By Andrea Grigg
We all know how important a cover is in attracting readers. After all, it’s the first thing they see on the shelf, be it online or in real life. But what makes a cover good? And not just good, but great?
Obviously, we all have different opinions on what appeals. If I showed three types of artwork to ten different people and asked which one they liked the best I guarantee the vote would not be unanimous; we each have our own creative tastes.
Personal preferences aside, there are two basic principles with which I’m sure we would all agree: First, the image used needs to reflect the genre and relate to the story. Second, the title and author’s name must be easy to read (including the spine if the book is going to print)
But there’s so much more to it than that. And because I’m not an expert in this field, I’ve brought in someone who is to answer some questions – my daughter, Melissa Dalley.
Mel designed the covers for my both my books (approved by my publisher, Rochelle Manners) and the feedback they’ve received has been positively fabulous. I’m thrilled with them.
Mel has produced covers for other authors too, some of which are below:
So what is Mel’s background? Why do I consider her an expert? Well, she has a degree in Marketing and eCommerce, plus a diploma in Graphic Design and Pre Press, as well as a Cert III in Theology and Ministry, (just for fun). Currently, she works for a well-known shopping centre group as their Creative Design Manager, is on the board for a charity as their marketing and creative adviser, and freelances designs for authors and other small businesses. Not only that, she has age on her side – she recently turned thirty – which means she’s young enough to be in touch with current trends and knows what’s hot and what’s not.
Me: Mel, welcome to ACW, and thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions on cover art.
Mel: Thanks, Mum, and hi to everyone else.
I know we’re taught never to judge a book by its cover, but when we’re talking marketing and sales, the cover is the most important part of your book. I’m looking forward to answering your questions and hope I can be of help.
Me: All right then, let’s get straight to it.
First of all, what are the essentials for cover design?
Mel: I’m sure most people think the essentials are the image and the font(s) you choose, the colours and balance of the artwork. But there’s something even more important, and that is knowing your primary target audience. Having this established sets the stage for everything else. I can’t emphasize it enough. It directly affects all further choices.
Me: You’re right, that wasn’t the answer I was expecting but it makes a lot of sense. And because it wasn't something I'd thought of myself, it made me realise there's a lot I don't know about the world of design. Which brings me to the next question.
What other reasons are there for me to employ a graphic designer rather than attempt to create a cover myself?
Mel: There are many reasons, but for now I’ll give you three.
The biggest one is time. What a designer can do in an hour would probably take you three to four hours. Wouldn’t it be wiser to use your time writing? A designer has years of training behind them and have acquired a unique skill-set, just like a writer has a unique ability to write. I know people design their own covers to save money, but why not view the employment of a graphic designer as an investment in the lifespan of your book? Even to the untrained eye it can be obvious when covers are designed by someone without training. You want your book to stand out for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.
Another reason is a very practical one, to do with the printing process.
In the design world, Microsoft Publisher and Word are equivalent to swear words! (Something I was told over and over during my training). Those programs are very limiting. They’re not pre-prepped (when you need to get everything set up for a professional printer). Some printers I work with won’t accept work unless done by a graphic designer. This is because errors can occur when working with Publisher and other programs not intended for professional printing and design. They’re not accurate enough and can become file corrupted.
Thirdly, I'll address some excellent questions raised by an ACW member. She wanted to know if it was possible to have covers that wouldn't become outdated, and what to avoid in pictures and fonts to make them stay relevant and attractive.
This all comes back to the designer you use and their knowledge of trends, having a well-communicated brief, and what you envision for a shelf life. For a designer to keep their job, they need to be up to date and know the latest trends. If you're not in the game then it's very hard to know these things.
Me: Fair enough. So what can I do to get the best result from my graphic designer?
Mel: First, find one who’s not afraid to give you an honest opinion.
Second, write the best brief you possibly can, explaining what you’re after. The content and research that goes into this is very important.
Third, send the top three images you’ve seen of other books in your genre that match your ideas and thoughts for your own. It will save you time and money with your designer. It will also stop you from looking like everyone else.
Me: Great answers, Mel. Thanks for your insights so far.
That's all for now, but I'm happy to say we'll be back. Next Monday, Melissa will address issues raised by some of our members concerning the use of fonts and images and logos, and give advice to those keen to give design a try. See you then!
Andrea Grigg is the author of two contemporary Christian romances, A Simple Mistake and Too Pretty. She loves hearing from readers and writers alike, and can be contacted via Twitter, her Facebook author page, and via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
As well as a graphic designer, Melissa Dalley is wife to Robb and privileged caretaker of two cats, Jimi and Scout. You can reach her at:
melissadalley (at) live (dot) com