So, About That Cover: An Interview With an Author and His Cover Artist

We sat down with author Kyle West and cover artist Luke Atkinson to learn more about the adventure of getting a book cover designed. Here’s how it went:

Why do you think having a great book cover is so important when it comes to eBooks?

KW – After your story, your cover is probably the most important part of your book. It’s the first thing readers see, so it has to be downright amazing.

LA –You know the saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Unfortunately we live in a digital age that doesn’t allow that luxury. A great cover can give the visual edge your book needs to stand out in a sea of thumbnails.

How can I find a book cover artist? How can I tell if the artist is right for my books?

KW – Finding a decent cover artist is fairly easy with the Internet. Most (if not all) have sitesApocalypse (The Wasteland Chronicles, #1) displaying their portfolios that you can peruse, which you should definitely check out. If you browse the cover artist’s catalogue, you’ll know what kind of work to expect. Quite a few hang out in places like Kboards Writer’s Café. Usually, they’ll have lots of excellent pre-made covers to choose from, some of which can cost as little as $50 (or even less).

LA – Make sure you pick a graphic designer who can work with what you want. Designers have strengths and weaknesses, too. Try to pick one with a taste for art you are comfortable with displaying on your cover.

How did you find your cover artist?

KW – I was incredibly lucky to already know a cover artist. I met Luke Atkinson my freshman year of college, and we’ve kept in touch. When I was writing Apocalypse, the first book in my series, I remembered that Luke was pretty good at the whole graphic design thing. I asked if he was interesting in doing a cover for Apocalypse. We settled on a price and he got to work.

LA – Kyle and I had a unique situation since we’d known each other for so long which helped us be more open with our design direction.

What’s it like to work with a cover artist? What if I don’t like what the artist comes up with?

Evolution (The Wasteland Chronicles, #3)KW – The first cover he made completely blew me away. It was hard to imagine that he’d made that cover from the stock images he’d shown me. The cover captured the dark mood of the series perfectly, and we continued to incorporate quite a few of the ideas from that cover to establish a brand. For all the following books, we used a similar typeface, silhouettes, along with images that convey the genre in an eerily beautiful way (the desert in Apocalypse, the contaminated tower in Origins, or the dragons and the sunset in Evolution).

LA – Kyle was willing to let me show my strengths while depicting a world he created. We branded the series to look alike, yet be different and interesting on their own.

KW – As we’ve worked from book to book, our process has evolved. It starts off with me hunting down a lot of cool stock images, always keeping in mind the plot of my story. Then, I paste the links of whatever grabs my attention in an email, shooting off a few potential ideas to get him running. Depending on the book, I’ll send anywhere from 10-20 stock images. I’m not sure whether other cover artists work in a similar fashion, but I think that’s helpful, in that it gives Luke an idea of what I’m looking for right off the bat – and of course, he’s free to do his own hunt for stock photos.

Luke then looks at the images, telling me what can and can’t work while adding his own ideas. Depending on the book, the cover gets sent back and forth a few times Origins (The Wasteland Chronicles, #2)– sometimes I have exactly what I’m looking for on the first go, but usually it takes three or four amendments, mostly minor details. I can be very picky, and a good cover artist will patiently make the changes you request.

Good covers have to strike the balance of being simple, yet conveying exactly what the story is about. If you try to do too much, the cover will appear busy and unprofessional. Luke had to remind me of that a few times when my ideas became too grandiose. Of course, the title should always be big and it must be clear what the genre is from the images used. And, as I said before, it’s important that the cover is beautiful.

LA – Don’t be afraid to tell a designer they are way off. Just remember: Be willing to accept a designer’s direction, too. They are the professional at this, after all.

Isn’t hiring a cover artist really expensive? Should I go with a pre-made cover, since they’re cheaper?

KW – The best artists are often quite expensive, but you should never skimp on a good cover. It’s the most visible part of your book, and without a good cover, your chances of selling well are extremely low. I feel like all too often indie authors try to cut corners on costs, which is one of the biggest mistakes that they can make when you’re talking about building a career.

Pre-made covers are excellent, and some can be as cheap as $25 or $35. Don’t limit yourself to that price tag, though. If you’re working on a series, pre-mades are not the way to go, since pre-mades mostly cater to standalone titles.

I don’t know anything about designing book covers. How can I give the artist the feedback he/she needs when I don’t even know what I want?

KW – Go look at the top twenty books in your main genre and subgenre onRevelation (The Wasteland Chronicles, #4) Amazon, and that should give you a benchmark. Most cover artists, assuming you hire an experienced one, already know the ins and outs. But even with a professional cover artist, sometimes you might not get what you’re looking for. In that case, don’t be shy about graciously asking them to fix the aspects you don’t like.

LA – There is always a sort of “meta-game” associated with graphic design. Sometimes simplicity says it all. Other times big and flashy wins. Find a style that works for you and your designer. Together you’ll create something great.

Can’t I just design my own book cover?

KWDon’t design your own covers unless your work is indistinguishable from a professional’s.

Any last tips?

KW – The key to a great partnership with a cover artist is lots of communication, professionalism, and knowing ahead of time what kind of covers the artist specializes in. And if the process goes well and you get a rocking cover, you’ll have an artist to turn to whenever you write your next book.

LA – Word.

kyle westKyle West is the author of The Wasteland Chronicles. From a young age he has always been a voracious reader of sci-fi and fantasy. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Professional Writing. He writes full-time and resides in the bustling metropolis of Oklahoma City. He blogs at

photoLuke Atkinson is a graphic designer from Oklahoma City. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2010. He has been designing in print and web media for 7 years. His work can be found at


So, About That Cover: Book Cover Design Tips From a Merchandiser

By Shayna Krishnasamy, Kobo Writing Life Merchandiser

As the merchandiser for self-published eBooks at Kobo, my job is to judge books by their covers. Okay, that’s not my whole job, but you might be surprised at how much of my day is spent scrutinizing, arguing about, praising, sifting through, staring at, and judging (oh, and also mocking. Yes, sometimes a cover practically begs to be mocked) self-published book covers. Book cover design is an immensely important part of the digital self-publishing process. I really can’t emphasize this enough. A professional book cover will get your title the attention it needs and will make it more likely to be awarded merchandising space on our website, in email newsletters, and in promotions. An amateur book cover, on the other hand, will do exactly the opposite. That your book’s success depends so heavily on something that has nothing to do with its contents might be a hard nut to swallow, but it’s a reality that can’t be ignored. So, before you sit down to make your next book cover using a photo you took last summer of your friend Matt’s cottage, let me share with you my list of Dos and Don’ts of digital book cover design.

DO Your Research

Every genre has its book cover hallmarks. While you don’t want your cover to blend in with the rest so completely that it gets lost, you also don’t want to create a cover that is so different from the other books in the genre that it confuses the reader. The book cover, even more so than the title, is the thing that’s going to sell your book. You need to make sure the reader can tell, at a glance, what kind of story you’re telling.

The easiest way to make sure you don’t mislead the reader is to check out other books in your genre, both self-published and traditional, to get a feel for the kind of cover you want for your book.

New Adult Romance covers tend to feature couples and cursive fonts:

Between UsReckless TogetherPerfect RegretWait for You

But not always:

Kiss Me Like This: The MorrisonsDamagedLosing HopeTen Tiny Breaths

The covers of Thrillers are known to have weapons, buildings or vehicles, and apparently orange is a popular colour. Faces are less important:

Panic: A Leopold Blake ThrillerSaint DeathWild StormWasted Justice

Sometimes just author and title is enough:

Act of WarPersonalBad PennyInside Man

Whichever genre you’re writing in, you should incorporate at least some of these familiar elements into your cover to ensure the reader is getting what they expect.

DON’T Make It Yourself

Unless you’re a graphic designer by trade, and therefore know what you’re doing, do not make your book cover yourself. This is where so many authors go wrong. In order to save costs, because of a false sense of their artistic ability, or just due to a misguided belief that book covers are easy to design, so many authors end up designing their own covers, often with disastrous results.
I’ll admit, I did this myself back in 2010. Here’s the cover I originally made for my first novel, Home:

Home CoverI still like a lot of things about this cover. I like the image and the colour scheme. I like the font I found for the title, and the way I was able to fit it between the branches. But this is, very obviously, an amateur attempt at book cover design. Nothing says “I don’t know what I’m doing” like using Times New Roman font for the author name. The novel is a historical fantasy for young adults, which isn’t at all clear from looking at the cover. This cover is a good effort for a first try, but it is definitely not professional. It just isn’t good enough.


Here’s another example of the type of cover I come across all the time:

Bad cover (2)There are many things very, very wrong with this cover. To begin with, the dimensions are wrong. The image is obviously a personal photo taken while on vacation. It’s a beautiful photo, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to make a beautiful book cover. The title is in some weird font meant to mimic handwriting. Points are awarded for not choosing Times New Roman and for the nice centering, but that’s about it. The colour of the author name makes it unreadable and it’s also placed way too close to the edge of the cover. And then there’s the cut and pasted dog.

I would never merchandize this book.

You want your cover to represent the brilliant book you’ve written, to draw in customers who might not have considered reading your stuff otherwise, to wow the merchandiser. If you’re considering designing your own cover, ask yourself if whatever you might create will have this kind of power. An adequate cover isn’t good enough for your book. You want your cover to be the BEST!

I’ll say it again: Don’t Make It Yourself. Hire a professional book cover designer.

DON’T Put It On Repeat

If you’re writing a series, it’s a great idea to use the book covers to link the titles in the series together. When looking at a list of your books on the retail site, you want the reader to be able to tell right away which three of your five books are a part of your series, especially since not all readers check if a series name is listed. Similar images, colour schemes and font choices on the covers can do this job quite well.

H. M. Ward (who, incidentally, creates her own covers, proving that there’s always an exception to the rule) achieves this quite nicely with her The Arrangement series:

The Arrangement 7The Arrangement 8The Arrangement 9 (Ferro Family)The Arrangement 13 (The Ferro Family)

What I don’t recommend is getting one cover professionally made and then using it for every title in the series by changing the book title only. I’ve seen many authors do this, and I believe it causes confusion with the reader and makes for ugly merchandising. If the series number (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, etc.) isn’t clear enough the customer can end up purchasing the wrong title. It also implies that you didn’t care enough about your book to get a new cover made.

Though repeat covers are by no means a deal breaker—they are far too common for me to exclude them from merchandising entirely—I feel that series covers pack the most punch if they are similar but distinct.

DO Reserve The Right To Change Your Mind

One of the great things about self-publishing is that the author has complete control over the book cover, which is certainly not the case with traditional publishing. Not only can you decide what your cover will be, but you can also change that cover whenever you wish. Naturally, you don’t want to confuse your readers by putting up a new cover every other week, but if you feel your current cover isn’t working, why not try something different? Do your readers continually mention that they were expecting your book to be more of a romantic suspense, when it’s actually a straight contemporary romance? Are you getting a lot of returns? Have you noticed that it’s hard to read the title when you’re looking at your cover on the retail site? All of these problems could possibly be solved by changing up your book cover. Even better, if you don’t like the resulting sales of the new cover, you can always change it back! Such is the freedom of digital self-publishing.

Do you have a favourite book cover designer to recommend? Let us know about them in the comments!

Shayna's PhotoShayna Krishnasamy is a Montreal author of literary and young adult fiction by night and the merchandiser for Kobo Writing Life by day. Shayna’s books are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Shayna’s website!

We’ve got you covered Friday: let’s talk numbers

By Anita B. Carroll

anita 1

Discover how the cover design directly affects your book sales by going behind the scenes with a designer

How important do you think your cover design is? Is it worth it to spend the money on a professional designer? That’s a good question and you would expect me, a designer, to push for hiring a pro.

However, when you look at the facts, the question really is, can you afford not to hire a designer?

A book cover re-design project, analyzed.

Let me show you a cover re-design project I worked on with self-published author Glen Romero for his novella “Welcome to the Fight: Silent Wars”.

Some months ago, I was invited by Mr. Romero to review his cover, which he himself had designed.  To be more accurate, he did the typography, not the illustration.  Here is an image of what the cover looked like, with Romero’s type design:

anita 2

My initial thought was that the typography was weak and perhaps a bit on the amateurish side.  I found the cover art rather intense.  I immediately I felt the itch, and could not wait to get to work.

Designing a book cover is quite a close partnership between the writer and designer, and I always approach each book cover design project the same:  I have to read the book, for both novels and non-fiction.  What I have found from experience is that the client is not always able to articulate their vision and reading the story helps me better understand the type of story the author is telling and the mood/ambiance they’re going for. I am a visual reader, so when I read I visualize myself in the story and go wherever the story leads me, and new questions for the client will develop.  So, I keep my sketchbook close by and begin drawing concepts or make notes of things that I feel inspired by.  Something that I feel a connection with and believe I can create a unique, fresh interpretation of.  I never know where my focus will end up; if it will be a specific moment or event, or a specific trait in the main character, or something that represents the whole story.

My design style is minimalistic and I tend to gravitate toward using one simple focus, something that is a visual representation of the message, to help attract readers of that specific genre.

Also, sometimes the cover I create is not what the client initially asked for, but I think it is important to propose it, because at the end what counts is making a cover that best represents the story.  … I have yet to be told no.  My process may not work for everyone, but it seems to be the right approach for the clients I’ve had so far.  It is my job as the designer, to create a cover that fits the story and help the author’s vision become a reality.  Having a sellable cover will essentially determine the success of the book.  So, I put a lot of my soul into each project to ensure that I do.

An understanding of Romero’s story began to develop as I was reading, and I was immediately grabbed by the intensity of it, and could now see why he picked this specific cover art.

The effects of type

Sometimes the author wants to go with a specific photo or artwork for their cover.  The focus then becomes entirely on the typography, and creating type that compliments and sometimes enhances the existing artwork.

For Romero’s cover re-design project, I decided to keep the artwork and removed the type he had created, and added what seemed a more appropriate typography design. The book and the cover image are intense, and I thought his original choice in typography was too timid, and therefore inconsistent.

Here it is, a fresh take on “Welcome to the Fight:  Silent Wars”.

anita 3A close up of the type.

anita 4

It’s in the numbers

The most intriguing part about this cover re-design project was when Romero contacted me several months later and shared his exciting news on how this new design had changed his book sales, completely.  Up until then I had no idea of what his sales had been. So as you can imagine, I was quite surprised once I learned that prior to the implementation of the new cover design, he had had zero sales.  0 sales.  Nada.  Null.  No sales.

Romero agreed to share his sales numbers with all of you.  Listed by month, the following graph displays Romero’s book sales from November 2012 through October 2013.

Book sales Nov. 2012-Oct 2013

Book sales Nov. 2012-Oct 2013

Can you guess when the new cover design was published?

Since Romero published the new cover design, he’s experienced a substantial increase of book sales.

Here is a message from one self-publisher to another, from author Glen Romero:

I noticed that my distribution had dropped off so I wanted to find a better image to use for my cover.  I attempted to add the title to the image and the effect was horrible.  My cover went from bad to mediocre at best.  Anita took the image I had and made a great cover out of it.  My distribution increase from an average of 8.5 downloads per month (0 in the previous 7 months).  To an average of 21.1 downloads since she fixed my cover.  The difference was immediate and measurable

When I finish the next installment of my book series, I’ll be going back to Ms. Carroll because of the experience and results.  The one thing for a new writer to remember is that you can have the best story out there but no one will know if you don’t have a good cover.  By going to a professional, you are going to get a good cover and get your story read.

The best advice

As a cover and branding designer professional, the best advice I can offer self-publishers is to know that the quality of your cover design is the single most important thing you can invest in when marketing your book.   Always keep in mind that your book cover is a representation of your work as an author.   It is part of your brand identity.  Most readers will see the cover before having the chance to read an excerpt from the book.

Learn more about Branding and the Importance of Cover Design for Authors in the Self—Publishing Industry. 

Romero’s re-design project offered me a valuable insight, and it felt great to actually see the work I do as a cover designer validated.    As a design professional I understand the magic behind having a good design and the positive results it will offer.  … But for some, actually seeing it is believing it.


About the Author

anita b carrollAnita B. Carroll is a visual design consultant and owner of, supporting self-published authors and publishing houses with all their business brand identity design needs, and offers a FRESH take on book cover design.  Anita has over 17 years of experience within the visual design field, starting out managing creative initiatives for Fortune 500 Businesses in Silicon Valley, California.  She is specialized in Heuristic Evaluation, Web User Interface Design with focus on online usability testing, a valuable skill when designing book covers for the rapidly growing digital market.  Anita is also an avid reader. Discovering book cover design has provided the opportunity to combine her works in photography and graphic design skills.  In her free time, she enjoys traveling and exploring what Mother Nature has to offer with her family. … You might spot her at one of the U. S. Cape beaches, biking the National Sea Shore trails.

To connect with Anita and see more of her work, we welcome you to visit her Portfolio Website, and you can easily connect with her on Facebook and Twitter (@RacePointUS).

Anita enjoys connecting with self-published authors of any genre, so please feel free to contact her directly at: with any cover design questions and needs.  Let her know you read her article on Kobo!

We’ve got you covered Friday: Terry Odell

Cover images and branding

by Terry Odell

Used to be, you looked at books in a bookstore window, on special displays, or on the shelves, where the ones placed face out could catch your eye. If you were looking at spines, perhaps a title caught your eye, or the name of a familiar author. If the cover enticed, you’d move to the back cover copy, or the jacket flap copy, and then maybe flip through the book. But, odds are, it was the cover that started the process.

Now, even though many book purchases are made from on-line bookstores, the cover is still vital. More so, because books have an everlasting shelf life, so even “old” books are new to many readers. And the cover is just as important, if not more so, than in the brick and mortar stores.

If your publisher creates your cover, you probably have very little input. But if you’ve got rights back, or are creating an original title to publish yourself, you have to understand the importance of good, professional-looking cover art.

I published three books in a romantic suspense series for a traditional publisher that sold primarily to libraries. Although they employed an art department, the tended to look at each book as an island unto itself. This is what they did for my three books with them:

covers 1
Although there’s nothing “bad” about any of the covers, there’s no continuity. No branding. Nothing that says ‘This is a Blackthorne, Inc. book by Terry Odell.’ And with all the competition out there, you need that branding.

I had hired a cover artist to create covers for another series, where I held all the rights. I asked him to use scenes rather than people on the cover (although for my newest book, I changed my mind because research showed that readers want to feel connected to a character). These are the covers he designed for my Pine Hills Police series:

covers 2

I think these covers say “Series” and “a book by Terry Odell.” By keeping the fonts similar, and the name placement, there’s continuity. (And, if you’re wondering, covers at one of the big e-book stores often have the lower right corner “dog-eared”, which is why my name is stacked rather than reaching all the way across the bottom. Less chance of it disappearing).

When I got the rights to publish  my Blackthorne, Inc. books as e-books (the publisher did hard cover only), I went back to my cover artist. This is what he came up with for the original 3:

covers 3

And, he did the two original books I wrote for that series as well:

covers 4

Now, regardless of the series, my name is the same.  Within each series, there’s continuity in title fonts.

And, the last thing, the one thing I tell anyone who asks my opinion when they’re deciding on a cover is to look at it in thumbnail. All those nifty cover quotes and blurbs are going to disappear. Get your name, the book title, and maybe a series name on your e-book cover. The rest can go in the book’s description.


About the Author

Odell_200x300Terry Odell began writing by mistake, when her son mentioned a television show and she thought she’d be a good mom and watch it so they’d have common ground for discussions.
Little did she know she would enter the world of writing, first via fanfiction, then through Internet groups, and finally with groups with real, live partners. Her first publications were short stories, but she found more freedom in longer works and began what she thought was a mystery. Her daughters told her it was a romance so she began learning more about the genre and craft. She belongs to both the Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America.

Now a multi-published, award winning author, Terry resides with her husband in the mountains of Colorado. You can find her online at:

Her website –
Her blog –
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Sign up for her newsletter
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Check out her books on Kobo.

We’ve got you covered Friday: Keith Draws

As you work your way through your NaNoWriMo novels, we’d like you to keep in mind the importance of cover design. Even if you have the most sublimely-written masterpiece, nobody is going to pick it up to read it if it doesn’t have a good cover. Your cover image is your advertisement, the first thing a potential reader sees, and what they’ll judge your book on, whether they think they do or not.

To that end, for the next couple weeks, we’re bringing you posts about all aspects of cover design every Friday. It’s the KWL “We’ve Got You Covered Friday!”

Our first post in the series is from Steve Vernon’s cover designer, Keith Draws.


The first thing I think about when designing a book cover is simple. What would make me pick this book up for a closer look?

What would make me BUY this book.

The cover is the first thing a person will see when looking at your book. In fact it is most likely the first contact it will have with its potential audience and so it is necessary to capture their interest. First impressions count.

First impressions are life or death for any book – ESPECIALLY an e-book.

So what makes a good cover?

A good cover – combined with a good title as to lead and tease the reader. A good cover has to be a bit of a cliffhanger. A good cover has to indicate the genre of the e-book and “hint” at the story just hard enough to leave the viewer LONGING to know and experience more of the book behind that cover. A good cover is like a well-made movie trailer. A good cover must spark the imagination of the casual onlooker. A good cover must turn that onlooker into a customer and a reader and hopefully – a lifelong fan.

There are many ways to do this, and what I’m showing here is just one way.

When I first started working with Steve on his “Flash Virus” we talked about how the story is filled with action and cliffhangers in each episode and this was a lot like the old pulp stories of the first half of the twentieth century and so with that in mind we set about designing a kind of updated “pulp” style and the Flash Virus covers were the result.

Normally, if I get time, I like to read the book, but Steve was working to a tight launch schedule and that wasn’t really possible. Instead he gave me a short précis of the events and a list of elements and characters that were dominant in the story.

First I worked out some typography, something designed to reflect the content.

Once I was happy with that I made sketches of cover ideas incorporating the typography and sent them over to Steve. We discussed the roughs until we nailed down the final layout. I then produced the final paintings.

aa vernon

This process worked so well that we decided to continue in the same vein for Steve’s new novel “Trolling Lures”

Now I’ll go into more detail here.

First off Steve gave me a quick list of key cover elements:

A bumpy old red pick-up truck – one of those old ugly bumpy Dodge pick-up trucks.

A gigantic Mountie from Hell. I don’t want him to look a demon. I just want him to look as if he wipes his butt with coarse sandpaper and glass wool. A real hard-assed mean-looking sunnovabitch. We also need a Coyote – not just any Coyote but the Coyote trickster from native folklore. The whole novel takes place on a rambling old country road –think über-rural

So I dug around for reference and finally started sketching.

Now when it comes to layout I used to rely on instinct but I’ve found over the years that instinct is not enough. I needed something to give me an “edge” and I found that “edge” by looking at what the old masters did. Leonardo Da Vinci and his contemporaries laid out their compositions using the “Golden Ratio” as a guide.

Here is a pretty straightforward summary of the “Golden Ratio” (Courtesy of with some images to demonstrate it in action:

aa vernon 2

The Golden Ratio is also known as the Golden Mean, Phi, or Divine Proportion, this law was made famous by Leonardo Fibonacci around 1200 A.D. He noticed that there was an absolute ratio that appears often throughout nature, a sort of design that is universally efficient in living things and pleasing to the human eye. Hence, the “divine proportion” nickname.

There is a lot of mystical talk about the Golden Ratio

but I am not really concerned with all the mysticism and math, I just want to create interesting engaging images. Using the “Golden Ratio” I can divide my imagery up knowing I will end up with a very pleasing and well balanced composition.

When converted to a grid for layout it looks like this:

aa vernon 3

and because of its mathematical properties it is possible to use multiple golden sections overlaying one another: Here is an example:

aa vernon 4

If you want to know more I discuss golden sections in more detail on my own blog.

Anyway, for some reason the “Golden Ratio” is a pattern that is especially pleasing to the human mind and I try to take advantage of that in all aspect of my design.

I’m not alone in that.  Just look at this cover by Stephanie Huntwork:

aa vernon 5

The cover for “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett looks like it was designed using this principle ( I laid a “Golden Ratio” over the cover to demonstrate), and according to USA today it was the number one selling book of 2011. Of course that may have a little to do with the writing as well, but there is no doubt that cover really did grab the attention of potential readers.

Of course there are many other considerations important to composition, not the least of which is color. When it comes to books covers color is absolutely vital. Color theory is a complex subject, and I’ve covered a lot of it on my personal blog, but in this post I’m going to draw attention to one point that is essential when designing book covers. And it is a point that’s backed up by a substantial amount of research:

Tests indicate that a black and white image may sustain interest for less than two-thirds a second, whereas a colored image may hold the attention for two seconds or more. (A product has one-twentieth of a second to halt the customer’s attention on a shelf or display.)

Source:Jill Morton, Colorcom

This means that by using color on a book cover we are getting 6 times as much attention from potential readers than if we used a monotone cover.  Color must dominate the cover some how. Even if we have the finest black and white photograph ever taken on our cover without some strong color somewhere on the cover, such as a part of the typography, then our monotone cover, when sat among other covers featuring lots of color, is not going to be noticed.

In fact, as we all know but often forget- color is an amazingly powerful tool that when used correctly can manipulate mood and emotion in much the same way that music does.

Now back to the cover for “Trolling Lures” by Steve Vernon

I had a pretty strong idea of what I wanted to do with the text and it was much simpler than what we did with the flash virus typography. And I had a nice set of interesting imagery ideas to play with from Steve so I dug out as much reference as I could (and these days, for this, the internet is a real boon), laid out my “golden ratio” and I began sketching.

With each element I wanted to convey certain things that Steve had mentioned. The Mountie was to be menacing  and almost but not quite supernatural looking, The coyote was to be a kind of spirit animal magical and mysterious, The truck and the road  needed to look real, but menacing and possibly supernatural. The landscape was to be wild and rough, like the Grand Canyon or some such place. Armed with that information eventually I came up with this:

aa vernon 6

and with the golden sections :

aa vernon 7

As you can see I made extensive use of the golden sections.

At this point I sent it off to Steve hoping he was going to like it. Fortunately he did. Steve and I then got into discussing the finer details. The truck needed to look VERY beaten up, the Mountie needed to look tougher – like he could chew up a nuclear bazooka and spit out .45 caliber shells.

I always work to 150% of the final printed page size (even if the cover is for an e-book only because at a later date it could be used for print if required). The reduction of final art can only enhance and it allows me to be more relaxed when working (Not that my perfectionist streak allows that much).

Usually I paint the covers in Manga Studio 4EX and then I mess with color balance and other qualities in Photoshop but I had just got my copy of Manga Studio 5 and had decided to give it a shot and I have to say it is a marvelous tool. Perfect for digital painting. Much of the stuff I usually have to leave to Photoshop I was able to deal with in Manga Studio 5 and the brush engine is way superior to the one in Photoshop. It’s very natural to use and feel almost like actual painting in the real world but with the added bonus of “undo”. The only thing I really need Photoshop for now is the Typography.

Finally I presented Steve with the finished artwork:

aa vernon 8

Do you like what you see?

Authors – if you are looking for a cover of your own from Keith Draws contact him through his Facebook Page –

And – if you would like a copy of TROLLING LURES – pick it up at Kobo.

OR – check out Steve Vernon’s entire Northern Chills series of spine-chilling novellas.

What to look for in a book cover designer

By Scarlett Ruger

Finding the right book cover designer for you is not as painful as you think, I promise. Let’s imagine finding your designer is like finding the right book. Among its competition you can’t tell much, so you have to pick the book up and check it out to see if it’s right for you or not.

Here are a few things to keep in mind in choosing a desiger:

1: The folio of work (aka the book cover)

When scouting for book cover designers the first thing you should check out is their work. You must see past work in order to make a judgment call, even if the designer was recommended by someone you trust or you’ve come by them through research. Get in touch with the designer and request some samples, and if possible samples specific to what you need. If you write romance, get them to send over any work they’ve done in the romance genre.

If they don’t have anything to supply, go somewhere else. You do not have to just trust someone will do the work; you’re allowed to have confidence in your decision.

2: Experience (aka: the blurb)

So you’ve found someone who has a folio of work, huzzah! So the next step is finding out their experience.

If you are in love with the work of one designer, but all they’ve done are brochures and posters, then consider what that means for you. Posters and brochures and websites aren’t book covers. Book covers have a message, they’re multi-layered concepts, they tell your story. Find out how long the designer has been in the industry, if they have the skills you need, and again, if it’s not immediately apparent then ask.

3: Communication (aka: The story)

I’ve assigned communication as the main point when it comes to looking for a book cover designer. Why is this?

Well you just can’t deny it, the internet has made working internationally incredibly easy. This also means that the majority of your communication to your publishing team (editors, formatters, designers) will be through email. Lines can easily get crossed, or lost. Without a constant stream of communication your attempts at getting a book cover design can be chaotic and stuttered.

I make it a point to be in constant contact with all the authors I work with. I try and touch base with them every 24-48 hours so they know I’m here, they’re my priority, and if there’s been a misunderstanding on time frames we can clarify it quickly.

So how do you know if your designer is good at communication?

Firstly, take note of their website.

Is their website full of information, where to access them, and do they have testimonials? If a website is well-written and I get all the information I need up front that’s always a really good indication the designer is a good communicator. It means they know what their audience wants and they supply it straight away. If there is only a brief amount of info and they want me to contact them get more, I’m usually deterred.

That’s not to say these designers aren’t good at communicating, but it’s important to make the process as easy as possible for the author.

Secondly, it’s all about their responsiveness. When you do get in touch with them are they quick, delayed, have they understood what you wanted, do they seem to be missing things you’ve mentioned? These sorts of things you can usually pick up in the first 2-3 emails.

And if none of that works for you?

And my final piece of advice, which really overrides everything I’ve said, is to go with your gut. Authors are gut-instinct people. You know if it feels right or not, and if it doesn’t you’re not obligated to go ahead with it. If friends tell you, “Oh! But seriously they’re THE BEST,” let it go. It’s your book, your baby; you get the final say as to who you go with.

So go out there and start shopping! Make some queries. This part doesn’t have to be serious, or make you anxious, and as I remind my clients: I don’t expect you to know how the book design process works! Your designer shouldn’t either. That’s their job, not yours. Yours is to become that bestselling author you’ve been working your ass off to be!


scarlett rutgersScarlett Rugers’ job is a book cover designer and a Publishing Identity Consultant. Her purpose is to empower you to be the best author you can be, and collaborate with you to improve the quality of the book industry. She is constantly working to inspire, strengthen and pursue the perception that self-publishing is professional publishing.

For an experience that will make you feel traditionally published you can email her at: contact (at) scarlettrugers (dot) com or visit her website and see her work. She is also on twitter at @thebookdesignr.

Scarlett Rugers is also offering a 10% discount on her design services to all Kobo Writing Life authors! Visit her site for further information about her services.”

6 expert tips on designing a great book cover

By Scarlett Rugers

Yes people do judge books by their covers, and when your cover is the size of a postage stamp, as is the case in search results for eBooks, you need a clear message for maximum impact.

Coming up with the right high-voltage look can be tricky, but don’t be deterred. Here are some quick pointers to help with the process, specifically for authors with little to no design experience, and want to give it a shot:

Have a clear idea of what message you want to convey.

You can only make a first impression once.  Instead of three or four story lines, two characters, eighteen scenes and one plot twist clamoring for attention, pick one strong theme for the cover. What is the one constant in your story, from start to finish? What is the value, the lesson, the message you are passing onto your reader? For example:

  • A love story across the planet
  • An adventure in western times
  • Mysterious beings haunting a forest
  • Two animals who are close friends
  • A tough guy who won’t take no for an answer

Choose the main element you want to convey about your book and select your cover image to reflect it.

Use other book covers to guide you.

Search for books with the same theme you’re looking for and see how they lay out the text and images. You don’t have to try and know everything at once; learn how others have done it in the past.

Use simple typefaces and layout.

No matter how beautiful your cover image is, your book cover fails if the typeface is poor.  Type is often the element that is overlooked, and always the deal breaker. I have written a post about classic typefaces you can rely on, no matter the genre of your book. Decorative fonts run the risk of being outdated. And keep it to two fonts max – you want something stylish for your title, and something simple for your author name and tag line. Too many typefaces means too many people are at the party.

Seek Feedback.

Search out communities and forums involved in self-publishing and ask for feedback. Not from your family and friends who will always love what you create, but people who will give you an honest, constructive critique. My ego definitely gets too big when I feel like I’ve done a great job, and accepting criticism forces me to continue to be better, be open, and to recognize there will always be things that others can see that I can’t.

Keep it simple.

You don’t have to go overboard with design. Good design is all about balance, and ensuring your message gets across. You don’t need to combine four different images to tell your reader that it’s a sci-fi, romance with a lot of death and machine guns. You need one message, one that doesn’t have to be literal, and you need to tell it visually. To convey royalty we use a crown, for slavery we go with chains, for love we have hearts.

Have bold, easy-to-see visuals.

You may be ready to get really creative in Gimp or Photoshop, but remember that a lot of your readers are only going to see your cover in black and white on your Kobo. Did you know that pink comes up pretty poor on a Kobo?

Maintain clean lines and use images that are easy to distinguish if you’re going to blend them. If you have a Kobo then upload your cover and open it up to see how it looks! You don’t want to have done all that work only to find the name is barely visible because it blends into the background hue.

A lot of info? Let’s chunk it down:

A checklist for good cover design:

  1. Does your cover say what you want it to? Does it convey the genre, and theme?
  2. Is your text easy to read?
  3. Are you using a maximum of two font faces, one decorative (or maybe simple if you wish), and the other a classic type face?
  4. Do you have a simple image, or do you have a collection of images fighting for attention?
  5. Is the cover easy to view on Kobo?

If you are covering these points then you’re well on your way to having a good cover! I always encourage authors to hire a professional but sometimes, for whatever reason, it’s time to do it yourself.  And the beauty of eBooks is, book covers can be easily changed – you can keep experimenting. Be brave, be bold! Take risks! And above all have fun!


scarlett rutgersScarlett Rugers’ job is a book cover designer and a Publishing Identity Consultant. Her purpose is to empower you to be the best author you can be, and collaborate with you to improve the quality of the book industry. She is constantly working to inspire, strengthen and pursue the perception that self-publishing is professional publishing.

For an experience that will make you feel traditionally published you can email her at: contact (at) scarlettrugers (dot) com or visit her website and see her work. She is also on twitter at @thebookdesignr.

Scarlett Rugers is also offering a 10% discount on her design services to all Kobo Writing Life authors! Visit her site for further information about her services.


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