Today I'm presenting to you an awesome blog post by my cover-designer, Rachel Rossano! She was the hands the creation of Fly Away Home's gorgeous cover! After a wee bit of coaxing she agreed to write a post about cover design and what it entails--I figured those of us who are authors could use a reminder of all the work our "makeup artists" do to bring our precious books to life! What she came up with was an entertaining and enlightening tour through the process. May I present to you:
Cover Design: From Concept to Creation
by Rachel Rossano
Rachel Heffington invited me to come and chat with all of you about a favorite topic of mine, book covers.
Almost everyone knows the old adage “Never judge a book by its cover.” Everyone just as universally ignores its wise advice. Because of that many books go unread that could have been enjoyed and loved. I feel for those poor books and their authors who labored over each and every word within the cover. That's why I do what I do, design book covers.
A good book cover must do at least three things: accurately represent the story within, catch the reader's eye, and appear professional. There are myriads of other rules, but these three are right up at the top.
When I approach a new project, my first request of the author is: Tell me about your book. I want to know about the genre, characters, setting, and anything else that the author feels is important about their story.
Genre is important because it defines the approach I take to the cover. A romance cover usually has a couple on the front, unless the story is from one character's perspective or revolves heavily around one of the characters. A mystery requires tension and a totally different feel and visual goal than women's fiction or science fiction. The genre defines the general approach.
Characters are very important to me. As a writer and as a reader, my first interest is in the characters. They drive my plots and frequently are integral to my designs. I try to match the character the author describes to an image that we can use. Sometimes compromises have to be made, but usually good matches can be found. Thankfully eye color and hair color are tweak-able.
If there's a setting or scene that's crucial to the story, I try to get that on the cover. For Rachel Heffington's book, Fly Away Home, setting and time period were very important to the design. Set in 50s New York City, the setting needed to be clear in the images, the clothing, the coloring, and the font choices.
The process of creating a cover that catches the eye is a bit hard to explain. Placement of the elements, coloring, font choices, and other style choices all factor into the final product. In this day of electronic devices and purchasing ebooks on Amazon and iTunes, making sure a cover looks good in color, black and white, thumbnail size, and full print size becomes part of the job as well.
What makes a cover appear professional is another tough one to quantify. There are so many factors. The final cover should look finished, not slapped together. The individual parts should work together as a whole image, not jump out to the observer as pieces. Coloring and lighting also play a big role. Garishly colored typography or oddly stretched pictures rarely appear professional. Picking out what works and doesn't sometimes takes an experienced eye. As someone once pointed out to me about writing, in the end cover designing is very subjective.
Each designer has a different process and a different style. My designing projects usually follow four steps: discussion, designing, finalizing, and tweaking.
Rachel Heffington came to me with a clear idea of what she wanted in her cover design. This cut down on the discussion phase considerably. Based on her blurb, mock up, and our conversations about the styles of covers she liked on other books, I went hunting for images that might work for her main character and a few other elements that we might want to use. I emailed her links to a selection of possibilities. She chose the one she thought best captured Callie.
The next step, designing, is where I put together a mock of how I think the elements could go together using comp images, which are low quality resolution watermarked images from the royalty-free website. I don't purchase the images until the composition of the cover has been finalized. Creating a mock cover lets the author and I work through the layout designing aspects of the cover like where the title will go, where each image will be used. Edges remain raw and watermarks mar the pictures. Fonts (kind of lettering) are rarely finalized, and small details like the blurb and tagline will come later. Mocks aren't particularly pretty but they serve a purpose. Once we have a very clear overall picture of which images we need and their placement, we move to the finalizing stage.
Finalizing is when I purchase the images, put them together, finish edges, and work to make the cover feel like a single image. The font choices are selected. The blurb, bio, and tagline add another layer. After receiving approval from the author comes, I prepare the final cover files. Payment happens and the author gets the product.
I always hope the tweaking phase won't be necessary, but even if it is, I try to make it painless. Not every system is perfect and sometimes images need to be adjusted a millimeter here or there. With print covers sometimes colors need to be adjusted so the hard copy looks like it should. Just small things. We go through the process of proofing and checking until the the proof copy arrives at the author's door and it is perfect.
It is done! Finally ready for sharing with the world.
I know from publishing my own books, the feeling of holding the finished product in your hands is worth all the hard work.
(Examples of the many beautiful covers Rachel has created!)
Rachel Rossano is a happily married homeschooling mom of three kids. Mid the chaos, she thinks about characters, plots, and book cover ideas. The ideas percolate in her head until she can give them form during nap times and after the little ones go to bed. Beyond writing and book covers, she enjoys spending time with her husband, watching movies, teaching her kids, and reading good books. Above all, she seeks to glorify her Savior in all she does. You can visit her over on her blog at http://rachel-rossano.
blogspot.com/ or check out her design website at http://rossanodesigns. weebly.com/.
1.) What is the most important thing about a cover?
2.) Are covers even that important?
3.) If you could choose one actor (living or dead) to play each of your leads, who would that list include?
4.) In what genres do you prefer to work?
5.) Which book on the shelf closest to you has the prettiest cover?
6.) If you could have any famous author judge your work, who would you choose and why?
7.) What is one thing you must have near you in order to write?
8.) If you are independently published, which cover designer did you choose?
9.) What is your worst writing habit?
10.) Do you have a favorite literary-inclined character from a book or movie?
There you go! Remember, the time is short in which to enter for a chance to win the awesome Coziness Package so get your entries in so you'll be in the running. :)