Good Cover Design, Part 2

In Part 1 of Good Cover Design, I discussed Genre, Keeping it Simple, and Instant Readability. Here’s the link to that post if you missed it: http://thevioletfemmes.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/good-cover-design-part-1-2/. Today’s topics are: Clear Branding, Basic Design Principles, Trusting your Gut, and Working with a Professional Cover Designer.

[Please remember that I am not distinguishing here between self-pubbed examples and traditionally published ones in this post. I use the author's name for simplicity, and my focus is simply Good Design. In some cases, yes, the design decisions were made by the authors, in others, kudos go to the publisher's design (and perhaps marketing) departments.]

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Courtney Milan’s The Brothers Sinister Series

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Kristan Higgins’s Blue Heron Series

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Debra Webb’s Faces of Evil Series

Clear branding: Not only do you have to hit the genre correctly, it’s smart to develop an AUTHOR brand—a consistent treatment that speaks to your voice, your style, your genre—in other words, what a reader expects to find in a book written by YOU. The examples that always come to mind for me are Courtney Milan’s The Brothers Sinister series of historicals (same type treatment, a lone heroine, a jewel-colored dress, and muted wallpaper background), Kristan Higgins’s Blue Heron contemporary romances (happy color, spring/summer scenes, simple type that speaks to contemporaries with humor), and Debra Webb’s Faces of Evil romantic suspense’s (clearly dark and dangerous, heavy hitting, and part of a series. How cool is that film strip with the number of the book in the series? And wow do those solid background colors leap out at you). You don’t have to write a series, however, to make your name/your brand, recognizable. Kristan Higgins’s other books have similar art, the same overall style, and always the size and treatment of her name. Do note, however, that in all cases, the author’s name is more prominent than the book title. The authors I mentioned in Part 1 are known for following this principle as well. Many argue that the author’s name is the single most important aspect of the cover. Another point that bears mentioning is to make it easy on yourself: don’t choose a design that’s going to be hard to implement as your series or brand marches on.

Basic design principles: you want a balanced, eye-catching design with a pleasing color scheme. Unless you are working around the art, your type shouldn’t hop around. Meaning sometimes the title is centered and the author name must be flush right where it’s readable. But if there’s room and a choice, keep it consistent for balance. As for color—go attractive but not obnoxious. Complimentary to the art you’ve chosen, contrasting enough to be easily visible. The reason those solid brights work for Debra Webb is because the film strip itself is understated and the type is all black. And certain colors denote holiday stories, others imply genre. Had we chosen red type for the grayscale Katharine Ashe cover (see last month’s post), we might have inadvertently leaned towards a typical treatment for erotica, so just be mindful of the choices you make.

Your gut: you have to like it, of course! If one design furthers your excitement over this book you slaved over and another leaves you cold? Well, there’s your answer.

Working with a Professional Cover Designer: There are loads of good cover designers out there, found by a quick web search, or via the databases of your writing groups. You can get quality, custom designs, for incredibly reasonable prices these days, and most every designer will do their best to please you. The biggest deciding factor, to my mind however, is to choose one whose design style you really love. That way, chances are good, you and your designer will be on the same page from the get go. After that, communication is key. It will help them to know exactly what you want (or don’t want), what you like, why something bothers you, etc. Most designers will welcome visual examples of books and treatments you love, as well. Much like getting general feedback on a manuscript with a rejection, a mushy “it’s missing something” or doesn’t further the process very well. So use the words and expression that are a writer’s gift, and respectfully explain.

Thanks for visiting The Violet Femmes today! Hope you found the Cover Design posts helpful!

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16 Comments

  1. I’m about to work with a cover designer, and I love the examples you show; Courtney, Kristan, and Debra have wonderful covers that do a beautiful job showing branding, as well as communicating the “feel” of the story. Great post!

    Reply
  2. Jenna Blue

     /  May 19, 2014

    So glad you enjoyed it! Good luck with your cover! Indie pubbling, I’m guessing? Very exciting, Lynn!

    Reply
  3. Diana Quincy

     /  May 19, 2014

    What excellent visual examples of the importance of branding! Should an author’s direct publishing (self-pubbed) covers have a look that is similar to the covers done by her publisher? I’m about to direct publish a series. My publisher has a very specific look to its covers and I wouldn’t be comfortable duplicating the look my publisher uses across the imprint. Thanks for an informative post!

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  May 19, 2014

      I agree, Diana, I think in your case I’d avoid duplicating closely—the look is too specific. Double whammy because it’s more of a design for the whole line rather than an author by author thing. I’m very excited for your new venture! Good luck! : )

      Reply
  4. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  May 19, 2014

    Thanks for this very helpful info. Often times we don’t have input, but knowing the big things to look for when we do is a bonus.

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  May 19, 2014

      I think so, too, RoseAnn! Never hurts to have a little knowledge behind you. Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  5. Very informative post! It clearly shows how good branding works. I’m also thinking about self-publishing in the future and your post points out what things to look out for when deciding on cover design.

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  May 21, 2014

      It was easy to illustrate when so many out there are doing such a good job! Both publishers AND indie folks! It’s very cool. Glad you got something out of it, Tina! Thanks!!

      Reply
  6. Nicely said! I love the designs you provided. Courtney Milan’s covers are so amazing. She really nailed her brand.

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  May 21, 2014

      Totally agree! Her covers work on so many levels! Thank you, Joanna!!

      Reply
  7. Jaye Marie Rome

     /  May 22, 2014

    I love those cover examples, Jenna, and so smart of you to show several different genres. This is all great information to keep in mind when I finally do get published, and I’m talking with my editor about covers. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

    Jaye

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  May 22, 2014

      I felt the various genres were important, just wish I had the space to show loads more! There’s so many good examples out there! Thank you, Jaye!

      Reply
  8. What a terrific post, Jenna! I’m learning so much from you about cover design and what works. The covers you selected for this post are terrific. Did you see Kiera Cass’s new YA series covers? Check out “THE SELECTION”. http://www.kieracass.com/books/
    I love the added tiara treatment on the third book as her stories are twisted fairytales. Best, Michele

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  May 28, 2014

      I did, it’s lovely! And I’m so glad you are picking up something useful from my posts! : )

      Reply
  9. A great follow-up post, Jenna. The cover examples you provided are wonderful branding. There’s so much that goes into writing the actual content of the book that it’s important to have an eye-catching cover that will draw a reader to want to read more about it. I think it’s important to find ways to brand your cover with something other than the image, especially in a world when stock art is used and an author will find the same cover models on other books. Thanks for the tips.

    Reply
  10. Jenna Blue

     /  May 28, 2014

    So true, Maria, about the stock art! A very good point, thank you!

    Reply

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