Sunday, May 19, 2013

Insights into Cover Designs

Interview with Sammantha from Cover Pub!!!

I realized recently there's just not nearly enough mentions of the people behind the covers of the books we all know and love. Readers often get caught up in the book themselves and may love the cover but don't think much farther than that. Since I've become a cover slut the past few years, I always mention the covers and try to track my way back to the designer. The White Aura is one of the many covers I love (I even bought the paperback so I could put it on my shelf. Facing out, so I always see it.) and Sam actually is the genuis behind the design.

So I facebooked her and organized an interview. This is my first interview with a Cover artist. Therefore I may not have asked a question that you think I should include next time. Please leave a comment and I'll make a note. I appreciate all suggestions and hope you enjoy this Q & A as much as Sam and I enjoyed putting it together. 


**Our mutual excitement could be compared to the awesome minions above. My bright idea reaction**

Time to drill Sam! 

Hi everyone! Thanks for letting me visit Cover Bound. I hope you’ll enjoy reading these answers as much as I enjoyed writing them!

1.      Tell us a little about yourself: What got you interested in art? (If you don’t mind answering I’d like to ask you if you went to school and the funnest assignment you did?

That’s a good question! I’m actually not sure, haha. I feel like art has always been a part of my life in some way. But if I had to say, I’d probably say watching my mom. She’s a super crafty person who paints, sews, “recycles” old furniture and makes things like home organization/d├ęcor things and jewelry. Of course, the only thing I inherited is the paint part – but only partly! (My sisters inherited most of them along with other art skills.) 

But I did take art through high school and had private lessons for a time. So I had a solid foundation in the more…classical aspects of art, like oil painting, acrylics, charcoal and good old graphite pencil. But did I continue with it after high school? Nope, haha. My dream in high school was actually to become a literary agent. They got to be part of the business side and the creative side of things while being the author’s champion. So in university I majored in English with concentrations in Creative Writing and Professional Writing and a minor in Communications. It was actually Professional Writing classes (and some Communication classes) that introduced me to design because we not only had to write content that help businesses sell (or inform) but also design the documents. And I always did like making my projects look pretty. J

What got me into cover design though? Two people: my awesome professor Dr. Pam Brewer and Hugh Howey – yes, that Hugh Howey. They were my honors thesis mentors, giving me excellent information from different aspects of writing and publishing. Because part of my thesis included learning how to self-publish a novella I was writing, I created a cover for it. The cover turned out beautifully. Because I was already freelance writing and designing by my senior year, Pam and Hugh planted a little nugget of an idea of maybe doing more cover work.

Wow! That was long! Sorry for giving you my life story there. Now, for the assignment where I had the most fun? Well… it wasn’t required or for a class and I only went because a friend invited me and I’ve only loved drawing human body parts for like ever (what? Don’t look at me like that)… But it was a nude drawing class – my first. It was intense, and I gained a whole lot of respect for all the artists in there and the model and the art department. I also learned a lot. J

2.      What is your preferred medium and why?

I’m all digital now, haha. But when I’m off my computer and feel like doodling or sketching out an idea then a #2 pencil and my special set of colored pencils I’ve had since high school will do.

3.      Do you have a favorite artist?

My sisters! But I also admire different artists for different things. I like one photographer for his honest style and another for her soft lighting. I like an artist for her beautiful lettering and another for comic book art.

4.      What makes art memorable to you? Some things that draw your attention.

Details – specifically one detail that says so much without saying a lot. I’m a huge advocate for “less is more.”

5.      When did you decide to start Cover Pub?

September 2012. My baby’s not even a year old yet! Haha.

6.      What inspired you to design covers for authors?

I’ve always loved beautiful book covers and have a huge respect for the ones that make me stop and open the page. (That’s what I hope my covers do!) I’ve also been fascinated by the book publishing business and self-publishing peeled back a lot of layers of it. But my honors thesis and my two thesis mentors were the ones that seeded the idea.

7.      Have you ever designed any artwork for an author? (Cover image, maps, interior art, font styles) If so can I ask who?

Yes! I designed all of Felicia Tatum’s books and am on track to design the last of her White Aura trilogy and Mangled Hearts. I also designed Charity Santiago’s Blood Lust and Blood Oath and Max Bond’s nonfiction book The Perfect Waiter. I recently finished Nicole Tetterton’s Fated. I’m working on a couple others right now too that I hope they’ll share with you soon! I also hope to design more so let me know if anyone’s interested. ;)

8.      Would you mind sharing a little bit about your design process? Do you read the books before designing?

After an author contacts me, I send her a questionnaire which, when answered, helps me understand her vision, her book and her as a person and writer. In the questionnaire, I also ask if I can read their manuscript because knowing the whole story helps me capture the essence of it. I also tend to find one thing that gives me the “Aha!” moment and really pulls the design together. Sometimes that one thing is a sentence, an image or a line a character says.

After we get to know each other, I begin drafting up some concepts – typically with sketches like the ones I did for The Perfect Waiter

**Example of a concept drawing**

Then I narrow them down to three concepts, which I’ll send to the author in a PDF presentation like this one for Charity Santiago’s Blood Lust and Blood Oath.  She’ll then take some time to decide which concept to go forward with.

                           **Charity Santiago's PDF presentation file**

Sometimes, the final design will be almost identical to its original concept except for a few minor tweaks. That’s what happened to Blood Lust and Fated. And other times, the final design will be quite different. The White Aura, for example, was like that.

Those are the bones of my design process! It’ll always be a bit different with every author, which makes my work always fun. J

9.      I noticed on your website that you have some beautiful “ready to go” covers, do you wait for an idea to strike and just run with it when creating those?

Thank you! J Sometimes, I do wait for an idea. But most of the time, the designs come about when I’m trying to create one for a certain genre or test a new technique. I always try to imagine the person who would want one and the kind of story they’ll have.

10.   Do you listen to music when you design? If so, do you have specific playlists or genres you use for inspiration depending on what you’re trying to design?
Definitely! I listen to music that either matches my mood or the mood of the story. But when I want to get into the “flow” and just zone out while working, I listen to classical or instrumental music. Lately though, I’ve been listening to indie and folk music. It’s the instruments – I prefer music when I can actually hear the instruments.

11.   Where is your favorite place to gather inspiration?
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of graphic designer and interior designers’ blogs, looking at their mood boards, projects, and their own inspirations. I also just love any place where I’m surrounded by books to read and look through. But I also need to step away from the computer and do something – walk, clean, play with the dog.

12.   How about a fun story about an experience in the art world?
Well, I told you my nude drawing class story. So… I’m not sure if this counts. But once I was in a museum with my family. In one of the exhibits, there was this display of beautiful old Native American jewelry some distance from me. “Ooh, pretty!” I said, walking straight for it. AND BAM! Walked straight into a glass wall. T_T

13.   What, in your opinion, is the hardest step in designing book covers?
Creating the concepts – that’s because I want the covers to capture the book and the author’s vision. I got the best compliment once because an author told me, “I had no idea what to expect, but I can’t believe how perfectly you captured the feel of the series!” I love it when authors say they love my covers or call them amazing. But when they tell me, “You got it!” That’s when I can’t stop smiling because it’s amazing to know I connected and understood an author and his or her book.

Of course, I haven’t been opened for a year yet. So you may have to ask me again in the future. J

14.   Do you have a favorite genre you like to design for?
Nope! If I haven’t designed for a certain genre yet (thriller anyone?) then I am eager for the challenge.

15.   Reese Cups or Reese Pieces?
Neither sorry! I’m a plain milk chocolate kind of girl.

Lastly, is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Well, I’d call this bit a not-widely known fun fact. While I freelance at Cover Pub, I also work in a literary agency! Did I surprise you? Also, I recently started blogging and I’d love it if you stopped by! Find me at

Thanks again for interviewing me! If you or anyone else has any more questions, I’m more than happy to answer and chat. :D

The Star of the Hour: Sam

"Who's the designer?"
Samantha, an avid reader and a literary agent assistant*.She began freelancing as a writer and designer in 2010. In 2012, her focus switched from helping businesses to helping indie authors and Cover Pub was born.

"What sets Cover Pub from other designers?"
The fact that I not only want to be your designer but also your eager supporter. Sending you revisions to approve? I’ll also ask you how your family is doing. Almost done with your edits? I’ll cheer you on and do a happy dance. When we work together, I want you to feel like you stepped into an actual pub — a place of cheer, friends, good food and drinks.

Sam's Blog

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