Indie Publishing Interviews: Melody Fender, Cover Designer
One of the most fabulous things about indie publishing EVERYTHING’S FINE was getting to work with my brilliant friends. Indulge me for a moment while I tell you about Melody. Melody was one of my two best friends in high school, and we’ve never lost touch. There may even be a little of that high school friendship in Kira and Haylee’s story. (Though, if there is, she’s Kira, and I’m Haylee.) When I was driving her home from school and crashing on the floor of her room and sneaking into city parks after dark with her at sixteen years old, I never thought some day we’d be publishing a book together. But one thing has always been true about Mel–she makes everything beautiful. From doodles to wrapped gifts to decorating, Melody adds an extra bit of detail and attention to everything she does. So sixteen (seriously?) years later, when I needed a book cover, Melody came to mind. Why? Because now Melody is a graphic designer. It’s pretty much her job to make things look pretty, and she’s good at it.
Melody was gracious enough to answer some questions about the process. If you’re in need of a designer, I highly recommend contacting Melody. (But I don’t need to tell you that. See for yourself.)
So, Melody. What is your role as a cover designer?
The role of a cover designer is to make you think the book is awesome before you’ve even read a page! The designer does that by (hopefully) making a very aesthetically pleasing book cover that will appeal to everyone, but particularly the target audience. Also, since Everything’s Fine was going to be e-published, we needed a cover that would look equally amazing when in itty bitty thumbnail form or when full size.
What was the process like when designing the cover for Everything’s Fine?
Designing the cover for Everything’s Fine was like attempting to kill three birds with one stone. It was my first time designing a cover (bird one). We were trying to find a “look” for Janci’s book covers (bird two) because you will be seeing more of her books in the future—hopefully near future. And we wanted something that really represented the feel of Everything’s Fine (bird three) because as you may have noted, everything is not fine in the book.
Fortunately, once I started to get to the other side of the learning curve, finding things that worked for the cover became really fun. Janci was so great to work with. I gave her a lot of options because we really wanted to be sure of our final decision (it’s sad to think of all the great work that you won’t get to see). Janci did a great job of picking some images that would give me an idea of what she had in her head. I would absolutely say that the process was rewarding and I’m looking forward to doing it again!
I’m still sad about some of those covers we didn’t choose. But, in the end, we had to narrow it down to one. So, when considering stock art for cover design, what are you looking for?
It so depends on what you want to do for a specific piece. For example, for the pen on the back of the book, I wanted something that looked like a teenager would use it, but not so immature that it would start to make the piece appear tacky (like an advertisement for Papermate). Also, I wanted a pen that could have its color edited fairly easily—the color you see on the pen is not the color of the original stock image.
Let’s give everyone a look at the back of the book, so they can see the cute pen that you’re talking about.
When looking at potential cover images for Everything’s Fine, we looked at quite a few images with girls who could portray Kira. A lot of these images had other elements in them. If you choose an image where multiple elements are about the same size, the viewer’s eye tends to skim and move on. You want an element to grab the viewer and keep them interested.
Besides stock art, some really important essentials to designing a cover are font choice, element balance, and tints/shading. Fonts are so important. They can really speak for the feel of a piece. I chose a handwritten font for “Everything’s” because of the informal way Kira uses this phase in the story. And I chose a distressed, all-caps font for “Fine” because it clearly illustrates the irony of the statement. In order to make the titling stand out adequately from the image, I used shading around the type. Without that shading, the cover would look flat. Sometimes the smallest details are what give that professional polish to a piece.
Element balance is a little more difficult to explain in writing (this is where I need Janci’s way with words), but you have to be careful in choosing how to arrange your elements on a page. We wanted Kira’s face to grab you. I didn’t want the titling to distract from the face but certainly it needed to be clearly visible and identifiable. I didn’t want Janci’s name to get muddled with the rest of the text, so we took it up. I added a distressed glow behind the titling to add some depth. I made “Fine” pink for some contrast and attention. It also balances out the more muted colors of the cover. And I kept the little promotion for the book in a simple font, relatively small but certainly still legible (because it doesn’t need to grab you, it’s meant to keep you if you already got sucked in by the awesome picture and ironic title).
What advice do you have for authors looking for a cover designer? What questions should they ask? What agreements should they make beforehand? What should they do/not do when working with their designer?
I would look for someone who does something you like—something that speaks to you and the feel you want your books to have. Or just look for someone who has talent. Chances are if they did something great for another project, they could do something great for you. I was fortunate that Janci asked me to be a part of this project because, while I like to think I’m pretty talented, I had nil experience when it comes to book covers (except for that one project when I was in my design program which would not impress you…).
You should definitely have a contract with a designer beforehand—what you’re going to do, by when, cost, delivery (format of delivery), who owns the rights to what, etc. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with your best friend, there should be a contract! (It’ll probably help you stay best friends if that’s the case.)
In case our audience can’t tell, the first thing we did was sign a contract, and we’re still friends. What about after that?
Authors should not assume that they know what works—that’s why they’re hiring a designer, designers have (or should have) an eye for what works artistically. That being said, if authors have something specific in mind, they should definitely share that with a potential designer because you’ll want to know if a designer can work with your idea and make it happen or if they have a better idea.
Authors also shouldn’t assume that just because the little sketch the designer shows you looks kind of sparce/flat/uninspiring that the final realization of that sketch will be the same. I’m grateful that Janci had some artistic vision and knew the potential of what I showed her at each step, but not all clients have that vision.
What advice do you have for self-publishers trying to do it themselves? What should they do or avoid doing when designing their own covers?
They should avoid clip-art. Haha, no but really, get a designer. If you’re on a budget, search till you find someone who will work within your budget, but remember that your cover is what is going to get your book bought, opened, and read so don’t slap it together yourself unless you are just that talented.
Melody, obviously, is that talented, and has the training to back it up. I couldn’t be happier with the work she did on EVERYTHING’S FINE. Thanks, Mel!
Want Melody to design your cover? Here’s what to do to contact her:
Holler! She wants to work with you. (Yes, you!)