Cover artist Katerina Vamvasaki designed the cover for my book, Not Quite Heaven. I found the process fascinating. Maybe you will, too.
Barb: Tell us a little about your background and education. What qualifies you to design book covers?
KV: I’ve been working professionally as a graphic designer and illustrator for years. More importantly, I’ve been an enthusiastic reader ever since I can remember. And I plead guilty to often judging books by their cover.
Barb: How did you get started in book cover design?
KV: Interestingly, it was completely by chance. While as a child I often experimented redesigning the covers of my favorite books or records, I somehow never thought of doing it professionally later on. But the Internet is a great place to meet authors – I became friendly with some of them, helped out with a cover or two, and somehow word got around.
Barb: How many covers have you done? (Approximate if you don’t know exact number.)
KV: About a dozen at this moment, but the number is steadily increasing.
Barb: Is cover design all you do or do you have a “day job?’
KV: Not all I do, no, but it is part of my day job, as you call it (often it’s more of an “all-day job”), as I work as a graphic designer and illustrator.
Barb: What do you enjoy about doing cover design?
KV: I love working with authors, and being a part of the book making process. It brings together my love for books and my love for design. What’s not to enjoy?
Barb: What’s your least favorite aspect of doing cover design?
KV: Sometimes I have to set aside my personal preferences for the sake of those of the author. The author has the final say and that’s as it should be, but it makes it so much more enjoyable when we agree on what looks best.
Barb: What do you like to see from an author before you start designing a cover?
Do you want to hear the author’s ideas for the cover? Do you find them helpful or a hindrance?
KV: I like to know as much about the book as possible. Ideally I would like to read the whole book before I even start, but that’s just not practical. So I need a summary, the genre if applicable, an idea of the style of writing (sample chapters work best), and of course the author’s ideas on how it should look. We often deviate from these in the end, but it is important to know what the author likes and expects.
Barb: Can you tell us a little about the actual process you go through when designing a cover?
KV: After I get as many details about the book as possible, and know what the author has in mind, I sit down to work. Depending on the book, I may produce original art or browse the image banks for relevant pictures. I also spend a lot of time looking for suitable fonts. I usually end up with several mock-ups, which I send to the author for feedback. Based on their comments I refine one or more of these mock-ups until we end up with a cover we’re both happy with. Sometimes this process can be long, and sometimes the first mock-up I send just works perfectly.
Barb: Are there certain authors or genres you won’t work with?
KV: I had never thought about that. I suppose too graphic violence or pornography would be out of the question.
I’ve been lucky with all the authors I’ve worked with so far, never had any problems with any of them. I suppose that there might be authors that I would not want to work with again after a first bad experiment, but so far I haven’t met one.
Barb: Do you have any advice for independently publishing authors when it comes to cover art?
KV: Never underestimate the importance of a professional, visually pleasing cover. It shows respect for your own work and attention to detail. Speaking as a reader, a good cover implies to me that equal care has been taken with the content of the book as well.
The cover is the first thing a potential reader sees. If that doesn’t grab their attention, they may move on before they even read the title or author name, not to mention the blurb. It probably shouldn’t be like that, but packaging is important. Look at the repackaging of classics, and how new, fresh covers manage to rekindle interest in them.
Barb: Is the process different if you know a book will only be offered online?
KV: When a book is offered online, what the potential reader sees first is a small thumbnail of the cover. Based on that, they may decide to click for more information or move on. So it is important for a cover to look good in small size. Many authors require that the title and author name are legible in small size too. As a reader I don’t find it very important, I am often attracted by a nice picture without knowing what it is about or who the author is. But I do find that generally, simple designs work best both in small and normal sizes, whereas complicated ones may not be as eye-catching in thumbnail as they are in print.
A more practical difference between e-book covers and print book covers is of course that e-books only need a front cover, whereas printed books also require a back cover and spine. Color calibration for printing is a bit trickier too and stock images may be more expensive as they need to be in a higher resolution than for an e-book cover.
Barb: I would like to thank Katerina for taking the time to answer my questions and also for creating Not Quite Heaven’s cover which I absolutely love. She is absolutely right. I took a lot of care with the content of Not Quite Heaven. I believe the cover she created reflects that.