So some of you may know that in addition to writing books, I’m also a cover artist for a publishing house and I freelance for indie authors as well. You can click HERE to see some samples of my work. Working with so many indies, and now being an indie myself, I’ve seen some really impressive covers out there. I’ve also seen some not-so-impressive covers.
Many indies who say they can’t afford to pay an artist end up designing the cover themselves, despite no training in composition. I’ve seen a few indies pull off some impressive covers, but more often they just have this amateur look. And I’m sorry if I come off sounding snotty. That’s not my intention. But indie authors need to realize the cover is the FIRST thing your readers will see before they buy your book. Not the blurb, not the first chapter–the cover. And so these indies come back to the KB boards or FB groups and complain that their books aren’t selling. But you know, sometimes you need to spend it to get it. Yes, editors are especially important as well, but you’ve got to start with a marketable cover.
As part of an ongoing series, Confessions of a Cover Artist, I’m going to introduce you to cover artists whom I think make exceptional covers. Because, yes, not all cover artists are created equal, either. If you find a good artist, hang on to that person. Your artist can help you to build a brand and keep a continuity with all of your future published works. This series will be by invitation only, so artists, please don’t send requests.
I’ve been keeping my eye on Athanasios Galanis’s (Tom’s) covers. I especially love the warm ambiance he creates with lighting, giving his covers an almost breathable quality. I was not surprised to find out he’s been in the graphic design field for some time before offering cover art services. Please give Tom a warm welcome and feel free to drool over his eye candy covers.
Tom: I design cover art because it is a passion that drives me and fulfills me like nothing else.
I do stuff like this for a living day to day. I love doing covers because I have much more control and input in the artwork than I do in my usual DVD job. Not to sound immodest but I’ve got an affinity for it and it’s not illegal so win, win. The other affinity I’ve got is frowned upon in polite non violent society so I’ll stick to artwork, DVD menus, video editing and covers, thank you.
TW: How did you first get started?
Tom: I started by giving my opinion to whoever asked for a critique about their cover on Indie Writer’s Unite. I found just redoing their cover was much quicker for me than telling them what would improve it. Picture being worth 1000 words and all that. Then a few people asked me to do their covers and it took off from there.
TW: What have you learned along the way?
Tom: I discover that I grasp what an author wants quite quickly. I’ve learned my instincts are much better than I ever dreamed.
I usually get what the author wants with a synopsis, their name and the title.
TW: What mistakes, if any, did you make early on when designing covers?
Tom: My only mistake was with one of my first clients who was also a friend. I trusted that he/she would pay me as agreed but he/she didn’t end up paying for all the covers I did for her/him. After 6 months of broken promises and partial payment I had to go after her/him to pull my covers for lack of payment and told her/him if he/she paid for my work in full he/she could use my covers again. To this day he/she decided it was easier not to pay than to use my covers. This taught me to always have a watermark on proofs sent to a client and always have the proofs be low res and small.
TW: That really sucks to put so much work into a cover and then not get paid. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with some wonderful, dependable authors.
List in order, the five most important elements of a good cover.
1.Title and author name placement & typography
3.Composition of elements
TW: What are common mistakes that indie authors make when designing their own covers?
Tom: Believing that since they know how to write they know how to set up a cover. They might, but it’s not certain. If they do have an affinity with the visual it still takes years of practice to do it fast and competently. Remember a picture is worth 1000 words also works in reverse.
TW: What’s your average turn-around time for cover art?
If I don’t have anything else in front of me 2-4 days, depending on what I have in front of me a week.
TW: What software do you use to create covers?
TW: Me, too, but I think I’m due for an upgrade.
Where do you go for images?
Tom: All over the web, Google mostly and http://www.depositphotos.com if I don’t want to worry about copyright.
TW: Before you get started on a cover, what information do you need from the author?
Tom: Synopsis, title and author name. If they want to give me more info it’s a plus but not mandatory.
Tom: Hmm, is this where I plug my fellow cover artists?
I’d use Christine De-Maio Rice because I like her attitude with her work. She doesn’t treat it in an artsy-fartsy way she does the job and fulfills a need for the author. She’s also got a good eye and you can’t teach that or develop it, you’ve got it or you don’t. She’s also a friend and I’m loyal to a fault. Plug alert: http://www.facebook.com/FlipCityBooks
TW: I love her work, too. I especially love her use of textures and lighting.
Do you think being a novelist makes you a better cover artist?
Tom: No. I think being a graphic artist makes me a better cover artist.
Please visit Tom’s website to check out his covers and read about his cool Mad Gods series.
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Tamra Westberry is cover artist for The Wild Rose Press, an indie designer and also writes YA paranormal as Tara West. Prior to that, Tamra taught high school English, journalism and photography. The first book in her Whispers Series, Sophie’s Secret is free on Kindle, Nook and other ebook outlets.