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Oct 23, 2013

Interview: Win A Book Cover while Chatting to CBC Designs

Posted by Wendy Ewurum  |  at  10:32 AM

It is such a pleasure to have you on my blog as the first interview for a book cover designer . I was so excited when I saw the cover you did for Nicki Elson that I simply had to get hold of your. So thank you very much for taking the time.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog.

Book cover design is not the most conspicuous occupations when one thinks about the writing arena. How did you find yourself in this field and how did you get your first clients?
I sort of fell into it. I’ve always been creative and have enjoyed many art and craft forms. Years ago I was running a social site with a friend and we wanted unique graphics, so we began to create our own. I quickly became hooked on creating new images and learning about design. As a writer myself, it seemed a natural progression to work within the writing community.

We are all familiar with the saying: Don’t judge a book by its cover because we do tend to do that as consumers. According to you, what should be the mission of a book’s cover?
A cover is a teaser, a promise of what’s to come. It should visually hook the reader, create an emotional response and make them want to turn that first page. It should convey what the story is about at a glance.  At the end of the day, the cover is a marketing tool. It’s not just outside the package, it’s a part of the package.

Designers aren’t granted the luxury of being judged by effort, but solely on the merits of the final product. Can you describe the process of designing a cover from briefing to delivery?
Briefly, I ask the author to fill out an information sheet: Example 
This gets me into the head of the author. 
From there, I will search for any other required images and create samples. This can often involve several layers, cutouts, or recoloring. Sometimes all of the above.  

Two simple examples.

There are 11 layers in this cover


There are 9 layers here

So although it can look like not much has changed. It really has.  I send the samples to the author and ask for their input. I’ll make any requested changes and send it to them again. We keep this up until the author is happy.

Technology has long been seen as both a threat to, and opportunity for, the book publishing industry. How have eBooks and self-publishing affected the cover design field and designers?
An obvious opportunity is more books means more covers, so more work available. Developments in editing softwear means easier editing. Better e-readers and personal computing means opportunities for experimenting, for example:

Stagnant cover:

Moving cover:

We do tend to want proof of things that are sometimes not easy to quantify or show evidence of. We want this proof because we want to get our money’s worth, so if you were asked to validate the effects of a book cover in terms of the books commercial success, how would you go about doing it or what would you say?
I would say it’s important to be realistic and not to throw all hopes into the cover. There’s no doubt a cover can catch the reader’s attention. A truly terrible cover might put a reader off. We’ve all seen the blog posts with badly photoshopped, slapped together covers. Ultimately though, a really good cover can help but not guarantee sales. If a book has a great cover but an awful summary riddled with errors and bad reviews, the cover won’t bring in sales.

As a cover designer, to some degree you’re responsible for translating a thousand words into one picture. Can you describe the design brief you’re given and the degree to which you’re given control over the direction and substance of the final product?
The design brief is the information sheet. Ultimately, the customer must be happy. While I’m happy to take control over direction, I’m clear in my FAQs that I can’t see inside an author’s head. If they have a specific idea, speak up. Don’t be shy. I’m there to give them a cover they will love. Likewise, if I think something really isn’t going to work, I’ll say it. Honestly is important but the customer gets the final say. The cover takes me a few days, they might have spent years on a story. They need to have a cover they believe in.

I believe that many writers would write a book forever if they were looking for perfection because with art there is always something extra to add or takeaway. In your designing, when is the cover finished and how satisfied are you when you do click send?
Up front, I’m a perfectionist but on the flipside, I’m also a realist and I know there is always a point of letting go. Instead of thinking of a book as a baby, think of it as a young adult going out into the world. It should be able to stand on its own merits. I wouldn’t hand something over unless I was satisfied with my contribution to the final product and knowing I’ve done my very best, but like any artist I will always look back later and see something I could have tweaked.

Do you ever get attached to your book cover creations and is there any one in particular you ever struggled with letting go?
I get attached to every cover.  I love books. It’s an honor to be a part of any part of the process. Again, it the young adult analogy, I’m happy to let go knowing I’ve done my best. 
Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder but there has to be some common ground that assure that vast quantities of observers would see the same lines of beauty in a book cover and in term this should motivate them to pick the book off a shelf. Can you talk about the practical and aesthetic factors which cause a book’s cover to work.
The cover should reflect the genre and tone of the story. Often simple is best. The typography should be large enough clear enough that it’s discernible even on tumbnail sized images used on book retailer websites. Common mistakes are bad font choices, busy images, bad color choices.

Creativity is often said to be sporadic rather than constant however as one whose livelihood is dependent on that creativity I imagine you have trained yourself to have more of the former than the latter. What is your source of your creativity?
I feel I’m more visually creative than anything else. I’ve never struggled with creativity for producing images in the way I have with other forms of art, like writing. There is an element of cultivating. The imagination is like a muscle that must be exercised regularly. Like any craft there are things to learn in cover design, format, coloring, texture, typography… so it’s not all just free expression. The source of my creativity is the world around me. Everything from music to nature and how colors blend, why some things stand out and others don’t, what makes me stop and think. 

Behind the scenes, makeup artists work to sell performers and book cover designers likewise to sell books. How much feedback and interaction do you have with an author and are you given copies of the books whose covers you design?
I’ve always had excellent interaction with anyone I’ve worked with, whether it’s covers, promotional items or trailers. I think I’m probably pretty easy to work with and that helps. I have copies of every book I’ve ever contributed to in any way through the publishing community, not just for cover design. It’s a growing collection. Some have been gifts and others I’ve purchased. I don’t expect to receive a copy. Like I said, being a tiny part of bringing a book to life is a privilege. I like to have a memento of each one.

The age old question regarding leaders can be asked of designers as well. Are they born or made (and is design aptitude bred or learned)?
Art is subjective and some people are more naturally gifted than others. Cover design is more than being artistically gift so I would say artists are born, designers are made. Either way the technical stuff must be learned.  

The paradox in your line of work, much like screen writers, is that while your work features prominently, you remain relatively obscure. Can you describe how it feels to see your work on a Bestseller List and have you ever had a cover that was on a book featured on a prestigious Number 1 Bestseller  list.
I’m happy to remain in the background. I imagine, like most screenwriters, I’m aware my part in only one small part. Books aren’t created in isolation. There is always a team of individuals between the writing typing the words and the reader picking up the print copy or e-reader.
I’ve never been on a bestseller list. I’ve worked with amazing authors so I’m sure it’s a matter of time. ( with the likes of Nicki Elson on board I totally agree.)

What questions would you advise a potential client to ask a book designer prior to taking them on as their service provider?
It’s important to be on the same page. Most designers will state on their website if there is anything they won’t or can’t do.  Look at their work. If not on site they should be able to produce samples.

Thank you so much Carol for coming through and an even bigger thank you for the gift you are leaving behind for one of my readers.

Website link

CBC Portfolio

Promotional images

Book covers

About the Author

Most know me as the author to Fabulosity Reads and in actual fact, that is the previous name of this blog. I have since then moved my books to a Wordpress self-hosted blog so that I can have a place to show a different side of me which I am equally passionate about and that is marketing and personal development. I hope you will love being here, watching me grow as I share and learn. My highest hope is that we will grown and learn together in all disciplines affecting our lives. I'd LUUURRRVE to hear from you, so don't be shy...


  1. Excellent interview! I have very little artistic ability, so people like Carol impress me so much. There is so much to a great cover, the layers, like she mentioned. Nothing easy about it. Best of luck in future creations!

  2. Love this interview! I get to work with designers quite often in my day job, so it was wonderful to hear a book cover-specific approach. The examples were stunning! :)

  3. Elizabeth and Nicole its great to hear that you enjoyed it. I'm grateful that you took the time to come over.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree that Carol is easy to work with. She has a great instinct for what will work in a cover and for capturing the tone of a story. I loved how open she was to author input and to going back & forth about it. I enjoyed every second of the process and I'm thrilled with both the cover Carol designed for me AND the enthusiastic reaction it's gotten from readers.

    This was an interesting interview - thanks Wendy & Carol!

  5. Its such a lovely surprise to see you Nicki and that you got wind of it. You know the gmail mystery between us

  6. I just had to do a cover for the print version of my book...It's a total pain and mine is surely amateur-ish.

    This was an interesting read and an amazing contest. Thanks for both, hoping to win so I have even more push to finish my first fiction book!

  7. I hope you do too Gurl and thanks for popping in.

  8. I really love this blog! Can't wait to see some more stuff coming our way


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