what your basic vision is. Then take his advice because that is his area of expertise. And cover mills do have a place in the market, although I caution against having the same cover as 20 other books. But you know, having some fun with it. Get Canva or (which is what I use) and spend some time playing with some images. You may discover you have a hidden talent.

Posted March 16, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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6 responses to “Covered

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  1. Excellent. Personal opinion I’d bump up the which book in the series it is and the tag line because they almost disappear. But that’s me. Thank God you do it yourself. I remember when paste-up meant paste, up. And Letraset. Eek. The Cessna is familiar territory.


  2. I did okay with art classes in high school, but knew I’d be way over my head with college level art. I’m just lucky I have a talented sister to do my covers for me.


    • I did AP classes instead of art in high school. They recommended an art class in college because journalists did a lot of graphic art in small-town newspapers back then and I figured I’d try it. I’m not a good artist. I’m competant, but I don’t have the creative eye like my daughter. I guess I’m more left-brained than right-brained. My creativity is word-based. But collages with electronic software are within my skill level.


  3. I prefer writing a book than designing its cover. I leave my covers to LLPix Designs, but your covers are very nice, Lela.


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