… Why I Made All Choices I Did Regarding My Illustrative Cover Designs
Upon embarking on my adventure to publish my first book, it came as an exciting shock to learn that there’s more work to be done outside the actual writing the story… there were more elements to consider than what was going to be residing inside. Sure, there is the layout design, dedication, table of contents, note from the author, acknowledgements, and appendix but they still are included in the very pages — the written part of the book. More creative efforts were necessary to turn my dream of becoming an author to life and that required me to come up with the designs for my cover.
For some authors, this stepping-stone on the book publishing journey could become the most thrilling or the most stressful one, especially if your brain isn’t hardwired to express your creativity through the arts or have no clear direction as to where to begin. Even if you have an illustrator assisting you with your cover design, you must give them some direction as to what you are wanting for your story. Whether you are nearing the final stages before publishing or just about to write your first sentence, I’ll share some tips and insights on the process to creating your cover design and the why behind some of the choices I made to bring mine to life!
Impressions are made in mere seconds and although the saying “don’t judge a book by simply its cover” rings true, you want to create a cover design that is captivating, reflective of your themes and aligns with your main idea. A lovely, impressive and/or unique cover will get excited potential book shoppers to stop, pick up your book, read the book description and ultimately become a reader.
A good place to start to brainstorm ideas for your cover design is think of what vibe you want your book cover to give off when people view it and a color palette. With regards to vibe, think of what type of reaction do you want potential readers to have when seeing your cover? What emotions would you like them to invoke as they eyes catch a glimpse of your cover as they browse a bookstore shelf?
A good way to think of this is something who wants to write horror or mystery novel wouldn’t want to have their primary colors be hot pink, neon yellow and sky blue. Nor would they want their cover to invoke anything but spooky, creepy, or dark vibes.
When picking colors for my book covers, to align with my main idea(s): bringing to light life’s challenging chapters, I wanted to make sure I brought in a “gloomy” color of blues and grays but have intentional pops of color in that sunset palette. You’ll notice on both my covers how the “deeper” tones of color reside more at the bottom than the top which gives off those cheerier colors; if you look at my book covers, you’ll notice that a key word in each title is emphasized in that brighter color as well. The vibe I wanted to give off for both colors was a sense of comfort, hope, joy, tranquility and inspiring.
Figuring out your vibe, intentions and color palette will help market yourself as an author earlier on and seep into the creation of your brand too, which is something I highly encourage that authors that I mentor to try on their social media accounts like Instagram and TikTok.
Every cover has a central image that is captured that is reflective of the message or theme you are conveying in your narrative. For some authors, this image has been in their mind that sparked the idea for this story to come to life, while for others, the image needs to come to fruition just as the manuscript does — over time and after many drafts.
I recommend sketching any ideas out on paper or on PowerPoint slides; pull in what images you want on your cover, how you would ideally like things to be placed, and how intricate of a design or details you want.
To illustrate with more examples, if you are writing a nonfiction book about 7 foundational elements to building stronger relationships at work, perhaps envisioning those elements are “building blocks” would be a helpful image for your audience. For fiction, let’s say you have a pivotal scene that is the climax of your story or symbolic to the main idea, that should be what’s on your cover.
For my first book, Beyond Life’s Moments, knowing that I kept reusing the phrase “the light at the end of the tunnel” throughout my book, I wanted to capture an image that showed someone walking out of the darkness and towards a sunset, the bright, colorful light! On the other hand, for my second novel, The Reason Why, one of the most transforming, heart-felt moments in the story takes place in Schenley Park at Panthers’ Hollow where my two main characters have a off-beat romantic moment but grow closer together to learn more about their past; therefore, I wanted this scene to be on my front cover, with details and elements that foreshadowed what the story will entail without spoiling too much, leaving a sense of mystery for my readers.
Finally, the other part of a cover that authors will wrestle with is how you would like the images to be presented: in a stock image style or in an illustration. Ultimately, this will come down to personal choice and preferences, here’s what I’ve found through my personal experience creating two book covers myself and working with over 300 hundred authors to publish their first books.
Nonfiction book covers tend to be more straightforward and informative in their formats with a stock image type photo they designed. On their cover, authors of nonfiction books may also include subtitles, their qualifications, early praise quotations and awards. While fiction book cover designs have much more creative freedom, they still need to reflect their specific genre, have shorter titles with no subtitle and have a sense of continuity if writing a series.
One genre that I have yet to address is memoirs because they get to have the best of both worlds, blending various elements of nonfiction and fiction. In my memoir, Beyond Life’s Moments, while I do have a subtitle, I wanted to go more of an illustrative route for the central image for the stories I told. If I was written more of a self-help memoir book, I probably would have gone towards the more stock-photo image route for the central image.
Regardless, when designing your book cover, don’t overcomplicate it! You do not want it to appear messy, crowded, or disorganized. Everything from images and word choice to color palette should be clearly related to and connected back to the content of your narrative. Do not be afraid to brainstorm and play around with different images, colors, and textures –you’re your inner child wonder! As you go about working your craft and turning your manuscript into a published book, know that it’s okay if your ideas evolve as well. Designing your book cover is just another way you can express your creativity… another way your story can come to life and make the experience all more real, make you prouder of that fact that you did the dang thing.
Stay tuned for more articles going in depth on The Reason Why which is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and where most books are sold! Check out it today and dive into your beyond!
Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09ZPWQFLX