When I tell people what I do, they understand the Art Director part of my job, or think they do, but it’s always harder to explain cover design, even though that is the most concrete aspect of the process. The fact is, if I do my job well, you won’t see my work, all you will see is the stunning artwork, or that the book looks like a “real” book, whatever that means.
I recently picked up a little side project that I think illustrates very well what a cover designer is good for, and why, even if you are self publishing, it is worth hiring someone to do it right. In fact, this project was not from a self publisher, but from a specialty press, which has lots of experience putting out attractive e-book covers. When they decided to take some of their titles to the physical realm, they hit some snags, and I was brought on board.
I was sent the following cover, which the printer had rejected, due to templating and color profile issues, and told that if I wanted to re-do the back cover design as well, to go for it:
One of the templating issues had to do with the front cover title crossing out of a text safe zone, meaning that it would get cut off in the process of trimming and binding the book. The original files for this cover were long gone, so there was no good way to separate the title from the artwork, but there was an older, higher res file of the front that I could work my magic on to get it to fit into the template:
Oh my. See how much had been done to the original colors, because someone didn’t understand the printer’s color profile requests? Don’t worry, that’s why I’m here. The thing that gets me about this cover art is the misty greyness of the woods. So romantic. I decided to start from there with my re-design, give the whole book a neutral background for the warm skin and fur pop against.
Since the font and tribal detail were locked in, I took those elements and carried them through into the spine and back cover (clone tool is my friend). By extending the edges of the front cover, I was able to get it all to rest nicely inside its template. Doing a careful conversion of the color profile kept the colors true for the final deliverable and voilà!
Once wrapped around a book, this will is recognizable from each side, plus the spine will stand out from other books on a shelf, making sure it gets pulled out again and again.