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A closer look at book cover design, Part II, Q&A with Anita B. Carroll

As mentioned in Part I, choosing the perfect book cover is a process that is often over-looked because with most book publishers, there are an array of design templates the author can choose from at an inclusive or discounted rate. This may very well work for some authors. Yet, for others, a custom design may be the savvier way to go.
Investing in the right book cover is as important as paying for advertising.

"Having a sellable cover will essentially determine the success of the book." ~ Anita B. Carroll
"Having a sellable cover will essentially determine the success of the book." ~ Anita B. Carroll

That said, it might help to understand the actual process that goes into designing a custom book cover. After all, the cover of a book ought to serve as a window to peek into the story being told. By understanding the design process, the author can better appreciate what they are investing their money into.

Visual Designer and Photographer Anita B. Carroll of who believes “having a sellable cover will essentially determine the success of the book,” explains the process she undergoes when designing a custom book cover for her clients.

Q. What is the creative process you take when designing a book cover?

A. Designing a book cover is a close partnership between the writer and designer, and I always approach each book cover design project the same: I have to read the book, for both novels and non-fiction. What I have found from experience is that the client is not always able to articulate their vision and reading their story helps me better understand the mood and ambiance they’re going for. I am a visual reader. So, when I read I visualize myself in the story and go wherever the story leads me, and then new questions for the client develop. I keep my sketchbook close by, jotting down notes and drawing concepts which inspire me along the way. I never know where my focus will end up—if it will be a specific moment or event, a specific trait in the main character, or something that represents the whole story.

My design style is minimalistic and I tend to gravitate toward using one simple focus, something that is a visual representation of the message—to help attract readers of that specific genre.

Once I feel that I have a good concept forming, I begin searching for specific photos from my personal photo stock images or an online stock provider. Digital image manipulation is my choice of imagery. It’s quite amazing what you can do with a photograph to create one-of-a-kind works of art.

In addition, knowing who the author’s competition is can be important. Especially when working with stock images, you want to avoid creating a cover with a similar image.

Now, there are books that sometimes better lend themselves to a type-based cover design, often seen in the non-fiction category, so it really depends on the story.

Q. How long does it take you to complete a cover design?

I usually end up creating multiple rough drafts before I zero in on one concept. The book I am currently working on now—just today I have created 4 versions for the same concept. So, I let the design rest and sleep on it. Once I look at it the next day with a fresh set of eyes, I see new things that I can improve. So, working on a cover can take anywhere from 1-2 weeks.

Designing a custom book cover is really a complex process that should not be rushed. That is why I recommend authors to allow their designer ample time to create. If you think about it, the cover is not only a visual representation of your story, but it is also an advertisement and will be the most important tool used when marketing your book. So, the design should be well thought out.

I put a lot of my soul into each cover design. Creating a book cover is designing for a specific emotion and if I don’t have a good understanding of the tone of the author’s writing, then the cover design will not be a good fit or a true representation of the story.

My process may not work for everyone, but it seems to be the right approach for my projects. It is my job as the designer, to create a cover that fits the story and help the author’s vision become a reality.

To learn more about Anita B. Carroll and, visit her official website here.

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