The art of the cover

Who looks at book covers?   Um… Me?  Everyone?  The saying don’t judge a book by its cover?  Hmmm… That holds true, mostly.

I started creating covers two years ago.  Amira Press let me do a cover for them (and when I look back at that cover, I cringe), but they continued to give me assignments.  I then got hired on with Aspen Mountain, and then several other publishers.  I recently got hired on at Loose-ID, Ellora’s Cave, and Samhain Publishing.  Wow.  What a ride over the last couple of years.

Jambrea was with me from the get go.  She held my hand every step of the way and offered me tons of encouragement.  I really wouldn’t have dipped my toe into the pool if it hadn’t been for her.  The lovely Jess Dee and Anne Rainey pushed me into the deep end and I’ve been swimming along ever since. 

So what goes into a cover design?  When I first started I couldn’t figure out why some authors had no input on their covers.  After being in the biz now for a couple of years, I realized that it’s up to the publisher to determine what sells.  Their marketing department gives the go ahead on the cover.  Now, some publishers let the creative department have free reign, but not all.

When I get a cover request, the authors – for the most part – want a particular element that’s relevant to their story. Take the recent Jess Dee cover that I got to design:

She wanted the couple – no faces, and a boat.  Easy peasy.
I love you Jess.  kiss

I’ve done other covers where they’ve wanted some insanely crazy things – like a cat piloting a spaceship in the future.  Uh.  Hmmm… 

Some covers have been so difficult that I couldn’t believe I actually pulled it off.    Thes two come to mind:

There were so many elements in these covers that I was really struggling to get them on the page. 

The hardest part of a cover design is trying to picture what the author had in mind.  What they write on their cover form isn’t necessarily what they want.  And for certain publishers, it isn’t necessarily what they’ll end up with because it might not sell.

So, the next time you look at a cover, think about all the things that go into one.  The hours upon hours of hunting for stock photos.  The time and effort it takes the author to try to descrbe what they want.  The marketing department and publisher who have to review all the covers to make sure the photos haven’t been used already.  The design itself.  It can take 20 minutes to 20 hours.   Good, bad, or indifferent, they are the ‘face’ of the book.

Even though people say they don’t buy a book because of the cover, I know they at least give it some thought. 

Give it a little love too.  rose

11 Responses to “The art of the cover”

  1. Maria63303 Says:

    I give it alot of thought when I buy a book because a cover is what attracts me to the book in the first place, unless it’s by one of my auto-buy authors. I’ve found alot of new authors because of a cover that grabbed my eye! Found a few stinkers too but it’s always what attracts me to a book first

  2. You didn’t really need me. 😀 You’re a rock star. I love looking for pictures and I love having an original V. 😀

  3. Lindsey Ekland Says:

    Love covers because unless it is an author I autobuy I look at covers first. I have avoided books because I hate the covers. Some publishers such as Phaze do not seem to care about the covers and I tend not to buy many books there unless I am trying to fill out a backlist on a favorite author. Speaking of stock photos, there is a blog (which I can not find right now) where the author names the men and then sets up stories using all the covers they have been used on. Very hilarious. Now I wish i knew where I left the link. Oh well. Enjoy hearing about your new covers and how they are produced.

  4. Heather P Says:

    You make the best covers. I always thought the pictures were just thrown on until I met you. Just never realized all the time put into it. Thank you!

  5. dreabecraft Says:

    I’m one of those people that will buy a book just because I fell in love with a cover. 8 time out of 10 I am not disappointed, but I always try to read the excerpts. I have looked at some covers and said no way that looks good. Turns out that the covers were all worng for the book and I should have read up on what was there. I love that the authors have some say, it erks me when the cover doesn’t match the book. I know the publishers want it sold. But as a reader I want a little visual on the characters.

    I know it takes alot of work to do a cover. I think its great. I wish I had half the talent you have. Congrats on the carrer darlin’ you earned it!

  6. Hi Valerie,
    If I don’t already have a specific title in mind when I go book shopping it is usually the front cover that draws me in to look at the back cover blurb or synopsis that will decide if I buy it or not. Those covers can be down right provocative these days. The ones you’ve shared are right nice. Congrats on those covers. But I’ve always wandered does the artist get a percentage of sales or a flat fee for what they have created?


    • Hey Robin,

      The payment for the cover depends on the publisher. Some offer a flat fee, some offer a percentage of sales. It really varies.


  7. Hi Valerie,

    Thank you for sharing your career with us. I have always been fascinated by the different aspects that get books from an idea to a work of art, inside and out, and into my greedy little hands. Since discovering ebooks I haven’t had the privilage of holding each book as I scour the shelves trying to find my next keeper. I do love the instant gratification of ebooks and drooling over the covers each time. I’ve gotten a few just because of their covers, luckly they were good reads as well. I still get print copies of my fav authors books. I confess that when I get each one they go on my desk for awhile so that I can bask in their beauty and smile at the happy memories reading the story gave me. Now I’m gonna have to check to see if I have a Valerie cover in my collection.

  8. Yvonne R. Says:

    I’ve never been creative enough to work in design or publishing but I do know the work it takes especially in editing and getting it “just right”. Although I do try not to let the cover influence whether or not I buy a book I do end up choosing what order I will read a book by the cover. Funny I know. 😉

  9. Val, I’m not a cover artist, but I sure do appreciate you! Something so beautiful and right for a story takes not only hours of hard work, but also a gift–you’ve got the eye, and the rest of us get to appreciate the results! Thanks for sharing the gift!

  10. Anne Rainey Says:

    I freaking LOVE your covers!! You rock! 🙂

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