Cover Art Design: What I’ve Learned So Far

I’ve learned a great deal from the blog posts of other authors about their publishing endeavors. In order to pay it forward, I want to post some tips that I’ve learned about the cover art design process.

Cover Design

I used CreateSpace to make my first novel available in paperback edition.

CreateSpace offers “free” covers that you can modify – fill in the blank by copying and pasting – for your books. Some of these look good. Some not so great (matter of opinion, yes, I know). If you don’t know anyone or don’t trust anyone to design your cover and you aren’t a do-it-yourself person, at least start by looking through the covers that CreateSpace offers. That may give you some inspiration and direction as to what you want and what you don’t. CreateSpace also offers design services for a fee. I have not used any of these services, so I cannot comment on quality.

I have been incredibly blessed to have “found” Heidi Sutherlin through Twitter. You should follow her and check out her designs: @HeidiSutherlin . She has done my cover – eBook and paperback edition – for Josephine: Red Dirt and Whiskey and she also has designed my logo for my Southern Sugar Baby company. When I get further along in the editing and revising process for my upcoming novel – Anne McGinnis and for my NaNoWriMo novel – Nelson and Cora: The Beginning, I will be asking her to create the eBook and paperback covers for both of those books as well.

Here’s how the process works with Heidi (any good cover creator should get to know you and your book BEFORE creating a draft of the cover):

Is everyone sitting down… she asked me questions about ME and MY BOOK. Yes, that’s right, the person who created the cover for my books asked questions BEFORE designing anything.

And, the questions weren’t what you might expect.

1. What do you have in mind for your cover

2. What is your book about, descriptions of your main characters, setting, any particular point that stands out or that you feel defines your story.

3. What do you like (in general)?

4. What do you dislike (in general)?

*For 3 and 4, this question is vague and applies to anything you like or that annoys you – color, music, people on the subway standing too closely, etc. It gives me a clear picture of your particular tastes and style.

And, away we went through the creation process. I answered, truthfully, all of the questions, and Heidi sent back drafts and proofs of her ideas for the cover. Immediately, she hit on ideas that capture the essence of the book. With some tweaking (very minor), the cover was created, sent to me via .pdf file after payment and through Dropbox (which I prefer), along with instructions for how to use the files.

I don’t vouch for many people or services or companies, but I would highly recommend Heidi for cover design. I actually enjoyed the whole process.

In addition to the front cover design, she also did a great job of keeping the theme consistent with the color, font type, and back cover design.

My back cover has a description of the story:

It’s the Great Depression in rural northeast Texas, and not much has changed, except in the life of Josephine Killian. After losing her mother and her aunt, Josephine finds herself alone and independent. Loneliness leads her to sacrifice her freedom for the bonds of marriage, and life becomes routine. But, when a mysterious stranger, Ethan, appears, he draws out what Josephine fights to keep hidden. Ethan opens up the doors to lust, secrecy and addiction that could lead to Josephine’s self-destruction. Will the people she knows from church, her neighbors in Hefner Falls, and her own desire to turn away from evil be enough to overcome the temptations Ethan offers? Or, has Josephine gone too far to turn back?

Following the book description, there are three blurbs from people who have judged my writing in the contests I have won and people who have offered reviews.

I also included a picture of me and author information.

My cover fits my book and fits me as an author.

Here are some other examples of covers that Heidi Sutherlin has designed:

The cover for Tamworth Grice’s novel Listening to Ian Magick. Heidi also created the cover for Tamworth’s upcoming novel Nasty Disposition and her nonfiction history books as well. Tamworth interviewed Heidi about becoming a cover designer/graphic artist on Tamworth’s blog. You can see more of Heidi’s cover design and find out more about her and Tamworth too (bonus!).

Lisa Olsen lets readers get more involved in her cover art design. She lets them vote! Of course, she gives readers a choice between two covers, but then she lets them vote for which one they like best. Interesting (and engaging!) approach. For some examples of the cover art for her books and the voting, check out Vote for Cover Art: Wake Me When the Sun Goes Down and Vote for Cover Art: Pretty Witches All in a Row.

If you’ve reached the cover art point of your journey, what’s your plan of attack?


About melindamcguirewrites

The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat. ------ William Faulkner, Nobel Prize Speech, Stockholm, 1950
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8 Responses to Cover Art Design: What I’ve Learned So Far

  1. I had to do my cover “on the cheap” as there was no budget for cover design. My first book, CANALS, has a simple cover: just a canal at night and and eerie typeface. I think it works, though, by setting a creepy tone.

    For THE MIGHTY T, I drove up to the O’Shaughnessy Dam in Yosemite National Park and took some pictures of the dam. Then I fiddled with them in MicroSoft Publisher, if you can believe it, until I thought it looked fairly good. It could definitely be improved, but it’s not bad for a guy who doesn’t own or know how to use a graphics program.

    Sadly, covers have become more important with ebook sales than what lies between the covers.

  2. Thank you, Melinda! What a lovely post. I truly enjoy getting to know each author just as much as I do creating their covers. It’s a fascinating process. Thanks for shedding some light on how it all works and the wonderful things you’ve said here!

  3. DM says:

    Thanks for this great info! I’m about to that stage and am not an artist of any sort. I will follow Heidi. Great advice here.

  4. Lisa Olsen says:

    Wow thanks for the mention! I am so fortunate to have a talented husband to help me out with my covers, I don’t know what I’d do without him! I really like doing the voting thing on the covers too, I love to hear people’s point of view. 🙂

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