Your book is your biggest asset. Youâ€™ve spent months writing, editing, and polishing. Now itâ€™s time to design a cover and that is a critical step in creating a commercially successful novel.
Caitlin Proctor has been my artistic â€˜partner in crimeâ€™ for my best selling witness series and some of my single title novels. I love working with her for many reasons, not the least of which is that she asks questions about my vision before she starts to design.
I thought Iâ€™d turn the tables and ask a few questions of my own. Hopefully, her answers will help you when itâ€™s time to choose a graphic artist.
1) When should an author to contact a graphic artist ?
An artist should welcome consultations at any time. Planning ahead and getting something on the calendar cuts out frustration for both the author and the designer. However, the editing phase is generally a good time to get started.
2) What questions should an author be prepared to answer when talking with an artist?
I like to discuss my process and what deadlines we are working with. After that, I get a book description from authors over the phone so I can hear how they talk about their book. This gives me a feeling for the personality of not only the author but their work as well. Then I send a questionnaire. This covers everything from book size, genre and description, and examples of covers the author likes and dislikes with reasons why. This may feel like homework, but itâ€™s an essential exercise when establishing a working foundation.
3) Do you choose a cover image or should the author have one in mind?
I welcome all ideas for images, and I imagine other designers do also. I may not be able to use the one the author has for technical reasons, but it gives me more direction. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing images such as; how it fits on the cover, is it vertical or horizontal, what focal point is created, does it play nicely with type etc. If the authorâ€™s image doesnâ€™t work, I can usually find a similar one that does.
4) Cost is a concern. Can you break down the steps you take to create a cover and prepare it for publication?
Sometimes it is hard for authors to justify spending the money on a cover. The truth is, the cover is your readerâ€™s first impression of your work. If done professionally, it will create intrigue as well as creditability to your work. If done poorly, your book can be overlooked or dismissed. Thatâ€™s why I take a lot of thought and time with my covers so the authorâ€™s work is well represented. Here are some of the steps to my process:
3) Research competition in the same genre
4) Paper sketching (symbolism and overall theme).
5) Computer design (images/illustration, text and form).
6) Send up to three comp
7) Author input and choices for cover elements
8) Final cover for digital
9) Back cover input for print
5) Is it beneficial or detrimental for an author to send examples of covers she loves?
I like to see a minimum of 5 covers the author likes and 5 they dislike I ask for the cover images or links to be sent with a bit of input. For example: I love this cover because it is simple and the title jumps out. Or, I like the color choice. Or, I love this image but not this font etc. I think most designers would find this input beneficial.
6) Beyond Malice is one of my favorite covers. Take us through the creation.
Beyond Maliceâ€™s cover has a classy vintage feel with modern design elements. The upside down image forces the readerâ€™s eye to travel down. Most of the image color was removed so the knife wound became the focal point. This leads your eyes directly to the title and then travels down to our victimâ€™s eyes. From the time your eyes circle from the knife wound to the title to the victim, a short story has already been told.