2019 A Year In Review

The Year of Career Roller-coasters and Coffee

I would like to say that I have enjoyed a wonderful year as a graphic designer. But as in life, the year had its ups and downs for me. The bright spots were certainly those jobs where I was hired to design using my skills, knowledge and experiences as a designer – and left to it. The challenging spots – each time I was micro-managed on projects. Thus, my favorite projects of 2019 involve those where I was left to create them.

I completed thirty-four book cover designs and a variety of other marketing designs (banners, adverts, etc.) and even a handful of re-designs in 2019. A few of those projects (7 at last count) have yet to be released by the authors/publishers – but overall, I was able to share most of the work that I completed this year as they became available for sale. And I appreciate all of the support and feedback that I have received for my design work.

I continued to grow as a designer in 2019, and I plan to set aside more time in 2020 to learn new things in the world of design to offer even a higher standard of product to my clients.

I am often asked which of my designs is my favorite – that is always the toughest question to answer because I can find special elements within all of them. But most definitely my favorite designs have been when the client trusts me to create a cover design based on my skills. Basically, when I’m hired to design and left to do that process with the only input being what I myself request from the client. Graphic design is a creative process – best left to professionals. Let me do the job that you commissioned me to do and we will both love the results.

I plan to process work in a more efficient way in 2020 – my commission rates will represent a more balanced amount for my time and abilities. And I will be more selective in what I choose to take on. Life is too short and too valuable to waste precious time on bad design.

Thank you to all of those that I had the pleasure of working with in 2019. Many of you I do hope to collaborate with again in 2020.

Ars longa, vita brevis. –Hippocrates (Art is long, life is short.)

December Holiday Update

Happy Holidays!

Time for a Break Following This Update

Once again, I have had a busy and successful year as an independent Book Cover Designer. I’ve taken on numerous new clients and made a couple of invaluable new connections. Thank you to everyone for making 2019 another fabulous year!

Newly Completed Book Cover Designs

New Pre-Made Covers are also available – contact me for more details.

New for 2020

I am removing the Book Trailer Video Services from my website. Not only has demand for full length book trailers dropped off in recent years, the cost involved in producing trailers far exceeds what I can reasonably charge for the service. I am playing around with making short clips that are either simple animated GIF files or only a couple of frames of video for authors if I have any inquiries.

Keep in mind that all designs are created with the use of, often times, multiple stock elements (images and illustrations). These do not come free – most licenses cost $5.00 to $10.00 a piece. I will add the cost of all licenses used in the final design to your bill. I do not profit from this, but I cannot afford to shoulder the costs of all of the licenses that I must purchase throughout the year either. Always remember that I produce multiple designs every month, not just your book cover. If I can find free for commercial use resources, I will go that route first. But more than likely I’ll be purchasing RF stocks from either Depositphotos or Shutterstock to complete your design.

Also, in closing out my books for the year the most disconcerting statistic is that my earnings show a decrease from the previous year (despite an increase in labor time overall). Thus, after five years of keeping my commission rates the same – I am going to increase my commissions for my services. Honestly, it is overdue as both my experience has grown and my skill level has broadened exponentially. I cannot continue giving my time and talent away. I need to work less hours due to my health and family commitments, and earn a fair rate for quality design when I do choose to accept new projects. And I will no longer provide unlimited edits and updates at no additional cost – this has become the biggest loss of time for me in recent years.

In closing, I wish all a blessed holiday season. See you in 2020!

Book Cover Design Trends

One of the most popular trends in Book Cover Design right now is all in the Title Treatment.

If you look at top selling eBooks (or paperback novels) right now, there is one design element or trend that stands out overall in the crowd. The letters of the book’s title seem to interact with the artwork in the background.

Cover design by Karina Granda

The above cover design for ‘The Cruel Prince‘ has a bare tree branch running through the words ‘Cruel’ and ‘Prince’ (along with a crown hanging on the branch). The title is easily readable despite intersecting with the type, and the interaction with the tree branch gives the cover depth of field. The design is not cluttered, yet the elements that are included support the genre (the crown) the reader should expect. The font is also genre appropriate and nicely styled. The tiny pop of color with the green beetle is intriguing once you notice it too. Cheers to the designer!

More examples of this design trend are as follows:

In each case with the cover images above, at least one word in the novel’s title intersects or interacts with the background. The final example, “The Woman In The Window“, I found particularly clever in its execution.

Instead of the designer choosing an image of an actual woman peering out of a window, they chose to let the title itself play the role. While the design is simple – lines and text with a layer of texture to add some grit, it is on point and effective. The potential reader has a clear idea of the overall plot despite the cover being devoid of any photos/models/scenes. That is design functioning at its best. And this was obviously designed by a professional graphic designer due to the thought process put into the design, the balanced layout and execution of the concept. These books are all mainstream published as well – but independently published books can achieve the same level of professionalism as long as the author hires an experienced and accomplished designer to create their book cover for them.

While this is a top design trend in publishing at present, it too shall pass (just as the headless woman trend did). But the bottom line and lesson to be learned (hopefully) here is simplicity sells. Do not clutter up your book cover with too many elements. Take note that none of the above cover designs contain more than one image and typography. But they are all successfully representing the pages inside and their respective genres.

Happy Halloween!

October Round Up

I enjoyed a busy October celebrating both my birthday and the Autumn Equinox with family. I took a break from commercial design work overall. I drank just as much coffee and probably ate too much cake, but it was a good month. While a few of the planned projects were delayed or canceled from my September list, I did finalize everything else on my schedule. Looking forward to sharing the designs soon!

Two Cover Designs Recently Released

Available on Amazon

I had originally designed this cover for Michelle Weidenbenner back in 2017. Due to unforeseen circumstances, it took a while for the author to bring out this title, but it is now available and I’m excited to share it. While the design is simple – it works quite well for this genre. Yellow was a popular color in design trends when we came up with this cover.

Available on Amazon.

This is the seventh book in this series by Wendy H. Jones and I still love the branding that we developed for this series. This time I was asked to combine a photo of Dundee with elements representing New Orleans. It seems like an odd pairing, but no doubt all is revealed between the pages of the book! Wendy is such a joy to work with.

Have a safe and enjoyable Halloween! I look forward to working with many talented clients during the month of November.

October News and Notes

My exciting new connection in the publishing business!

I’m thrilled to be added as a resource for New Shelves Books! After meeting Amy Collins at a book signing last month, Amy suggested bringing me on board as a resource for her clients in the publishing business. I had a lovely call with Amy’s business partner, Keri Barnum, today and we are all set up.

New Shelves Books is a one-stop-shop for writers looking for guidance in the publishing world – anything from marketing, formatting, social media and all forms of publishing. Amy and Keri do it all or will work with writers at whatever level or depth required. I highly recommend their services to all of the authors out there. And I’m looking forward to gaining new clients through their referral service.

Authors will find tons of invaluable information on their website, and if nothing else follow their blog.

New Book Cover Design

Now on Amazon

My fourth cover design for Debbie Viggiano – she’s a joy to collaborate with!

And on a final note, I’ll be out of the office for much of the rest of October.

Family time is precious. Self-care time is precious as well. It has been one hectic summer and I’m exhausted. Thus, I’m taking a few weeks away from the design desk and re-charging my batteries. Autumn is my favorite season of the year anyways.

My Latest Cover Design Projects

Recently three of the book covers that I have designed have become available on Amazon, so I thought I would share.

First up is a modern romance novel by Ian Wilfred – Time To Move On

Available on both Amazon and Amazon UK

Next up is The 22nd Floor by Geoff Green now available on Amazon:

Amazon and Amazon UK

And finally, my latest cover design for Susan Russo Anderson – Death On Atlantic Avenue.

I’ve been busy this month as well, so I do hope to have more cover designs to share soon!

Interview: working with a book cover designer

I was recently interviewed by the lovely and charismatic Amy Collins of New Shelves Books – she does a regular feature about ‘Book Promotion – Do This, Not That‘ and we had a chat about what authors should not do when working with a book cover designer.

Have a read HERE or continue reading below…

Image – Pixabay

Full Interview:

Think you can design your own cover? Nope. Honest. Not a good idea. Ever.

While it’s easy to point fingers at authors on a budget, or writers who have a little bit of design training, the truth is, we’re all guilty of thinking that we know enough to delve into areas of book publishing where we truly have no business. One of those areas, most often, is cover design.

In speaking with Cathy Helms from Avalon Graphics, a book cover designer who has been working in the industry for over 10 years and who has designed over 1000 covers, she and I came up with a list of some of the easiest to spot cover design issues.

If you are a self-published author, or a new publisher, this month might be the perfect opportunity to learn from a cover designer who has designed bestselling covers and who pays close attention to what is selling in the marketplace and what is not.

What They Did

Many authors will take a photo themselves and use it for their cover. Quite often, this photo is taken with an iPhone, Android, or (if we’re lucky) a digital Camera.

They will upload this photo to a computer and use a Word font such as Comic Sans MS, Times New Roman, or even (God forbid) Papyrus, to add a title and an author name.

What Happens

I am all for saving money and I am a big fan of doing things yourself, but cover design is not one of those elements that you can figure out as you go along.

Slapping a title and an author name on a picture that you either downloaded from a free site or took yourself is not designing a cover.

What ends up happening, is that the author, believing that the cover is “good enough”, starts submitting the book to review sites, bloggers, and on-line to readers.

Inevitably, the reviews start coming back from the professionals in the industry that the cover “does not support the genre” or that the cover “does not meet marketplace standards” and the author is devastated.

What Also Happens

In addition, authors with a homemade cover based on a photo they took, will often find that they don’t get any response from reviewers or the industry.

This is, actually, the kindest result we can hope for. Quite often, authors will hear from bookstores and libraries that they “do not take self-published books.”

That sentence is never actually the whole truth. What the librarian or bookseller is saying is “I don’t want your book” and in many cases, that is the fault of the cover. The book is wonderful, and the writing is stellar… but the cover is keeping anyone from discovering that.

What the Author Does Next

If things end up progressing as noted, if an author is getting radio silence from the industry and from reviewers, or even hearing that the book is not up to snuff, a professionally designed cover is quite often the solution.

Researching, finding, and hiring a professional cover designer is always a good idea. Start looking for a cover designer that has a lot of experience in your genre.

The best way to go about this according to Cathy Helms, is to research and find the other successful self-published authors in your genre. The key to this step is to make sure you pick books that are selling a lot of copies and are receiving a lot of acclaim from the industry.

What Not to Do Part 2

Please do not ask your author buddies who are all in the same pool you are.

It is not a great idea to ask people at your level for a recommendation on a cover designer.

Reach out and speak with the authors who are out in the stratosphere of success of your genre. Reach out to the biggest names in self-publishing or even traditional publishing and ask them for the names of their cover designer.

In many cases, the cover designer is listed in the acknowledgements or even on the book itself.

Quick tip: There are cover designers who work for large publishers who freelance on the side.

How to Move Ahead

Once an author has determined that they need a professional cover designer, the next big question always is “How do I decide which one to pick?”

At this point, if you are confident that the pool of cover designers you are choosing from are all successful and experienced in your genre, then it comes down to personal preference and budget. Joel Friedlander and his team here at The Book Designer have a list every month of ebook covers that are truly exceptional.

Cathy Helms strongly suggests that you look up those books each month and spend time reading the comments under each award-winning cover.

Take the time to learn to see what people think of the covers that are doing very well and what the common elements are that bind them all into a successful group. While it is always a good idea to hire a professional cover designer, it is also a great idea to educate yourself to know what makes a good cover.

Final Thought

Then, let the cover designer do what they do best. Let them design your cover and watch your sales and reviews grow.
-Amy Collins

Advice for Non-Designers

If you want to sell your product, hire a professional designer to make your product functional and attractive to your target market.

Do not shackle your designer into creating your design to meet your personal taste. Your product is not for you, it is for your potential end user/buyer/reader.

Keep it simple and uncluttered. Reduce your idea down to what is absolutely necessary. Also, consider using darker backgrounds instead of brighter backgrounds which are harder on the eyes.

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” –Steve Jobs

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that hiring a professional designer is too expensive. Bad design is much more costly, and people never forget a bad design/logo/book cover/commercial.

2019 Design trends to consider via 99Designs:

  1. 3D design and typography
  2. Asymmetrical layouts
  3. Art Deco
  4. Modern Mid-Century Modern
  5. The evolution of duotones and gradients
  6. Warm and moody color palettes for photos
  7. Light and delicate custom illustrations
  8. Buxom serifs
  9. Open compositions
  10. Isometric design

Bottom line – unless you have the skills, knowledge and experience in design/layout/typography/print preparation/industry standard design software to do the job of packaging and marketing your product, hire a graphic designer and trust that designer to do their job.


September Project Schedule

A snapshot of September – working on the following design jobs:

I also have a few more tasks that I need to complete if possible as well. And no doubt other clients will reach out with further requests. The above list is my average work load per month – each cover design project taking 5 to 6 business days to sort out the front cover, then another day or two in order to get the paperback layout set once I am supplied with the printer’s specifications.

A mellow Coffeehouse playlist

Every month I juggle around 10 to 15 projects on top of my duties as a cover design judge on two sites and the updating of two websites. Never assume that I am idle awaiting work. I have been steadily busy for the past 5 years of my 11 years in the book cover design business.

graphic banner

The Importance of Book Cover Design

So you have written a book…

I am going to be blunt, jump right to the point here and yell out “The Book Cover MATTERS.”

You might have written brilliant, engaging and potentially award-winning words between the covers, but if the cover sucks, no one will ever discover what you’ve written on the pages inside (well, except your friends and family if you pester them enough to read your book).

…now professionally package it in order to sell it.

It is never okay to use a photo that you snapped on your phone for your book cover, and simply add your title and name over it in order to publish your work. NEVER. I cannot stress this enough.

Bad Cover Design
This is a poorly designed cover example

I have always found it a challenge to effectively explain to potential clients why they should invest in professional services, like cover designers, formatters and editors, in order to give their book the best chance at success in today’s extremely competitive publishing market. Yes, we professionals do charge for our services (usually a very competitive fee if you do your research), and you might think that we are too expensive, and that you can just do it yourself. But what clients are paying for when they hire publishing professionals is our experience and formal education in what we provide. We know what the industry standards are in our fields and what is selling in the bookstores. But how to stress the importance of this point to someone only looking at the costs involved in publishing?

I’m going to paraphrase here, but a great example of why an author should hire a professional cover designer was recently shared with me by Amy Collins of New Shelves Books:

Ask authors if they can name the top 25 best selling books right now, either from The New York Times or Publishers Weekly without looking it up. If the author cannot rattle them off (a good amount of them at least), then they do NOT know what is selling books right now.

Thus why an author needs an agent, if possible, but at the very least a book cover designer who does know. It is our job to know the trends, what is selling and why. A part of our design commission covers the research for each client’s genre, and the experience to implement trending styles, colors and layouts. The author’s job is to write while the graphic designer’s job (book cover designer) is to design effective coverings for those books.

Research what is selling books.

The major mistake a large number of independent authors make is thinking that their cover needs to reflect what they like. That is not the appropriate way to approach a cover design for your novel. A book cover needs to attract readers, and much of that does depend on what is currently selling books (trends in colors, layout and typography).

A book cover is for readers, not the author.

Do not make that mistake with your book – trust a professional to design that cover for you. Hire an agent if you have the budget for it and listen to that agent’s advice on marketing. However, if you can only invest in one professional service, hire a designer for your book’s cover. What the book looks like, both inside and out, matters. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Do not skimp on the design and layout of your book. Appearance, from too many typos, not aligning your copy correctly, to using the wrong fonts and having a poor quality cover jacket will cost you sales. For a great list of resources and advice, visit Discovering Diamonds.

Straight-shooting from the desk of Cathy Helms, exhausted book cover designer and coffee enthusiast.