Deciding to spend part of my meagre marketing budget on a professional cover design was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made. While I had a pretty clear idea in my mind of what I wanted, I knew that there was not a snowballs’ chance in hell of me realising that vision without some professional help.
Finding that help was my next challenge, but luckily fate intervened and I was introduced to Andrew Nickson at Eclipse Studios. Once the book was safely at the printers and we could both heave a sigh of relief, I caught up with Andrew to ask some nosey questions.
- What got you into designing book covers?
It’s probably more of a ‘who’ than a ‘what’! My partner’s mum is an editor and had some clients looking for designers to create covers for their eBooks. She suggested that I get into cover design and has been a great support.
After some research, I realised it’s a field that doesn’t have many unique voices or styles to choose from compared to some other creative fields, especially for self-publishers who may have a smaller budget but still want something unique and personal. I wanted to be able to provide something different to some of the cookie-cutter options that are available on a smaller budget.
2. What do you think makes a good cover?
To me, a good cover gets someone to pick up the book! The story is what will get someone to actually buy the book, but they need to have picked it up to find out what it’s about, so drawing that attention is my job as a designer.
Thinking more technically, a good cover isn’t too busy or trying to do too much at once so that your eye doesn’t know where to go. A good cover, to me, is eye-catching and focuses on just one or two themes.
At the end of the day, a book is a product, whether it’s being sold on a webpage or a shelf in a store. The cover needs to look attractive and stand out from the other products next to it. It needs to be intriguing and make people want to pick it up while conveying the general themes of the book.
3. Where do you even start?
I ask lots of questions. What’s the story about? What are the overall themes of the book? Are there any particular elements that you’d like included in the design? Basically, I just try to find out as much information as I can and understand for what the client is looking for.
4. What do you enjoy about cover design?
One of the main things I enjoy is the challenge of designing something that can convey multiple things about a book at a simple glance. Things like figuring out how to portray elements of the story and setting without giving too much away, including something that might be key to the story but is inconspicuous until the reader reaches the right point, and choosing the right colour palette to express, for example, whether the story is moody and mysterious, open and uplifting, or maybe colourful and carefree but with a hint an underlying darkness.
5. How does it feel to see one of your covers ‘in the flesh’?
It’s still a really strange feeling. I work mostly digitally, so it’s always odd (in the best way) seeing something I’ve worked on in physical form. I’m still not used to seeing my own art prints in real life after nearly a decade, but now I’m working on book covers, seeing my work on an actual book that someone might have on their shelf is even more strange! Even seeing an e-book cover I’ve worked on available to purchase on Amazon is surreal.
6. What advice would you give to aspiring authors about book covers?
The main bits of advice that I can give are:
1. Try to give your designer as much information as you can. Working from a very basic description can make the process a little harder for both sides to get that final product you’re both happy with. Knowing what kind of thing you want, some examples of the kinds of things you like, a rough idea of colour schemes you might like to use, along with details about the story, characters, settings, etc. can help a designer get a very clear idea of what you want from the start and make the entire process a little bit smoother.
2. Trust your designer. Thankfully, this isn’t something I’ve had to deal with much, but sometimes an author can have an idea that they’re extremely set on and want exactly that even if it’s not what’s best for the book and the cover.
The designer wants to give you the best cover possible and will know from everything you tell them what will work and what probably won’t. Sometimes it may take a bit of back and forth, but ultimately if they say, ‘this area is a bit too busy and it takes the focus away from the main title’, for example, it’ll be because it does. It’s great to have a good idea of what you want but be flexible. Sometimes what works in your head doesn’t work in practice.
3. Shop around. When you’re looking for cover designers, you’ll no doubt come across studios/artists that may do amazing work but also cost more and may need to be booked months in advance, as well as studios/artists that that may cost less but the overall artwork may be a little more generic or have less personality put into it. It’s important to find a balance between design and budget, and a designer who can deliver what you want from your cover, so put some time into finding that person.