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Interview with Melody from EBook Indy Covers

As part of our ‘War on Shitty Covers’ series, the Naughty Ninjas interviewed Melody of EBook Indy Covers. Melody produces custom-made and premade ebook covers as well as web banners and book trailers.

Melody: Thank you very much for inviting me to a discussion about topics of great interest to me—romance and chick lit ebook covers and the cover design process!

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

Traditional publishing houses have their various departments—their art department, editing department, marketing section—but usually an independent author has to fulfil all these roles or at least be the general manager of all of them, so it’s a good idea to have a little knowledge about each department.

If you’re thinking of getting a book cover, I would suggest doing some analysis and research, including the following:

·        Determine in which genre and sub-genre your book will be listed. Romance, for example, may include the sub-genres of paranormal and fantasy, SciFi (including steampunk), romantic suspense, gay and lesbian, contemporary, comedy, erotic, and historical (which can be further divided into genres of Regency, Medieval, Victorian, Civil War, Western, Highlander and more).

The main categories can be further sub-divided. If you’ve written a paranormal romance that is specifically about a shapeshifter, and more specifically about wolves—then search the major ebook stores like Amazon.com for THAT genre. Look at all the books that come up if you enter “paranormal romance shapeshifter wolves” into the search box. It is most important that a cover should fit in with its genre as regular readers of that genre will look for similar traits in covers to select books. 

I once asked flourishing Kindle author S.M. Reine to comment on what makes a book cover successful, and this was the answer:

“Personally, I think it's more important that your cover look like the genre you're selling than communicate anything specific about the book. My covers are more or less interchangeable with any other urban fantasy novels. You know, chicks in leather holding swords and guns in front of a big spooky moon.”

I could not agree more! A cover needs to fit with its genre and be visually attractive. That is more important than having lots of details to accurately illustrate scenes from the story. 

·        Once you have an idea of what your book cover should look like, search for a cover designer with those types of covers on their site and in their portfolio. Make sure the cover designer understands your genre and does the type of style that you want to have before approaching them. Send them links to other covers you admire and ask if they can do something similar (but unique).

The most important thing is to establish whether a cover designer will be able to deliver what you are looking for, which means at least having some idea of what you need for your cover to be marketable.

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

As mentioned, study their work and decide if it’s the style you require. There are various types of covers—photographic, typographic, composite and hand-painted digital art. Research which types are used in your genre and select someone who does those types of covers, ensuring they’re familiar with your genre. Chick Lit covers often require vector art designs, but may also have realistic photographs. Romance covers usually do well with couple and people images, excluding a few sweet romances that may have cottage scenes on the front. To have a unique cover it is always best to go for a composite cover style, where a stock image is changed or combined with a different background, to ensure no one else has a cover exactly like yours. 

Apart from checking out a designer’s skills, it’s also best to work with someone who does book cover design full-time for a living, and who has been doing so for a period of time. Such a person will be well-informed and know current image licensing requirements and trending book cover styles. Approaching an established designer will also safeguard against the designer disappearing at some point…possibly with your money.

3.      How much should authors spend on cover design?

That is entirely up to the individual!  I once read a comment by  an author that her husband’s hobby is golf and that he spends thousands on his hobby, so she also spends approximately a thousand dollars on one cover (which is quite middle-range if you are doing custom model shoots or getting handpainted digital art) but generally authors do not spend that much. Custom cover design ranges from $50 to $600. Just make sure you thoroughly check out the designer’s portfolio so you know what quality of work you’ll be getting. Many designers have displays of premade covers too. Premade covers are not templates but pre-designed covers that are sold only once. They usually range from $30 to $70 in price, and make a very affordable option for a great cover.

For a new author I would suggest spending no more than $200 on a cover and publishing a few books first before deciding to order more covers. Unless of course you don’t mind spending more because it’s your golf-replacement hobby.

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

This is the advantage of a premade cover—you know beforehand what you are getting. However, for a custom order my procedure is to make two different sample covers. If the author likes neither, I make another set. If those too are way off the mark, I cancel the deal and refund the deposit as by this time it will be clear that my design style is not what the author wants. This does not happen very often, though, as I discuss the cover details and style with the author beforehand. I’ve learnt from experience that this is the best process. If after about four sample covers you’re totally unhappy, and the cover is not nearly what you had in mind, and none of the covers will work even with changes made, it’s best to move on to another designer and save both parties more frustration.

5.      What are the mistakes you often see in cover design?

I must say, when I compare the covers on ebooks today and those that were around two years ago, I see a marked difference! I ascribe this to the rise of premade cover sites that have made professional-looking covers really affordable, and to the increasing knowledge of authors about what kind of covers sell and look good. One still sees a few oddball covers out there though, usually when an author tries to combine images without having the skills to do so properly, and then tries to add in numerous elements to a cover. I was asked to add one cover design to this interview, and (with the permission of the paranormal romance author Lisagh Winters) I am displaying this one –

However just to illustrate my point I made a version of the cover to show how it would have looked if I had made several mistakes – not using a well-blended colour scheme, cutting out the images badly, using a very amateur font style with those huge glows, not altering hues or using blend modes to create a better effect. You better believe it, I often see covers that actually look like this! (Lisagh I removed your name just so no one will actually think this is your cover…)

All I can say is, if you do not have the skills and designer eye, and if you have absolutely no money to pay someone for the job, use just a single photograph with a title rather than try to create a complex cover and end up with something that spells amateur (like the one below).

6.      What's the worst cover you’ve seen for a romance novel? (Just a rough description without mentioning the title.)

I’m a very visual person and would like to show samples.  I can refer you to this page with good examples of bad romance covers:

http://wtfbadromancecovers.tumblr.com/

Most of the really bad ones have badly-cut out images placed on a background that is not integrated with one the images that makes it look like a photomontage. There has to be a harmony in colour hues, exposure, textures and all elements – including the title and font – for it to look professional.

I could talk about book cover design forever. Let me end with a few other useful tips:

Stock images are not always available in multitudes and sometimes it can be difficult to get a character that remotely matches the description in your book. A great idea that some authors follow is to look for a character image before writing the book. That way you can save hours of frustration trying to find an image that fits your story, and you can write the story to fit with the character image you have, making the cover a perfect match for the book. 

To save money visit all the premade galleries of cover designers. I know authors who have published whole series of books with premade covers and even won cover competitions with them. Also, if you ask the designer to do so, they can make the fonts on all the books the same, so it looks like a matching series. Often premade covers are really beautiful since the designer made the cover based on visual attractiveness rather than trying to illustrate a specific theme.

Never ever use images pulled from a Google search or Flickr for a cover as there are copyright laws for images just as there are for the written word. Instead, purchase images from a reputable stock site, or use a cover designer that purchases from reputable stock sites and photographers. Perhaps this point seems obvious, but I still get authors who send me images from somewhere on the web that turn out to be copyrighted when I research them. This article should warn authors of the dangers of using images without permission:

Once a cover designer is working on your cover, the faster you can give feedback the better.  The designer has made time to work on your project and if you delay providing feedback, they may move on to other projects ahead of yours.

Your immediate priority may be your ebook cover but you should also plan for the future.  Many authors later decide to print paperback versions of a book and to get a website banner, boxed set image or book trailer. When purchasing a cover think about these aspects, in particular, will your designer be able to provide those extra services? If not, will you be able to find someone else to do what you require? Make sure you know which services will be available to you from your designer, as it may often be difficult to get things done elsewhere later. 

Another point about planning for the future is to consider if you will possibly make the book into a series. Think about how to brand your series i.e. to make your covers match and be easily recognisable as belonging together. Various means can be used to accomplish this: the colour scheme, style, a distinctive logo or element, similar fonts, same models in different poses, similar backgrounds or a coloured strip behind the sub-title. Check in advance if there will be more images of the models available for this purpose.

Also, think about branding all your books by using the same font for your author name on all the books. This means that right from the start you’ll need to choose a font that you really like and which will work with all your books. If you study top-selling authors’ books you will see they always have a specific font and style for writing their name. Start with this font from the beginning and you will look more professional.

Also use a large size for your author name. None of the topselling authors have tiny author names on their books. I often hear the argument, “But I’m not famous yet so I can’t use a large name. Large names are for the great folks.”  Well, if you use a small name that’s exactly the message you are giving out — “I am a small and unfamiliar novice author.”  And who really wants to buy a book from a small, timid, unfamiliar author? Instead, use a large name and your book will appear confident and professional. If you want to become famous, act like you already are.

As an example of my own work, the cover below is one I took randomly from Amazon’s top 100 paranormal romance book list:

Here we can see how the author has used the same type of style, same model but in different poses and same font type for both these novels.  This makes the books more attractive and easily recognisable:

Thank you, Melody!

Melody: Thanks for asking me to participate in the interview series!

You can find Melody’s comprehensive cover site at www.eBookindiecovers.com and you can also find Melody at:

http://www.facebook.com/ebookindiecovers

https://twitter.com/MelodyGraphics

google.com/+MelodySimmons