The Perfect Cover Up: Creating a Knock-Out Book Cover

Sunday, May 27, 2012
Is there a magic formula to creating a book cover—one that readers will pull off the shelf?

In the past authors paid little attention to the subject of book covers, that was the domain of the publishing house. With the increase in self-publishing, however, it helps to have at least a basic understanding of what makes a knock-out cover. Just what is it that will make one book cover stand out from the rest? What entices a reader to explore the inside of that eBook?

The text is important; a title to grab their attention and a synopsis to pull them in. But text alone won’t do it—how many times have you reached for a plain book with no pictures and only text on the cover?

WOW! discussed the text side of book covers in a previous post. Today we’ll take a look at cover images with Steena Holmes. You might know Steena as a bestselling author, but did you know she is also a cover artist? Let’s pose a few questions to her!

WOW: Hi Steena, we’re interested in learning the magic of cover art—what makes a reader pull a book off the shelf.

When we talk about the images chosen for a book cover, what are we looking for? Is it to portray the story or summon an emotional response?

Steena: For me it would be an emotional response.

WOW: Are there guidelines for what images work best? What are people drawn to—images of other people, scenic shots…?

Steena: I think this might depend on the skill of the designer and what they prefer, as well as what you want on the cover. Often you’ll see a scenic shot behind a person, etc.

WOW: So, basically we are looking for a mood.

If an author has an image, a family picture for a memoir or perhaps the author’s own illustration, can a cover artist work with that?

Steena: Absolutely ;)

WOW: I remember hearing an advertising rule about including a bit of red to draw attention. Are there any similar rules or statistics for the color templates on book covers?

Steena: That would be the same rule where if you look at design magazines--for kitchens, you used to always see red apples in a bowl somewhere in the shot. Now you see pomegranates. Or bold yellow lemons, bright green apples...I love having red in a cover--I have red balloons on my cover for Finding Emma...but I think bottom line is as long as there is a bold image, something that really pops out to a reader, that is what matters.

WOW: I love the cover for Finding Emma. Another one of my favorites is What If by Kelly Rae (Paperback), also one of your creations—the red scarf flying in the breeze stirs something inside…

At what point in the book writing process should an author begin thinking of covers?

Steena: As an author--I think about the cover from the very beginning. You always have an image in your head of what you are wanting. For sure, you need to have an idea before you contact the artist. The more information you can give them the better. Even if it’s something--sexy male with a western scene, or historical or YA in Paris... Anything will help the designer.

WOW: Can you tell us, briefly, how a cover is made?

Steena: This made me smile. I actually had to think about that. Of course there is a process. It starts with talking with the author and finding out what they like/don’t like, what their expectations are and then finding images that will work with that. A cover can take anywhere from an hour to multiple hours to create. There are so many dynamics and layers to it. Not to mention typography--the placement of the font, which can actually take longer than creating the cover image. The actual details of how to make a cover can be extensive. It’s more than just opening up Photoshop and adding an image.

WOW: As someone who used to design labels for pet products I can attest to that! Fitting the text and the images together is not always easy!

What can an author expect when working with a cover artist? What is the process?

Steena: Some designers will have a form that they need filled out. Details on the cover--the genre is an important one. You can say YA but is it YA contemporary, paranormal? Same with romance. I can put a shot of a defined chest but if it’s a sweet romance, that won’t work. It’s always best to give as much detail as possible to the designer. Then they will create a sample for you. Sometimes the idea is nailed at the very beginning or something it will take a few emails back and forth to fix certain aspects of the cover. And sometimes the author really doesn’t have an idea of what they want. Maybe once they saw the cover they asked for, they realized it really didn’t suit the book like they thought. A good designer will be flexible that way, despite having worked hours on a cover. It’s also a good idea to suggest samples of covers that you love so that the designer can both know what your expectations are and the feel of the cover. For instance, I had one author who wanted a sweet romance set in a field of flowers, but the covers she was more drawn to had bold bright colors with close up images...two very different feelings.

The best thing to do when looking for a cover designer is to look at their other work. They should have a portfolio of past covers they’ve created or samples. This will give you an idea of the type of work they can create.

WOW: It’s helpful to know the process so when we think of our book covers we can approach them with the mind of a cover artist. Thank you, Steena, for sharing with us!

Need a cover artist? Contact Steena, or view her portfolio, at The Author’s Red Room.

By Robyn Chausse
Images cropped from book covers created by Steena Holmes.

Share your thoughts on what makes a knock-out cover or ask a cover art question—we love comments!


Sharon Bayliss said...

Thanks for the great interview! My publisher recently asked me, what do you want for a cover? and I was like uh.... Even if you're traditional pubbed, you may be asked this question and it's good to have an answer! I love the idea of the red.

Robyn Chausse said...

Hi Sharon,
How nice that your publisher is asking! :)

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top