Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Creating Book Covers that Sell--From a Designer's Perspective



Book Covers.

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:

Email: TellTaleBookCovers@gmail.com

26 comments:

  1. I've had the pleasure of working with Linda for my first two covers and what she doesn't mention here are the incredible intuitive leaps she often makes. We had batted around a number of ideas for covers and she had done several mock-ups for my first book when, out of nowhere, she said "What do you think of this?" and what she sent me so perfectly captured a pivotal scene in the book it took my breath away. The odd thing was, I hadn't described that scene to her. It was just an intuitive, "in the flow of the moment" idea, but we went with that cover almost unchanged, and it has helped my sales so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shawn, your original cover concepts for Feels Like The First Time were okay, but the final... it ended up being one of my favorite covers. I always enjoy working with you and with Dawn (because she has great intuitiveness and taste!)and I would say what we end up with on your covers are truly collaborations between the three of us. (And my brain is already working on that next cover as well as looking forward to reading the book! Can't wait!)

      Delete
    2. I'd like to believe you when you say my original concepts were OK, but I just can't. At least for me, the best thing to do is to tell you as much as I can about the story, then stand back and watch your creativity flow. I love writing, but I also love the collaborative aspect of working with you to create the face my story will show to the world. By the way, I've now had two Select Free Promotions and made the Top 10 overall both times. So much of the credit for that goes to your cover.

      Delete
  2. Linda has an amazing talent to take my ideas and stories and create covers that are breathtaking. Her patience and intuition is beyond compare. We made several mock-ups and changes during the process and her ability to capture the essence of the story is nothing short of fantastic. I could not have published my book without her. Thank you for the interview Drew and Linda!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Laura! Your book posed some challenges in that it is non-fiction and we wanted to use a photo of your husband as part of the cover. As I recall, the image was a lower resolution and it took a bit of creativity to keep it looking like a real photo and still be usable. I like what we ended up with for Transplanted Faith -- a great story that truly touches the heart.

      Delete
  3. Wonderful interview! Linda blew me away with the first cover she designed for me - she nailed it, creating the perfect image from a brief description of the book. She has a keen eye and great instinct for design. Not only that, she is a true pleasure to work with. Linda knows how important a cover is to the author. She goes above and beyond to make sure the cover makes the right statement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your cover posed some interesting aspects that were challenging and truly enjoyable to try to incorporate into a cover. Knowing the images I used on the Deadly Consequences cover I'm still quite amazed I saw them as the ones to use and they worked together so perfectly. lol. I think that's where the inspiration part comes in. There are times I think "did I actually do that?!" :) I enjoy working with you as well, Lori. I always appreciate how you give me an idea and then free rein to play, but yet you aren't afraid to say yes or no to the concept designs that come from that. That's really what it's all about... me being the hands that create what's in an author's mind! It takes us both!!!

      Delete
  4. I love Linda's covers, which is why I use her for my own books...with 2 new covers currently in the works. They capture the most vivid parts of the story perfectly. Thank you, Linda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tried so hard to finish up with No Alibi formatting so I could push you to get it back on the Amazon shelves and use that cover today, Jenny. (can you tell I really like that one a lot?!) Jenny is a cover designer's dream, again with ideas of what she wants and yet a bit of the free rein that helps with the creative process. ♥

      Delete
  5. Thanks, Drew, for your interview with a cover designer par excellence! Cudos to Linda Boulanger for all your awesome designs! And you're always a joy to work with!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw! Thanks, Jodie. You know the feeling is mutual as to your knowledge of what goes into making a book read well. I know when I helped you with interior formatting this last time I had to force myself to quit reading and pay attention to getting the project done!

      Delete
  6. Linda designed the interior for my last novel, The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted, which was a royal pain in the rear because of the complex graphics I wanted for chapter headers. The one thing that struck me was, no matter how difficult things got, she never gave up. She wanted what I wanted and treated my book as if it were her own. Not just that, but she wouldn't settle until it looked absolutely perfect. You really can't ask for more from a designer. It makes all the difference.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Working with you is always a memorable experience, Drew. And the challenges that came with the interior formatting on The Lion, the Lamb, the Hunted forced me to rethink the importance of adding visual elements to interior layouts. I appreciate that and feel certain the authors I work with do too. Your encouragement and input in the process, along with the promise of a lot of chocolate, truly made all the difference.

      Delete
  7. I ♥ Linda. I just bought one of her covers so I can officially join her fan club. :OD

    Seriously though, Linda is one of the best people I know. I've worked with her for years now, doing everything from collaborating on stories to collaborating on covers and formatting. She is the best interior formatter (not a word but it should be) I've ever seen and I just love how so many of her covers reflect her romantic nature. Yet, her flexibility really shows in her horror, mystery, and thriller covers too.

    I really did just buy a cover from her. Did I mention my insane jealousy of her? And then there's all the stalking....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't let Jaimey fool you. She seriously does love me! She's also an amazingly awesome cover designer in her own right (and writes wonderful regency romances, among other things!). And she really did buy one of my pre-mades this morning. lol. (She's designed covers for me as an author and for my TreasureLine Publishing as well). I wouldn't hesitate to recommend her ... even if she is a professional stalker!

      Delete
  8. Linda, you are a great interview! And your covers are beautiful. I'm thinking about trying to help establish my brand through covers even when the books aren't part of a series. It's never too soon to think about these things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Peg! And I think it's an excellent idea to use your covers to help establish your brand, whether they are part of a series or not. That's often done by using particular fonts, coloring, or a single element or two used on each cover. You see that with publishers as well and it's definitely never too early. Since you're a contributor here on CFC, that might be a fun post for you to share with readers. (btw, I've enjoyed watching your writing career blossoming.)

      Delete
  9. A quick thank you to Drew for inviting me to answer questions on one of my most favorite subjects and to everyone who has stopped by. I'll be back later to finish my replies. Drew can attest to the fact that I've had to wear many hats today (so typical), and now it's time to put on my mom hat and take a couple of daughters to audition for a local musical. My children are so dramatic (and we have no idea where it comes from!). I've enjoyed the replies here as well as those from facebook posts and appreciate the opportunity to share a bit about covers from a designer's view.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Linda has the best covers... she did the cover for my debut novel and I get more compliments on it. When I first saw it, all I could think was "stunning, absolutely stunning."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jennifer. I have pretty good competition now from your sister who is an excellent designer new to the scene, but Quail Crossings was one of those truly inspired covers that practically designed itself (right!!! lol). I keep stopping by the local bookstore so I can see it in person, but they're always out! Think that's a good sign for us both.

      Delete
  11. Linda makes great covers, that's for sure (and she's an awesome guest, I know). She really brings these covers (above) to life. I think I would pick up every darn one of these books. I'm starting to think I need to hire her for my collections...hhmmmm. Might give me a better shot in the self-pubbing market. Great post - I'm tweeting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the sound of that, Karen,and I appreciated the opportunity to guest on your blog (which is linked above). I made some great new author friends that day (and we have done or are doing some awesome covers because of it!). Your blog is a wonderful resource for authors so I hope everyone will take the time to check it out for themselves.

      Delete
  12. Drew and Linda, thanks for the interview. Having gone through several designers (sorry, no pun, recovering from lung infection or something), I can better appreciate what it takes to make a great cover, especially for thumbnails. (Although I think it'd be more effective to make gloves for the whole finger, but...)

    It's an interesting process and an art in itself. Thanks for the insights.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you stopped by,David. My apologies for being remiss in coming back to check for new comments. It really is an interesting process. No doubt that's partly because, just like covers, every author a designer works with is different. Guaranteed, your sense of humor alone would have me on my toes. lol. I'm going to have to think more on these thumbnail covers. I think you may have something there...

      Delete
  13. Linda's clearly terrific at cover design, but I want to add on to what Drew said about interior formating. Whereas a good cover may inspire a reader to take a look and buy - the First Moment of Truth - interior formating can make or break a book. It's the Second Moment of Truth. An author spends months/years? writing a book and with bad formating, misplaced margins/spaces/blank pages/bare bones chapter headings, a reader may simply get irritated and put it aside. Linda has been amazing to work with in this area, especially given that I can an anal-retentive over-achieving OCD pain in the ass sometimes - or so my wife tells me. Add to that the fact that Linda is one of nicest people I've ever met - okay, I've only talked to her over email; maybe in person she's downright mean :-) - and you have quite an ally.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, Dan! I just saw this one. I probably am mean in real life, but at least you don't have to deal with that person :) lol. I actually enjoy working with authors who know what they want just as much as those who have no idea whatsoever. I love that you brought an awesome debut novel to the table and an exciting idea conceptually for the interior of your second book (as well as the story being great). The response to the awesome formatting we (yes WE) came up with for Furies has been very satisfying :D

      Delete