Erica Vetsch here with you today to talk about Book Covers! After “Where do you get your ideas?” and “How did you become a writer?” “Do you get to design your own book covers?” is one of the most popular questions authors are asked. And of course, the answer is an ambiguous “sometimes.”
Depending upon which publishing path you’re on, you can have exactly zero say
all the way to designing the cover yourself. While I often had a bit of input when it comes to my book covers, I have never designed one in my whole entire life. Even the first book I penned (penciled) in 9th grade only had the title ‘erased’ into the blue notebook cover.
Our own Pam Hillman designs the covers for her indie books. Ruthy’s daughter Beth designs her Wishing Bridge covers, so I imagine Ruthy has a tremendous say in the finished product. For myself, my covers have always been designed by a publishing house. Sometimes they send me the finished product and tell me that's what they're going with, and at other times, I have the ability to chip in with my thoughts before it's called done. (I much prefer this option.)
The cover art design process with a traditional publishing house often starts with an Art Fact Sheet, though different publishers call it by different names. This is where the author tries to encapsulate their vision for the book cover, giving the designer an overview of the story, the themes, the moods, settings, time period, etc. Often the author is given the opportunity to insert photos of covers they like, pictures of who they envision their characters look like, and settings and scenes.
From this, the designer begins work on the cover. And at this point, I have no idea what happens.
So, I asked an expert. I asked Hannah Mae Linder, (who is also an amazing author) the designer of my latest book cover, if she would walk us through her design process from original concept to finished product.
The beautiful and talented
Hannah Mae Linder!
Hannah, thank you so much for agreeing to sit still for this interview! :) First tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get started in cover art design?
Hi, Erica! Happy to be here! The first cover I designed was for my first self-published book when I was twelve. Crazily enough, one of my first covers was square. Not sure how I thought that would fit a 5x8 book! But even though I had a lot to learn, the more covers I designed for my own books the more I loved the process. It swiftly became a dream to work for publishing houses designing book covers. Can you tell us where you start with a book cover?
I always start with a form! Whether it’s the online form I send to individual authors, or the marketing questionnaire publishing houses send to me, that always gives me the starting place I need to begin the process. What software do you use to create your covers?
Adobe Photoshop! How many of the cover elements are provided for you by the publishing house? Fonts, images, logos, etc.
This usually depends on the project. In most cases, I use my own resources for images and fonts, but if the author or team has a specific image or image source in mind, they purchase the rights and send the photo my way. Or, in the case of working on a series where I didn’t design the first book(s), the fonts and logos would be provided to ensure consistency in design. Where do the other bits and pieces come from?
Other bits and pieces—such as lighting effects, texture, background, etcetera—come from either Photoshop tools or stock photos. Adding in subtle effects is the fun part! How much give and take is there between the publishing house, the author, and you as the designer?
After reviewing the first comp(s) I send, the publishing team sometimes has a few tweaks of their own before they shoot the cover to the author. In most cases, the author’s thoughts and input are heeded—and we then make adjustments, if needed, to make the end result align with the author’s vision. Every once in a while, a suggestion will be made that I feel would hinder the design (for example, a color clash or an added element that would clutter the design), so I usually pipe in with an alternative suggestion to help resolve the issue without injuring the design.
Erica here: The Debutante's Code was not designed by Hannah, but by another designer at Kregel. However, when Hannah was contacted about creating covers for books 2 and 3 in the series (Squee!) she needed to work with what was going on in book one to make the series cohesive. I think she did a fantastic job!Can you walk us through the creation of Millstone of Doubt?
Millstone of Doubt was such a fun cover. How could it not be when I’m a big fan of the author and the time period? (Erica is grinning bigtime here!)
Here’s a little run-down on the design process:
· I reviewed the marketing questionnaire and native files that were sent of the first cover in the series.
· I set in place the logo, title, and author name so the layout would match book one, then started to work on the first comp.
· Three comps later, I shot them over in an email to Kregel and awaited feedback.
· The next step was a request to combine different elements of two of the designs. On to comp number four!
· Once the author and her agent reviewed the latest version, we had a few more revisions to work through. We waded through a few different hero models until we landed on Mr. Right Cover Model for The Book.
(Erica here again. One trend of cover art that I'm not crazy about is the 'headless hero/heroine.' The model who posed for the hero's body that was chosen wasn't quite right to play Daniel, so imagine our
struggle er pleasure in perusing photos of handsome fellows until we found the perfect one.)
· Just a few more tweaks after that to fine-tune the design and we had our final product. Bingo!
(I am absolutely enthralled by this cover! I love the atmospheric setting, the totally handsome dude, and how it pairs with book one in the series. You can for certain tell they go together!)
Thank you so much for this insight into cover art creation, Hannah. I am an absolute FAN of your work, and I’m totally in love with the cover you’ve created for book two in the Thorndike & Swann Regency Mystery Series. I can’t wait to see what you do with book three!
Thanks so much, Erica! Both you, your agent, and Kregel have been a delight to work with in bringing the Millstone of Doubt cover to life. I’m looking forward to book three as well!
Do you have a question for Hannah about cover art design? If so, pop it in the comments below. And let us know what you think of the cover art of Millstone of Doubt!
Hannah's bio: Hannah Linder, represented by Books & Such Literary Management, is a Christian fiction author residing in the beautiful mountains of central West Virginia. Her upcoming Regency romantic suspense novel, Beneath His Silence, will be releasing with Barbour Publishing in November of 2022. She is a two-time 2021 Selah Award winner, a 2022 Selah Award finalist, and an ACFW member. Follow her journey at www.hannahlinderbooks.com
Also, Hannah is a magna cum laude Graphic Design Associates Degree graduate who specializes in professional book cover design with affordable prices. Having designed for both traditional publishing houses and award-winning authors, Hannah understands the importance of an attractive book cover and the trends of today’s industry. Her clients have included New York Times, USA Today, and International bestselling authors. Find out more at www.hannahlinderdesigns.com
Erica's bio: Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch
loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, www.ericavetsch.com
where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/groups/inspirationalregencyreaders
where she spends way too much time!
AND!!!! Millstone of Doubt is now available for Pre-order! You can use the links below to take you to your preferred online retailer, or call your local indie store and get yours on order today!