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Waxing Lyrical :On Covers by Tabby Stirling
My name is Tabby Stirling and I am a book-cover designer and author. I’ve been asked to jot down a few ideas about how to make your cover really stand out and look ultra professional. So here goes!
It is true that everyone can design a book cover. But it is also true that not everyone can design a ‘good’ cover?
What do I mean by ‘good’. Well, of course, it is very subjective but I always try to design a cover that would sit well on a major bookshop’s shelf. A design where font and graphics work together to demonstrate the themes of the book and something about the author too. Where colour balances with everything and a few risks are taken in the spirit of artistic endeavor.
I don’t believe that you have to have been to Art school to get it right but an ‘eye’ is very useful and that, much like the ‘voice’ in writing, cannot be taught (in my opinion).
So how can you design a cover that will be the envy of your friends and appear professional and creative?
Here are a few tips that I’ve discovered during my time as a designer.
There are a rich variety of free fonts that are accessible to the designer so be bold and don’t just stick to the fonts that come with Word and I have put a couple of links down the bottom to start you off.
However, fonts can make or break a cover and just because you love the swirling, medieval capitals sprawling across the cover of your historical romance – it doesn’t mean they work.
A good idea is to remember the old adage about women’s fashion. You can show off your legs or cleavage but never both at the same time after a certain age.
This is also true of design. If you want 1000-volt cover you can achieve this by using graphics that ‘pop’ with a plain font and colours that balance.
Experiment with graphic placing – sometimes a slightly off-centre graphic can distribute menace much better than those Horror Fonts that are great on a 40’s film poster but not much else.
Less is more. Please go with your instincts. Being bold doesn’t mean that you have to have outrageous fonts, colour and graphics simultaneously. Experiment with colour and font. Always back away from something you are not quite sure of. And don’t ever feel that something isn’t quite bright enough without the hot pink graphics (especially if it is a book on chemical engineering).
Probably the trickiest one to handle, at least for me. I love colour and often find myself cavorting with highly inappropriate pantone colours for long periods of times. It’s good to experiment, this is how we achieve the final result, but don’t let your experiments get the better of you. One of the easiest ways to spot an amateur cover is the colour scheme used (or not).
Great roaring oceans of colour, spewing like a Finnish volcano is not always a positive thing. Think about how it will be perceived by others. Try to become less self-indulgent about what you like and what you think will sell.
Be prepared to put time and effort into your design. A full book-cover may take me 12 hours just for the initial mock up before it goes back to the client. And then the inevitable to and fro where ideas are discussed and the design begins to come to life. This is one of my favourite bits – being creative with the client.
What I start with is invariably nothing like the final, approved design and it can be frustrating at times.
I think it is important to treat the author with great respect because writing a book is no easy thing and their ‘baby’ deserves attention.
However, I would not be doing my job if I didn’t gently point out an idea that I don’t think would work. I will always try it, if the client insists, because book cover design is a collaboration and a journey. A quite magical thing really.
I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to email me with any questions – my portfolio can be found at tabathadesigns.tumblr.com but not all my work is there by a long shot.
Adobe Indesign (Paid)
Pic Monkey (free)