Whoever said you can't judge a book by its cover was wrong. Oh yea, I said it. I went there. First impressions matter, and when it comes to a book, that first impression is its cover. One of the best cover artists who always makes an amazing first impression is Patricia Schmitt a.k.a. Pickyme. Her covers are spectacular. She has designed covers for authors including Sylvia Day, Cynthia Eden, J.R. Ward, and Sherrilyn Kenyon to name a few (the impressive list goes on and on - click here to see it and be in awe). I am beyond excited that she allowed me to pick her brain about covers for this blog. I hope you enjoy this interview as much I did:
1. You have designed cover art for everyone - the Big Five, smaller presses and independent/self-published authors. Based on your experience, how important is a book's cover? I believe that your cover is the face of your book. It is what draws readers in, it projects your story to the world. Your cover can and will most likely be the bases of your promotional art. You will base your bookmarks, ads and anything else you wish to use to draw more readers in. That is why it should be a top priority, not an after thought. You should have the best face forward to readers. Invest in quality artwork and design. A reader will think if you didn't put much effort into your cover, you may not have put much effort into the writing. That is something you want to avoid at all cost.
2. Over the last few years, have you seen any changes in the quality of artwork and design in the e-cover market? Yes, at the time I first started working on covers not very many authors were Indie. You could easily spot an e-book verses a traditionally published book. Then the lines were beginning to blur. More freelance artists, like myself, who worked for traditional publishers started offering their services to Indie authors. Also, more traditional published authors were going Indie, and they wanted the same brand and quality of artwork they had before. It had been getting hard to tell between the two. However, in the last few months I have seen a decline in the cover art quality. The gap is beginning to widen once again. Which I find unfortunate. Skimping on your cover and using amateur artists will eventually reflect on your sales. It might be a good budget to begin with, but in the end it will hurt your bottom line.
3. What advice do you have for self-published authors with respect to their cover designs? What questions do they need to be asking of a cover artist? It is important to put the best cover forward to readers. You want the artwork to reflect the quality of writing between the covers. If the design is lacking, readers will assume that the writing is not up to par as well. Even if you think your writing shouldn't be judged based on your cover, it is. So, it is extremely important to do your homework when it comes to hiring an artist. They should have a portfolio established. You want to see many examples across a wide range of genres from them. You can base their style and design easily that way. Key things to be on the lookout for as far as quality is concerned are: The overall flow of the design. Can you easily read the title and author name, especially in thumbnail? The models, do they look in perspective? If they are stretched and skinny, that is a red flag. The artist does not know their way around the software. Are the lines clean? Can you see remaining background where they extracted the models? If so, don't hire them. Does the use of color reflect the genre of the book? Is the artist using updated fonts and have the type set flow correctly? Do they have references from clients or have they worked with someone you know? These are all things to consider when hiring an artist. I know that the fee is a factor as well. A quality artist will be more expensive than an amateur, but this comes back to the investment you are making for your book. A low quality cover will most defiantly reflect in sales. Cover art and editing should be your top expenses.
4. What information does an author need to have ready for a cover artist? You should begin thinking about your cover long before the book is due out. Most quality artists need a month to two months advanced scheduling. This also gives you time to devote to the best cover. A rushed cover is never a good experience. Most artists will have a cover art questionnaire for you to fill out. This will give them all the information needed to work on your cover. My questionnaire also includes my working policy and process. This eliminates any confusion on both sides. When you receive it, take your time in filling it out. Also, I like to know what you would NOT like on the cover. For example, if you hate the color blue, please inform your artist. It gives us good parameters to work in.
5. What mistakes, faux pas and things that make you want to smash your e-reader into something that resembles C3P0 after he reached Cloud City are you seeing in e-covers? Do you have any pet peeves or hot buttons that trigger violent reactions when you see a cover? Oh so many...my main pet peeve is extraction. If an artist poorly extracts a model from another background and I can see rough edges, especially around the hair, it hurts my soul. :)
6. Your covers are amazing (click here to see samples that aren't on the blog). What are some of the favorite covers you have done, and why? I can't pick a favorite really. Each cover means something different to me and each one is a milestone in my career. I just feel blessed to be able to work with amazing authors and do something I feel passionate about.
A huge thank you to the fabulous Patricia Schmitt for sharing her time and knowledge with us. You can find her on the internet at www.PickymeArtist.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter (@TrishPickyme).