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Designing a Killer Book Cover by Louise Phillips

Article by Louise Phillips ©.
Posted in Resources ().

Coming up with the right cover design for a book takes more than time, talent, patience and skill, it takes everyone involved having a clear vision for the story behind the cover. I write psychological crime novels, and four books in, I realise more than ever, that getting the right cover for your book is critical.

According to Writer’s Digest, most people in publishing believe a cover is a book’s biggest marketing tool. Therefore, the stakes are very definitely high when it comes to designing it.

It is a cliché, but people really do judge a book by the cover, and when all the emails, ideas and designs are sent back and forth for a while, often for a very long while, in the end, if everyone is happy with the final product, the effort is always completely worth it.

For the cover of the US publication of RED RIBBONS, which will be coming out in the fall of 2016, Jason Pinter, of Polis Books, set about working on the cover early.

Red Ribbons PB

Red Ribbons Irish edition

The initial design options were all great, and even though it was still at the early stages, one was a clear favourite. At times, it’s very hard to put your finger on exactly why one cover works for you and another one doesn’t. You can clamour for all kinds of reasons, but often, it’s about more than the sum of the parts. The favourite one for me, and thankfully for most people involved, ticked a lot of boxes. It was clear and impressive. It told a story with a great balance of atmosphere, suspense, and a sense of something ominous but yet thrilling -Brilliant.

But all that being said, there was still some tweaking to do. There always is. It’s a little like writing the story in the first place, first drafts are simply that. More work has to be done. Further developments were made on the text and layout, zooming in and out of the camera shots. Covers are often made up of layers of images, and these too were worked upon. A great cover designer makes a real difference. They need to be able to take the feedback from the publicist, editor, writer, agent, and sales people, yet maintain that clear vision for the final product. Colour and shade were enhanced too, as where other visual elements of the design. At the latter stages, it’s all about getting the components to work seamlessly together, so that the end result clearly reflects the team’s vision, and the sum of the parts is pushed further still.

The final cover that everyone aspires to, is a cover that is unique, which reflects the tone and story of the novel, and one which will hopefully end up in the hands of a lot of readers.

Red Ribbons US Cover High Res

Red Ribbons US Cover

I’ve been very lucky with both Hachette Books, who are my publishers for Ireland, UK and Commonwealth, and Polis Books, who are my publishers in the United States. As part of my contract with both, author input into the cover design was an integral part. This is unusual. For most writers, the experience is that of a publisher coming up with a cover design, and presenting it as ‘THE COVER’.

Overall, there is some logic to this way of thinking. After all, by and large, the publishers have more experience in these things than an author. They know what will sell a book!

All that being said, it is also important to remember that the author has spent possibly a year of their life, or more, writing the story, and it certainly made a huge difference to me, that both Hachette Books and Polis Books, were keen to have me on board.

When you look at both the US cover, and the UK, Ireland & Commonwealth cover, there are marked differences.

Why you might ask? It is the same story…..

Well for a start, they are different markets, with different cultural and therefore marketing influences.

Researching this, I found a lot of information to support that American book covers were more colourful that Irish/British book covers, which were more muted. It seems that more than likely, you will find big empty swathes of space on Irish/British covers, looking practically bare next to the American ones.

As I said above, culture will influence design. America and the United Kingdom & Ireland are different parts of the world. Cover art will obviously reflect this.

Art is fluid, markets change from decade to decade, and because there are no hard and fast rules, it is all but impossible to summarize the difference between the two.

However, Rita Frangie, an assistant art director at Penguin Books, had this to say. “Here [in the United States] we tend to want to use every inch, to fill [the cover] up with colour, and to get it to do as much as it can do. Everything here is bigger, more commercial, more targeted to sell and to advertise. In Europe, the covers are geared to look more like the way they dress: very simple. Their use of negative space goes along with the theory of less is more.”

Anyhow, I’ll leave it up to others to work out the finer details, but it makes sense to embrace the two! I love the covers on both, and fingers crossed, you, the reader, will like them too!

(c) Louise Phillips

About Red Ribbons

A missing schoolgirl is found buried in the Dublin mountains, hands clasped together in prayer, two red ribbons in her hair. Twenty-four hours later, a second schoolgirl is found in a shallow grave – her body identically arranged. The hunt for the killer is on.The police call in profiler Dr Kate Pearson to get inside the mind of the murderer before he strikes again. But there’s one vital connection to be made – Ellie Brady, a mother institutionalised fifteen years earlier for the murder of her daughter Amy.What connects the death of Amy Brady to the murdered schoolgirls? As Kate Pearson begins to unravel the truth, danger is closer than she knows . ..

Pick up your copy online here so you can compare to the US version, due out in November 2016!

LOUISE PHILLIPS is an author of four bestselling psychological crime novels, each shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year. Her second novel, THE DOLL’S HOUSE, won the award in 2013.  Louise’s work has formed part of many literary anthologies, and she has won both the Jonathan Swift Award and the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform. She teaches crime fiction at the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin, and in 2013, she was the recipient of an arts bursary for literature. In 2015, she was awarded a writers’ residency at Cill Rialaig Artist retreat, and she was also a judge on the Irish panel for the EU Literary Award. Her latest novel, THE GAME CHANGER, was published in September 2015 to critical acclaim. Her first two novels, RED RIBBONS and THE DOLL’S HOUSE will be published in the US in 2016 and 2017. Louise is the crime writing mastermind behind the writing.ie Crime Scene blog.

Website is www.louise-phillips.com

Twitter @LouiseMPhillips

Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/louise.phillips.560 & https://www.facebook.com/Louise-Phillips-162696193800590/