In the third of my We’ve Got It Covered posts, I have another interview with a cover designer. Right up front, I have to confess that Bryan is my brother-in-law! He’s also a great guy, and a brilliant ebook formatter who has added cover design to his list of services for indie authors. Bryan is answering the same set of questions I put to Berni Stevens, and in two weeks’ time we have the final interview with my own cover designer, Chris Howard. OK, take it away, Bry …
Bryan Hamilton has spent 28 years in the IT industry. He’s an avid PC gamer and loves everything motorbike related. He beta tests games in his spare time and has always enjoyed graphics and design, so he decided to combine his experience and enjoyment to start offering eBook formatting and cover design for a living. He’s happily married (27yrs this month) with no children but a gorgeous cat called Ruby.
1. What is your favourite genre for cover design in general? Which do you think offers designers the best scope?
Fiction in general has to be my choice here as it covers such a huge and varied area of subject matter that you can normally always find that ‘perfect’ image to match the book. I do however enjoy doing Sci-Fi covers particularly as they allow you to push the boundaries more.
2. Describe the worst cover you have ever seen. (Probably best not to name it!)
It was a design sent to me by an author for some ‘Final touches’. The image had nothing to do with the genre, it was distorted due to resizing incorrectly and the title and author name were barely distinguishable due to bad font and colour choices. The spine and back cover were unreadable due to the sizing of the text; all in all it was a perfect example of what NOT to do when designing your book cover.
3. How about the best? What makes a perfect book cover?
A perfect book cover will first and foremost be eye-catching to draw in potential readers. All text must be legible and the design must compliment the genre of the subject matter.
4. Some indie authors have been criticised for their covers: what are the most common mistakes authors make when designing or commissioning a cover?
This has been pretty much covered by my answer to number 2 but if an author does decide to commission a cover they MUST be willing to listen to the designer. After all his/her professional skills are why you wanted them involved in the first place so get your monies worth.
5. How do you design a cover from scratch? A client comes to you and says, for example, ‘I want a brilliant, eye-catching cover for my new women’s fiction novel which is about marriage and love and loss.’ What would you do with that information?
I would talk through with the client to ascertain just what it is they want to achieve then I would look at what is currently out there in the marketplace and research what is selling well in that particular genre. Then the inevitable troll through the various picture sites begins but at least you can start to filter the images. It’s then a matter of choosing an image which invokes the particular emotional response the author is trying to convey and so it begins.
6. Which popular cover (let’s go with a mainstream author here) would you love to re-design, and what would you do with it?
No idea… Truly.
7. For my new series which I’m starting this year, I’d like to go with an illustrated cover, but these are much harder for indie authors – photos are easier to source than illustrations. What advice do you have for an author who is looking for something a bit different on a budget?
As you say, illustrated covers are harder to source than photographs as completed images but if you look around, most illustrated covers are fairly simplistic in design. If you are on a budget you can find lots of free clipart to use and then build up the image using good font choices and colour selection. Of course this implies some degree of Photoshop type skill which is where we come in.
8. How important is text size in this era of the thumbnail image? Should titles be enormous and ‘pop’ out even in miniature, or is this another fallacy?
I may be ‘Old Skool’ but I feel it is still very important that a book title is easily legible and eye-catching. Obviously there is a limit to the size you want to use as it must fit in with the overall cover design.
9. What should an indie author expect to pay for a professionally designed cover? How much just for an ebook, and how much for a paperback?
I prefer to find out JUST what an author wants before quoting but as a rough guide I would say between £35 and £50 is a fair price for a standard eBook cover. For a paperback this can range from £50 upwards as there is a lot more work involved due to the addition of a spine and back cover. People often neglect to realise just how important the spine is on a book but remember, sometimes in a bookshop your books spine is the only part a potential reader may see.
10. Finally, what about folks who can’t afford that? What top tips would you share with authors-turned-cover designers who are facing a blank screen and hoping to create something passably good?
K.I.S.S… Keep It Simple Stupid. This is a well-known acronym in military circles and works well in all areas. Look around at covers you like that are within your design capabilities and use them as inspiration.
Thanks Bry! Some great advice there. I especially agree with what Bryan said about finding an image that conveys the right emotional response. I think this is key – and something often overlooked by authors designing their own covers. It’s not all about representing what’s in the book. Bryan also makes a great point about the spine: if you are producing your book in paperback – and if you manage to get bookshops to stock it (!) – you’re more than likely to be placed spine out. An eye-catching graphic on the spine makes all the difference.
Coming next week – the finalists in our Indie Cover Hall of Fame comp for you to vote on & the results of my own research into all things cover design.