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Interview: Cover Designer Fiona Jayde

As part of our ‘War on Shitty Covers’ series, the Naughty Ninjas interviewed Fiona Jayde, both a paranormal romance writer and a cover designer. Her business, Fiona Jayde Media, has produced covers for traditional publishers such as Ellora’s Cave and Decadent Publishing, as well as for several well-known indie authors.

Do you have any tips for authors when working with a cover designer?

Be specific as possible and include visual aids! Remember that your artist may not be from the same cultural or geographical background, so saying "Liz Taylor eyes" won't do nearly as much good as sending me a picture of gorgeous dark blue eyes.

Also, remember a cover is a marketing tool, so capturing small details about your book aren't nearly as important as your cover's ability to catch attention and make the reader want to learn more about your book.

What should authors look for when selecting a cover designer to work with?

Look at the artist's style. Does it match your chosen genre and the expected look and feel? I can barely hold a pencil (and I sure don't have drawings or paintings in my portfolio) yet I've had a number of people approach me for traditional illustration and childrens book covers. I happily refer them to my friends who can do miracles with traditional media.

Also, a good cover designer doesn't just create pretty pictures, they can also guide you in terms of what’s trendy, what‘s considered ‘dated’, and what’s marketable. So hire an artist not just for their design skills but for their industry knowledge and experience.

How much should authors spend on cover design?

It really depends on what the author wants to accomplish and what type of artist they are hiring. I believe artist fees should be commensurate with the artist’s industry experience. It's possible to have an amazing designer who really doesn't know anything about your specific genre or industry and will be relying on you to provide that information. In my opinion, such a designer should charge less than a designer who has experience and familiarity with your market and can advise you on the marketing appeal of a book cover.

If authors are unhappy with a cover, when and how should they communicate this?

Just say ‘I'm unhappy with the cover and here is what I was expecting (list a, b, c) and unfortunately this does not meet my expectations’.

As for when, when they see the first concept art.

The worst thing is to be ambiguous. Cover designers aren't mind readers and we really want to please our clients!  The more visually explicit an author can be, the better.

 What are the mistakes you often see in cover design?

Too many visual details crushed into a tiny space. Authors really want to portray images that are close to their descriptions, and yet they forget that the Amazon thumbnail is a little tiny rectangle. Details simply won't be seen at that size.

This is another place where an experienced designer can help cull out what is marketable versus what is emotional for the author. (This is why I have a horrible time making my own book covers, I can't separate out my emotional attachment to my characters from what may be a marketable image.)

What's the worst cover you’ve seen for a romance novel (without naming any title)?

Gosh, I'm going to get myself into trouble. I recently consoled a good friend and very talented cover artist after an author client micro-managed every single detail and refused to let my friend use her usual methods to make a spectacular design. The result looks...well, less than great.

Thanks, Fiona! You can see a sample of Fiona's cover design work below and more of her work can be seen at her website Fiona Jayde Media.