10 Questions with a Cover Designer

Covers by Tallulah was created with indie authors on a tight budget in mind. Tallulah is the admin of the best Facebook writing groups I've ever been a part of. Without it I never would've found the courage to publish my own books. I speak to Tallulah to find out more about what it takes to design a book cover.

1. Hi Tallulah, tell us more about 'Covers by Tallulah' and what you offer.

Covers by Tallulah offers affordable covers for indie authors. We all know that a cover is important, but not everyone who wants to publish a book can afford to hire someone to create the cover of their dreams. That doesn't mean they don't deserve a cover that will sell! I do offer custom covers (where you commission the exact cover you want), but I also offer a whole range between that and do-it-yourself, including premades and text placement. I can also assist with marketing assets like social media pictures and quotes to match your cover.

2. What made you start this business?

I just got sad seeing authors who had no clue about design slapping homemade covers on their books because they couldn't afford a professional cover.

3. When you're not designing covers, what are you doing?

I'm a social media manager by day and an indie author by night! In between all that, I'm usually painting, playing xbox or snuggling my husband :)

4. In your opinion, what makes a good book cover?

The most important thing you need to look at is your typography. It may surprise you, but the image can be pretty much anything. The font and layout of the font will define how professional the cover looks, but also essential things like genre and age group. If you're new to design, the best way to tell if your typography is right is to check other books in your genre to see what they're doing.

5. Can you explain what stock images are, and what the deal is with image licensing?

Image licensing is complicated! But basically: stock images are pictures made available for licensed use on websites like Shutterstock and DepositPhotos. This means you can pay between $1 - $30 for an image rather than hiring your own photographer and models, which can run into hundreds if not thousands of dollars. But the downside is that stock is non-exclusive, so anyone else can buy that image too. A good cover designer will add a bunch of stuff to make it look unique - like textures, colours, effects, different backgrounds, different hair etc. But there is a chance another author will have a similar cover.

Using stock is nothing to be ashamed of - most big publishers use it! But we are seeing a trend towards custom illustration now, to ensure uniqueness without the cost of a studio shoot. I mostly use stock in my designs, but I have a bunch of affordable illustrators on my books too that my clients can make use of if they prefer a custom illustration.

6. Take me through your cover designing process.

The first step is always research - I like to get a sense of the client's book, style and personal taste. Then I go hunt through the genre on Amazon and other book stores to see what's selling. There are lots of subtle codes that designers use to show genre and style, and these move in and out of fashion. You want to go for something that looks modern and fits in standing alongside the bestsellers, so that it attracts the right reader, but still represent's the author's unique personality, and personality of the book. After that, I like to send a few ideas to the client because they need to be on board 100% before I start fiddling too much. From there I'll do a mockup representing the general mood and trying out some images. If the client likes that, then I'll purchase the stock/fonts/effects and do a neater version. This is where I'll spend a lot of time tweaking elements and balancing colours. It's important that the final design looks good at thumbnail size as well as up close.

7. Which book cover have you enjoyed working on the most?

This is really difficult because I've been so lucky with my clients, so most of the covers have been a joy to work on. Isabella Morris's book of short stories, which is not out yet so I can't share the cover, comes to mind because it was a really intimidating project to begin with and then I stumbled on a photo that gave me an epiphany, and now it's one of the covers I'm most proud of (sorry for being so vague!). I updated some of Joan de la Haye's covers earlier this year and I particularly enjoyed working on the sexy cover for Burning. It was one of those where the elements all worked together the first time, exactly like I imagined. I also really enjoyed working on Ashleigh G's Last Resort (and Island Roots coming out soon), because she is really good at communicating what she wants, so I knew exactly what type of cover we were going for and could focus on the details. In terms of premades, I had a lot of fun with a batch of romance covers recently.

8. Name three books where you think they got the cover just right!

I have a Pinterest board for this. The trick will be narrowing it down!

Okay so my favourite covers of the moment are the Leigh Bardugo Grishaverse ones (I'm cheating by including an entire series). Choosing just one of hers, I'd pick the first one I saw which was Crooked Kingdom. The font is LHF Encore (I looked it up!) which is beautiful in its own right, and was designed especially for her books as far as I know. So that font not only hints at genre, but also that this is from the same universe as the Shadow & Bone trilogy. What's also really clever is the inclusion of a crow in the graphic elements because the first book is called Six of Crows, so it will immediately signal to readers that this book follows on from that. And then there's the fact that the cover is basically a Rorschach test because it's a crow but also a city and also a crown. I also love the use of colours. Three colours that show the contents of the story, and stand out in perfect contrast to each other. I'll shut up now!

For number two, an indie who I'm going to be watching closely: Becky Moynihan. Her cover for her debut solo novel, Reactive, is exactly what I look for in a YA. I love her balance of colour, her font choice and the model she's used on the front.

I just realised these are all in the same genre - sorry - but the book that I most recently bought just based on its cover alone was Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. I'm not usually a fan of illustrated covers, but this book went a long way to changing my mind.

9. Pre-made vs Custom - please explain.

Right, so, custom covers take a long time to make and involve a lot of back and forth with a client. Often you need to purchase additional stock, fonts, or effects to suit their requests, or edit the model to look just right. For designers like me who only have a few hours every night to work, premades offer a way for us to utilize time between clients. I can dedicate an entire Saturday to designing a bunch of covers based on current trends, using resources I already have on file, and then sell them at a cheaper price than the ones that are made to order. A premade isn't a template - at least not with me and most designers. You get exclusive use of the design when you purchase it. It will be customised with your book's name, your author name and any tag lines you might want to add, and the reader will never know that you got a bargain.

10. Lastly, how can authors get in touch?

You can visit my Facebook page, Covers by Tallulah, but you're also welcome to contact me at my personal email address - tallulahlucy@gmail.com.