Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Interview with Maria Zannini, Book Cover Diva

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 execution.

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.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

James's cover is very cool. It makes sense to have a theme running through the books to mark the author. I can see that in the covers my publisher created for my own books.
Nice to meet you, Maria.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Alex and thanks for popping in.

Jimmy Garcia was a pleasure to work with. He had such a clear vision for his characters and setting that it was easy to find the perfect model.

James Garcia Jr. said...

Aww! Thanks for the shout-out, Maria. Thanks for all the lovely things you continue to say. You are very sweet, along with being exceptionally talented. Thanks for posting, Sandra. You even got super busy Alex C. to drop by!! :) Have a great week, everyone!


Angela Brown said...

Maria's just awesome all the way around. Great writer, wonderful graphic designer and mom to some wonderful four-legged wonders.

That she's doing great with Book Cover Diva is no surprise to me :-)

Keep it up, Maria!

Catherine Stine said...

A crow in a human body... m'kay. :) I hopped over to your web gallery and I do like your covers. I added you to my shortlist of awesome cover artists!

Giacomo Giammatteo said...

It was fun working with Maria, and she always had good ideas. Best of all, the work was fantastic and the turnaround was quick. You can't ask for more than that.

Maureen said...

I totally enjoy working with Maria, especially the back and forth. With The French Gambit, she hit a home run right out of the box. I'm planning on her covers for all 30 of my books, she's that good!

Maria Zannini said...

Jimmy: We had a great time figuring out the theme of your covers, didn't we? I loved the back and forth dialog.

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: Aw, shucks. No making me blush. But I will admit to being a good dog mom. I get high paws for that. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Catherine: I think it was the Hindus who believe that crows not only collect information but deliver omens. I'm still working on the omens. :)

PS Glad to be on the short list.

Maria Zannini said...

Jim Giammatteo: Does that include all the times I drove you crazy with other options.

Maria Zannini said...

Maureen: I love the cover for The French Gambit. When I think of Miranda, this is who I saw.

Sandra Almazan said...

Thanks to everyone for stopping by! Maria, the covers look great!

LD Masterson said...

I can toss in here that Maria is incredibly patient working with authors who have no idea what they want and can't make a decision on anything. (She didn't yell at me even once.)

Not to mention she does great work.

Maria Zannini said...

Sandra: Thank you for having me over. I love your blog!

Maria Zannini said...

LD: The thing about design work is that it's not work. It's fun. Finding that sweet spot is what I live for.

Mark K said...

Lovely work, Maria. Just wondering if you use stock images for your models, and if so, who pays for them?

Maria Zannini said...

Mark: I do use stock art, but I limit my choice of suppliers since learning that Getty images (who owns iStockPhoto) has caused grief (and legal action) for users, insisting that they buy extended use licenses for ANYTHING beyond the art's original use. That might seem okay for big publishers, but for the average author, that's an expensive venture. I just steer clear of them.

I include up to three art files inside my fixed price. If it requires more than that then the price rises to whatever it costs me to get that extra piece.

Usually, most of the work is in developing the layers with special effects and marrying the layers so they look like one piece.

Cate Masters said...

They're all great but I love James' best. So emotive.

Maria Zannini said...

Cate: I like to tell the story that I meant to keep that model for some future book for myself, but when I read Jimmy's blurb, I knew that art belonged to his story.

It was a complicated cover, but it turned out so well.

James Garcia Jr. said...

Thank you, Cate. You're awesome! :) No, you're exactly right. Maria really knocked it out of the park when she made that cover for me, and I am so pleased with it. Thanks again, Maria!

Site Meter