Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Covers and Interview with a Designer

Let's face it, there are a lot of decisions that indie authors are faced with that traditionally published authors might not need to grapple with as much.  Cover art or design is probably one of the must crucial decisions an indie author must take into consideration.  It's one of the first things your reader sees and it's likely what caught their eye or sparked their interest in the book in the first place.  We've all heard that you can't judge a book by it's cover, but the cover is exactly what leads a reader to pick up (or download) a book in the first place.  

There are plenty of self-published authors out there who've taken on the task of creating their own cover and found success.  Some are either very artistically inclined, while others have a solid grasp of computer-aided art design.  For those of us that don't fit into either category (read: yours truly), the next option is to seek professional help.  That's what I did  for "Of Murder and Monsters," and my designer, Mabel Iriberri of Nickel Design, was able to deliver exactly what I was looking for:

In working with Mabel, we opted to go with a stock photo and then got down to work fleshing out the specifics for the cover.  Here's what Mabel had to say about the design process and her background:

R.Q.G.:  How long have you been a graphic designer? 

M.I.: I’ve been a graphic designer since 1998.

R.Q.G.:  Did you pursue formal training/school or is has all of your training been on the job experience? 

M.I.: I do have a college degree in Graphic Design, however, that only helped from a creative standpoint. Everything else that I learned about the business came from on-the-job-experience. I graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelors in Fine Arts. However, in our very first year, we were not allowed to use computers to design. Everything was made by hand-drawing, tracing and pasting.

R.Q.G.: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a graphic designer? 

M.I.: I knew that I always wanted to do something artistic when I grew up. Graphic Design became my major when I looked through the school catalog and realized that it was one of the few majors that didn’t require me to take Speech classes. Ironically, every single class required me to present my work to the class on a daily basis and withstand critiques.

R.Q.G.: When taking on a project, where do you look for inspiration? 

M.I.: I’ve been subscribing to Print Magazine since 1996. It is a constant source of inspiration for creativity. It also keeps me up-to-date on what is current in the field. Another good graphic design magazine that I turn to is Communication Arts.

R.Q.G.:  Was that also helpful when you worked on the cover design for "Of Murder and Monsters"? 

M.I.: Absolutely, I always start a new project by brainstorming for new ideas. I then take on the task of research by going online and seeing what other authors have used for their book covers in that genre.

R.Q.G.: Other than working with the author, what was the hardest aspect of selecting and designing the cover art for "Of Murder and Monsters"? 

M.I.: First of all, working with the author was a breeze. Secondly, the hardest part is finding the right image. When you’re designing something within a budget, you’re very limited on photographic resources. The budget isn’t big enough to hire a photographer, models, makeup and hair stylists,… let alone scenery, props and costumes. Most stock photography consists of business images for brochures, not characters from a horror novel.

R.Q.G.: When it comes to designing a book cover, how much does the title of the book influence your design decisions? 

M.I.: I would approximate that the title influences about 25% of the design. The title is a very important design element. It has to not only grab the reader’s attention by working with the artwork, but it has to convey both what the book is about and the author’s vision of what they’d like the cover to look like. Also, the size and length of the title can make or break a design. 

R.Q.G.: Other than the client you're designing for, do you have anyone else critique your work before finalizing it? 

M.I.: I usually have a good idea of whether something works or not. Once in a while, I do run it by my husband, he has a marketing background and a keen eye for design. Plus, it always helps to have a second pair of eyes. If you’ve been staring at the same design all day, it’s difficult to look at it objectively.

R.Q.G.: What design projects, other than book cover art, have you created? 

M.I.: I specialize in print design – logos, brochures, stationary, invitations… However, my main focus lately has been invitations and party favors that I sell on my Etsy site. 

R.Q.G.: What types of books (genres) do you enjoy reading? 

M.I.: I love fiction about other people’s lives. For example, one of my favorites is “She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb. I also enjoy the classics – “Wuthering Heights” is my favorite book. Not to mention, biographies and autobiographies – I really enjoy those.

In summary, working with a professional designer can help give your book what it needs to stand out.  Working with a designer is a give and take and we went through several different design ideas.  What's been your experience, whether working with a designer or creating your own cover?

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