Have you ever wanted to learn more about book cover design but didn't know whom to ask? Today I have an interview with Maria Zannini, cover designer. Welcome, Maria!
Please tell us about yourself.
Sometimes I think I’m a crow reincarnated into a human body. Most everything fascinates me and I squirrel away tidbits of information and experiences. Who knows when someone will need the lowdown on which publishers have the best editors—or a recipe for emu jerky? My brain is like a super warehouse of information. Alas, the key doesn’t always work.
But there’s also a normal side to me too. I’m a university-trained graphic artist and have worked in the corporate world for over 245 years (that’s in dog years). Most recently, I was an art director before retiring to the country.
How did you get into cover design?
It happened all backwards. When I decided to self-publish The Devil to Pay I designed my own cover. After its reveal, I had a surge of requests, and I was totally unprepared for the interest.
At the time, I declined all requests. I was a writer after all, and I didn’t want to start a new vocation. But something strange happened along the way. Friends started asking for help with their covers and ads. I would fix things for them or offer suggestions.
It was my husband who noticed how happy I was when I was creating a new design. He asked me why I didn’t do this fulltime. And I thought—why not? Life is short and I want to do things that mean something to me. That’s when Book Cover Diva was born.
Please tell us how you created your latest cover.
My modus operandi is the same for all books.
For The French Gambit by Maureen Betita, I read the book’s blurb very carefully and picked out a couple of elements that seemed pivotal to the story.
I liked how the author mentioned that Miranda, the protagonist would go to any length to protect her family. I saw her as a strong, confident woman thrust into a deadly game with high stakes. The chess board and skull reflects both the gambit in the title and the cost if she failed. The pirate flag is a separate branding element that we’re using on all her books in this series.
Branding is something very few authors consider, but it’s highly recommended especially if you write series. Basically, you want something that will subliminally connect your books to one another in the reader’s mind.
For Giacomo Giammatteo, we set his name in the same font and banner he uses for all his books. For his web site, NoMistakes.org, we incorporated a pencil eraser, erasing “Mistakes”, and reinforcing the context of his nonfiction series for No Mistakes Career Books.
Do you design covers for a wide variety of genres, or just a few? What draws you to these genres?
I’ve designed covers for everything from nonfiction to genre. Once I get a feel for what the book is about, my brain goes into overdrive and I’m clicking away, trying different ideas until I find the ONE.
I love that eureka moment. I was especially proud of James Garcia Jr.’s cover, Seeing Ghosts because the concept hit me immediately when I read his blurb. It was that powerful.
It evolved into a very complex cover with many layers, but it totally worked. It came out exactly as I visualized it.
Do you have any favorite color palettes you draw on for your covers?
I let the book dictate the color palette. I know which colors work well together and that’s where I concentrate my efforts.
What differences or problems do you encounter with designing eBook covers as opposed to paperback/hardcover books? Have you ever had to change a cover design to accommodate a different format?
Ebook covers need to be readable even at postage stamp size. What might look good in print could look like a smudge in an ebook catalog.
I’ve never had to change a design, but I did modify the typography on one book so it would stand out more in the digital version.
How many projects do you work on at once?
One at a time. I’m very focused and when I work on a project, I give it my full attention. If I have several jobs at once, I might start looking for graphics for the next job while waiting for a yea or nay from the client of the first job. But usually most clients send me word immediately so splitting my time rarely happens.
What advice do you have for authors who are looking for a cover designer or want to design their own covers?
Keep a little folder of covers that you like. And talk to other authors.
Happy authors are always glad to tell you about their cover artist.
They’re also glad to tell you when they’re not happy. That’s important
too. The chemistry between author and artist is just as critical as
Back to you, readers: Do you have any questions
about cover design or branding? How do you feel about indie covers as
opposed to the Big 4 covers?
Book Cover Diva
Because everyone judges a book by its cover.
Maria Zannini is an artist, author, and dog lover living in the middle of nowhere. Visit her at her personal blog, her frugal living blog, Back to Basics, or at Book Cover Diva.