The interview series with members of my Twitter community continues with GX. Happy reading!
Q: What is your profession? Any specialty area(s) within that field?
GX: Graphic Designer and Photographer, now specialising in ebook and CreateSpace covers
Q: What or who motivated you to start down this path?
GX: I’ve been infatuated with images – still, moving, color, black and white, abstract – and design since I was a child. But I only started treating it professionally with the advent of computers and the almost infinite possibilities afforded by digital manipulation with software like Photoshop
Q: How did you get started doing ebook covers?
GX: A friend asked me to design a cover for her. I researched the whole ebook phenomenon and became fascinated with the possibilities. After receiving really positive feedback for my first designs, I decided to take it on full-time
Q: Standing out with a book cover is critical, especially for unknown authors. What would you cite as the “must have” cover feature in today’s crowded self-published ebook market?
GX: That’s a really big and important question and one which I’ve given a lot of thought too, as clearly the success of my business depends on getting it right.
A book cover has a number of potential functions, but ultimately its most important function is to persuade a casual browser to read the book. The cover may be a work of art in its own right, it may be a realistic representation of something, it may be completely abstract. Whatever, it still needs to “sell” the book.
So, firstly, a book cover has to be “attractive” in the proper sense of the word: it has to attract the viewer. I’ve read (on other sites) ebook cover designers say things like “there’s no such thing as a bad cover, just an inappropriate one” – it’s a point of view, but I couldn’t disagree more! There are plenty of bad covers out there! And the reason they’re bad is that they’re ugly or badly composed or cheap-looking or… well, unattractive!
So, first and foremost: look good!
There’s more, of course. To my mind, a book cover should suggest either genre or tone, or at least give an indication of what the reader might expect. This is why premade or “ready-to-go” covers can be effective even if they have not been designed specifically for one particular novel or author: if a “ready-to-go” cover is both attractive and suggests the tone of your book, be it romantic of fantastic or thrilling, then it can work really well. Again, attractive and eyecatching are the watchwords – there are plenty of books out there selling very well with covers that are merely suggestive of the genre or tone and say nothing about the story at all.
However, if you (the author or publisher) actually wants to capture something of the specifics of the story, then a good cover designer can and should incorporate ideas or images from the book. I don’t believe that a cover should tell you the whole story or even reflect the title necessarily (if it did all that there’d be no need for the book!) but if it incorporates elements from the story then so much the better. These elements can be incorporated “literally” or in a more abstract or suggestive way. But most importantly, they should make the potential reader want to go: “That’s nice” or “That’s beautiful” or “That’s interesting” or “That’s intriguing”.
And that’s it. Attractive, suggestive of genre and/or tone and incorporating interesting/intriguing story elements.
Finally, one has to remember that, unlike traditional, legacy or print book covers, most ebook covers are seen for the first time on an illuminated screen and at about postage-stamp size – it’s critical that these aspects are kept in mind during design. Clarity becomes paramount, especially for the text (title and author name) which is easily lost otherwise.
Q: What do you consider your major sources of design inspiration?
GX: Difficult question – I’ve no idea where inspiration comes from. I’m inclined to think it’s based on a lifetime’s observation and admiration of great design, be it in the natural world (spiders’ webs, redwood trees, Grand Canyon) or man-made (macbook air, the angle-poise lamp, the Taj Mahal….)
Q: Would you mind sharing a few book cover images with us?
Q: How do most of your customers find you?
GX: through my website graphiczxdesigns.zenfolio.com and referrals from happy clients!
Q: How should an author communicate their book cover vision to you? Key words? A chapter from the novel? A hand-drawn sketch?
GX: When an author contacts me for a custom designed cover I start by sending them an extensive (but fun!) questionnaire – the information I receive is usually more than enough to start the process. It’ll include things like: title, author name, genre, period, synopsis, links to other covers you’ve seen and liked, images you’d like incorporated and so on.
Q: I’ve read that Kindle, Nook, iTunes, Kobo, etc, have some notable differences in the demographics of the readers buying books on their sites. Do some authors request that you make different covers for different retailers? Is there any value to it?
GX: They haven’t so far and if they did I would advise against it (even though it’d be a good way for me to make more money!). Branding is critical in the ebook world as everywhere else and I think different covers for the same book just dilutes that.
Q: How long would you estimate it took you to establish a presence on social media?
GX: Still doing it! I don’t think it ever stops…
Q: How much time do you spend on Twitter each week?
GX: more that I’d like and less than I should, probably. It can be a real time-sink, and for that reason I view is as a necessary but essential evil!
Q: Your art is beautiful. Do you sell posters, cards, calendars, screensavers, etc, featuring your work? If not, are you considering branching out?
GX: Thank you. Yes, I do – I have a gallery of my work (Art prints) on the website, and the images are available to buy on dozens of different items from t-shirts and tote bags to coffee mugs and postage stamps…
Q: Do you think you’ll publish your own book, someday?
GX: Ah, now that would be telling…
Q: Let’s flip things around for a moment. As a reader, which of the following do you take into consideration when deciding whether or not to purchase a book?
GX: Reader reviews: yes
Number of books already sold: no
Book cover: always
Book summary: yes
Author’s blog: not really
Author’s Facebook, Twitter, and other social media: no
Book price: not unless it’s unreasonable (legacy publishers… are you listening?)
Thank you, GX, for sharing your advice with us! We wish you continued success, and hope you’ll come back and share new images with us in the spring.