Cover designer is one of those hats I didn’t expect to wear when I started Mirror World. At the time, I was fairly new to Photoshop and I’ve never considered myself to be an artist. But the most important part of designing a cover for a book is having a vision of what it should look like and being able to communicate that vision to create a final product, whether you end up making it yourself, or finding an artist or another cover designer to realize it for you.
So how is it done, then?
Step 1 – The Vision
As I read or write the book, I try to keep an eye out for a scene or for facets of the book that would make for a good cover image. For Unintended, for example, the scene on the cover is the from the end of the first chapter. It takes place after our main character Kenzie has just accidentally married someone other than her intended prince and looked back to realize that he’s left the symbol of their union, the white flowers, to be run over by a wagon wheel.
“He was right behind them, hurrying to fall in step with the procession, the white-flowered wedding bracelet shredded where it lay discarded by the wheel of the carriage. As Kenzie watched, the carriage started moving again and the perfect white flowers she had so painstakingly woven together from a rare out of season patch in her homeland were crushed and forgotten.”
If the book is by another author, I usually ask them what they have in mind for the cover and their suggestions, even if they don’t have a full cover image in mind, will usually lead to me having some ideas.
Step 2 – The Concept
Once you have a vision of what the cover should look like, it’s time to start looking for concept images. These are images that represent parts of, or the whole of the vision you have in your mind. Keeping with Unintended’s cover, this involved finding a wheel, an example of the white flowers, the cobblestones, and a puddle with the reflection of a castle in it to give the fantasy feel. You want to find examples of the colours you want to use and the things that will appear in the image and get them as close to your vision as possible. It’s also helpful to gather passages from the book that describe the various elements you want to include, especially if you’ll be giving these things to an artist or designer to work from like we did with Unintended.
Step 3 – The Design
Now that you have your concept art, it’s time to put those ideas together and create a cover image. This can be done any number of ways. We have artists who paint, those who sketch, and digital artists, and then there’s also the method of using composite images. For the purpose of this blog, let’s say we’re using composite images. For Black Lightning, by K.S. Jones knew she wanted a certain scene from the novel, but she didn’t want to show her main character, Samuel’s, face. Out of the concept images, I found the ones that most closely described what we were looking for, and that I could blend together using Photoshop to create the image we needed.
Step 4 – The final image
Typically in step three, I will be working with low quality watermarked sample images and playing around with them until I get something that works well. If working with an artist, I’ll be seeing their rough work as they try and recreate what I’ve described to them. In this step though, the design has been agreed upon and approved by all parties, and now it’s a case of making the finished product using quality materials and attention to detail.
After that, you just need to add the font – which is of course another crucial design choice 😉