Marketing by Design
Going out on your own, on anything presents all kinds of problems you have to solve in order to be successful. After publishing my first book with a traditional press I was assigned an artist who had no idea about the subject matter. My book cover turned out to be just ridiculous. Even my friends wouldn’t admit to me the publishing company had done me a disservice. When I got out of my contract, I immediately contacted Jaycee DeLorenzo of Sweet ‘N Spicy Designs. I worked with her once before on the advice of a fellow indie author. This is The Rescued Heart today. I never looked back, both with leaving a traditional press and becoming an indie author. Jaycee is going to explain why having a beautiful book cover is so important. She is my “go to” creative wizard. Enjoy some of her other book covers as you go along.
How did you get into the business of designing book covers for authors?
In truth? It wasn’t planned, more like a fortuitous accident. I belonged to some author message boards, and one of the threads asked if anyone knew how to do a website. I had been playing around with graphics and html since the early 2000s and offered, since she had no other takers. I told the author she didn’t have to pay me if she didn’t like it, but she loved it (and I got paid!). Before I knew it, I had four other web design jobs, and the author asked if I had ever done any covers. I hadn’t, but I said I’d give it a try. From there, I designed a cover, then another for someone else, and it kind of spiraled out from there. Now, 7 years later, I’m a full-time graphic designer, doing everything from book covers, WordPress designs, logos, interior formatting, swag design and more.
Do you have a background in graphic design?
Save for one class, I have no formal training in graphic design, but I have 18 years of experience making graphics. I was a teacher for 14 years, but everyone has to have a hobby, and mine was writing fanfiction and designing graphics and wallpapers to go along with the stories I was writing. I also ran a very large fanfiction archive website that I was constantly updating and changing designs on. By the time I started doing design professionally, I had 11 years of experience with making “pretty pictures” and hand-coding html/css. I still had a lot to learn when it came to doing it professionally, but it was a step in the right direction, and I’ve made it my mission to always learn as much as I can.
Why is it important to have a professional to help authors design a cover?
It’s really quite simple: PACKAGING IS EVERYTHING!
- For the unknown author, a cover can be the single most critical marketing tool you have, so make sure it’s top of the line.
- This is a business and you are a professional! Everything about your cover should reflect professional quality.
- If your book has a poor cover, the readers will assume the same about the inside.
- Make the reader feel confident that your books are worth their time and money!
- The current market is glutted with books!
- Thousands of books are released a week. If you want your books noticed, you need to put out the best cover possible or you’ll get lost in the shuffle!
- Professionals know that in the digital age you have approximately 2-5 seconds to make an impression, often with only a small thumbnail. In that short time, the reader should be able to look at your cover and tell:
- The genre of your book.
- The general subject matter or focus.
- The tone or ambience of your book.
A professional will check the thumbnail appearance as well as the full-size to make sure your covers are visually appealing.
- Cover design is both an art and a science, and it’s market-tested.
- A professional needs to be aware of how readers view book covers. Studies have been conducted on this to discover how the typical reader’s eyes travel over a book cover and what kind of elements tend to attract and repel readers. A professional keeps these in mind when designing covers.
- A professional will know how to combine images, fonts and overall layout in an eye-pleasing way that tells a story and elicit an emotion.
- A cover should make a promise to a reader and your story needs to make good on that promise. A professional can help steer you in the right direction so that the outside of the book reflects the story inside.
- A professional will know your general audience and what expectations they have for the book covers in that genre!
- A professional will keep abreast of design, color, and font trends and will try to anticipate what will do well in the market. There’s no crystal ball, but they know what sells and what has the potential to sell.
Should an author design their own cover?
My response to this is to always ask some of my own questions:
- Do you have experience with graphics programs?
- Do you know the technical details of what you’ll need for a cover?
- Difference between RBG and CMYK and when they need to be used?
- Do you know what image sizes you need?
- Do you know what images and fonts you can legally use? Do you understand the licensing terms and limitations of Royalty Free images? The licensing terms and limitations of fonts?
- Do you know what sizes and resolutions you’ll need for an online cover? A print cover?
That’s just a starting point, but some of these have you scratching your head, it’s best leaving it to the professionals.
What should you look for in a professional?
- Are they talented? Look at their portfolio!
- Knowledgeable? Do they know the market? Do they keep up with trends and do they know the industry? Look at their website and see what they have to say.
- Do they respond in a timely manner?
- Will they ultimately give you what you want? It’s your cover and it reflects on you.
- Will they offer suggestions? And are you willing to take them? (Some authors want a million different things included and a good professional will make suggestions on how to scale it back, while still telling an enticing story.)
- What are their terms of service? Are they upfront about their fees? You don’t want any surprises at the end of the job.
- Do they meet their deadlines? Feel free to do some research and ask previous clients.
- Are they professional in their correspondences?
- What about revisions? What’s included in the fee? Will there be extra costs if you change your mind later and want to adjust?
- What kind of “Kill Contract” does your designer have? (What happens if you want to stop mid-job and end your relationship with the designer?)
- Ask before the author begins if they are able to do something – designers have weaknesses and can’t do it all. (For instance, I’m good at photo manipulation and mash-ups, but I’m not much of an illustrator).
- What other services does your designer offer? Will you be able to build your brand with them (websites, fb/twitter headers, swag, promo items) or do they just do the covers?
What are the kind of things you listen for when working with an author?
When a new author contacts me, they’ve usually given me a brief idea of what genre their cover may fall under, so for a romantic fiction book, I send a form over that asks the following questions:
- Author’s Name
- Book Title
- Series Title (if any)
- Any taglines?
- Blurb, if available?
- Coloring of hero/heroine?
- Feel/heat level (ex. Dark? Historical? Sexy? Sweet?)
- Vision – couple on cover, just hero, just heroine? Landscape? Anything particular?
- Image/images to use
These questions may seem pretty basic, but they can tell me quite a lot about the direction I should go in. Using this information alone, I start taking into consideration what audience the cover is going to be directed at, what overall feel should a cover have for that audience, and what I’ll need to do to make sure if fits into the genre, but also has its own uniqueness to make it stand out.
Do you work mostly with indie or traditional authors?
I mainly work with independent authors, though I have many clients who are hybrid authors, meaning they are both mainstream published and independently published (or getting ready to dip their toes into independent publishing for the first time). I’ve also worked with some mid-sized publishers, and even a few jobs here and there for some of the mainstream publishers.
Can indie authors have you work with their indie-assist publishers? What are the benefits of that?
Absolutely. I already work with several indie-assist publishers. As for benefits, there are A LOT of steps that go into the business of independent publishing and it can be overwhelming for some authors to learn and manage everything. Indie-assist publishers do just what the name implies – they assist you in getting your book in shape beyond the writing and editing of the book, helping with formatting books for digital and print, designing covers or directing you to cover artists who specialize in your genre and can prepare both digital and print covers, uploading to retail sites and getting your books out into the world. For a lot of authors whose heads hurt just at the thought of tackling all of these tasks by themselves, indie-assist publishers can be a God-send.
How long does it take for you to create a cover? Are there steps to follow with the author?
Typically, a few hours, and my current record is 11 covers finished in a single day, though that isn’t my typical workload. I’m a fast worker and I stick to a fairly rigid schedule, and make good on my promises. If I tell a client that I will get started on a particular day, I will get started on that day and typically have a mockup (using watermarked images) ready for them the same day. This is, of course, provided that the author has supplied me with the information I asked for ahead of time and answer emails in a timely manner.
From there, it’s just a process of making adjustments and going back and forth until the author is happy with the cover.
Do you only design romance covers?
While a large majority of my clients write romance, I am open to designing covers in all genres and categories, and have done several sci-fi, thrillers, mysteries, and fantasy covers as well. I have also designed some non-fiction books and text books.
Cost? What to expect?
At the current time, I charge $65 for a digital cover design and an additional $35 to make it into a print design. This price does not include the cost of any images I purchase on the author’s behalf or any specialty fonts that an author wants that I do not already own.
Once an author contacts me, I will usually get back to her/him the same day (unless it’s on a weekend, then I will get back to her/him the following Monday), and will let the author know when I can get started. I will also send my request form and ask that the author return that to me before I am scheduled to get started. My wait-time is anywhere from a day to two weeks, but it’s usually within a few days.
In addition to covers, I do offer many other services, which are listed on my webpage.
You can find me at Sweet ‘N Spicy Designs: http://sweetnspicydesigns.com
You can also follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SweetnSpicyDesigns/
Or my author profile at https://www.facebook.com/jaycee.delorenzo