It's no secret they can make or break a novel. Your prose may be brilliant, your story gripping from start to finish, but if your cover's a dud, you'd might as well kiss your sweet sales goodbye—because unless you build it….they won't come (a great cover, that is).
Linda Boulanger knows covers.
That's because she's created hundreds of them, including several for fellow CFC blogmate, Jenny Hilborne. Folks, I’m not exaggerating when I say Linda does an amazing job at it. So I thought I'd have her here for a little cover cyber chat, to talk about what it takes to attract readers rather than repel them and hopefully bring in those sales.
Drew: As a cover artist, what are the most important elements for having a successful/impactful book cover?
Linda: I think the majority of designers would agree that the #1 element you’ll see on successful covers has to be the achievement of a true focal point. The eye needs a place to land and linger before beginning to take in the rest of the cover. If you don’t want your cover overlooked, it needs to grab a potential reader’s attention—and quickly—or they’re going to choose one that does. That focal point can be the first step in making yours the cover they look at long enough to click the magic button.
Drew: What are some of the mistakes you see with covers?
Linda: I would say the biggest mistake I see are ones that don’t tell me a thing about the story or fail to draw me in—that, and covers that lose all appeal in the “postage stamp” test. Looking at Amazon’s Top 100 books, you'll see a lot of very tiny covers! The very best covers can lose details in those tiny thumbnails, so make sure your overall image still makes an impact when it’s very, very small. (btw, CFC’s own Kimberly Hitchens posted aboutLousy Book Covers a couple of weeks ago. It’s definitely worth reading.
Drew: What kind of consideration do you give to genre?
Linda: Consideration to genre is very important. If I had my way, all covers would be “pretty” – which definitely doesn’t work for all genres! But, just as the stories differ within genres, so do the covers. I do have to say that my main goal is creating a certain feel from the information I gather from the author about the story, more so than getting hung up on a particular style. Surprisingly (or not), the covers seem to work out and fit not only the story, but the genre as well.
Drew: Author name first, or title: your thoughts?
Linda: As a designer, I prefer to let the placement of title and author name fit into the design, though I know there are many that believe it should be one way or the other. Authors need to let their designer know if one is preferred over another because it definitely impacts the elements chosen. On sequels or series, the use of placement as well as particular fonts can help a reader know the book is a part of something bigger, with or without a subtitle.
Drew: What is your process for taking a cover from concept to finish? How do you bring an author's wishes to life?
Linda: This question is a blog post in itself! In fact, I was a guest on Karen S. Elliott’s blog in October where I allowed readers to “creep into my mind” to see a bit of the process. I basically start all covers with a few simple steps. First, I ask questions because I want a feel for the story. I want an author’s blurb or elevator pitch. I’ll ask about characters, whether there’s a particular scene that stands out. And I may come back more than once to get more information. Gathering images comes next, and that’s usually where the ideas begin to come together in my head even before I open my design program.
Part of bringing an author’s wishes to life is getting us on the same page, which means there may be several cover concepts to choose from. Once we’re certain of our direction with those, we’ll usually go back and forth a few more times with little details (which can make a big impact). I’ll then fine-tune the elements, and the cover gets sent to the author. Once it’s revealed by the author, I’ll post it on my website(s) and social media haunts. I also ask authors to let me know when they’re doing promotions so I can share that information. I tend to walk away from every project feeling as if the book is partly my baby, and I want the world to love it just as much as the author does.
Drew: What do you enjoy most about creating covers?
Linda: The ability to couple my love of reading with creativity and know my design gives potential readers a glimpse that the story inside is truly exhilarating. I also enjoy getting to know authors from all over. We definitely tend to develop more than just a simple working relationship. And when I get to help promote their books and see them doing well—that’s an added bonus.
Drew: What advice would you give authors who are looking to have covers made for their books?
Linda: Feel comfortable with your designer, and don’t accept a cover you aren’t completely in love with. I tell authors all the time: If you don’t love it, you can’t sell it, and that’s not good for any of us. Try to find out a bit about the designer before going in, and look for one you think would be a good fit for your style. For example, if you don’t like being an integral part of the process, then I’m probably not the designer for you. Figure out how you like to work, and choose accordingly. Also remember that creativity takes time, so you need to have realistic expectations of your designer.
As mentioned, your cover is probably the biggest draw for potential readers. It needs to be right and you, the author, are a designer’s #1 resource for creating that perfect cover. No one knows your book like you. YOU are the key to creating an attention-grabbing cover that truly fits your story and that you and the world will love.
Linda Boulanger has designed book covers and created layouts across many genres. Authors who work with her will let you know you receive much more than the creation of a book cover or beautiful interior layout when you choose her services. Visit her at: