Many of you are familiar already with Anne Elisabeth Stengl. She is the talented and lovely authoress behind the award-winning series, Tales of Goldstone Wood. As I have gotten to know her over the past couple of years I’ve been continually impressed with her talent, sweetness, boundless energy, and grace as both an artist and an individual. God has most certainly blessed her with multiple gifts!
When I decided to begin approaching designers about the cover for A Wish Made of Glass, I had a few artists in mind – none of which was Anne Elisabeth, since I really had no idea she designed covers at all. But one day I stumbled upon a blog post with a brand new book cover which had been designed by…you guessed it…Anne Elisabeth.
Hmm, I thought. Now there’s a thought. After all, Anne Elisabeth had already read my novella. She knew the mood, she knew the characters and setting. And what’s more, I trusted her taste completely.
As fate would have it, she had a very small window of time which was open in her busy schedule (just the window of time that I happened to need!) to do a cover for me. Within mere hours of having contacted her, she had some mockups for me to look over. After a few back-and-forth email discussions, she had the finished cover ready for me within a handful of days.
Super impressed? Yeah, I was too. I’m fully aware how blessed I am to have had her design my cover! It’s truly gorgeous.
I thought it would be fun (not to mention insightful!) to ask her a few questions about the designing side of the book world. FYI: All the book cover images I’ve got below are Anne Elisabeth’s designs as well…as if you needed another reason to admire her 🙂
Tell me how you got into cover design? Is it something you do on the side, or do you have “official” training in art?
Cover design is a relatively new pursuit of mine. I studied illustration for several years in college with the idea in mind that I would someday illustrate picture books. Although that particular form of art is different from cover design, many of the elements carry over. When I began creating book covers, I had all sorts of great training in color, composition, lighting, etc. to draw from.
I design only a precious few covers every year, starting two years ago now when I took my first commission. While I would love to get into more regular design work, carving out the time for it is a struggle these days. I find designing a new cover to be a fun break from regular work, however, challenging a whole different side of my brain. So someday I might accept more regular clients!
Designing a cover for a book I have not read is a different sort of challenge from designing for a book I have read. But as long as the author I’m working with makes clear what he/she hopes to see in the final image, I can usually make do without much difficulty. The first cover commission I took was for a book I had not read (still haven’t!), which was an interesting process. The client had a very specific vision in mind for the cover of Boardwalk. Once he had described his vision, however, I had a different idea which I thought might better illustrate the mood he wanted. I submitted my idea, and he loved it, so we went that direction instead.
All covers are unique. But if there’s any one thing/concept/quality that every book cover should have, what, in your opinion, should it be?
Oh, that’s an easy one: clear, readable text. Which is actually much harder to achieve than you might think! It’s too easy for a designer to get so caught up in the image—the characters, the backgrounds, and so forth—that she forgets the text until late in development. It’s much smarter to develop the text at the same rate as everything else in the design so that it fits seamlessly into the whole.
Whether an image is static or dramatic, dull colors or vibrant, active or passive, whether it features landscapes or models or simply an interesting texture . . . the text HAS to stand out.
What are your thoughts on the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”?
I think it’s a lovely theory but very hard to put into practice. Particularly these days with the Indie market booming, a great cover can set an author apart as someone who is serious about her business as opposed to someone who is just tossing work out there. Unless you’re an already-established, very popular name in the market, a dynamic cover is often the one thing that will make a reader take a moment to glance over your book, read the description, and consider making a purchase. If a cover doesn’t have that “Wow!” factor, the author is losing sales.
Of course, a fantastic book may be housed in a lousy cover. No one is denying that. All stories should be judged on the merit of their writing. However, they won’t be judged at all if readers don’t bother to pick them up.
Being a capable artist yourself, what are the benefits of hiring another designer to work on the covers for the books you’ve written?
For me personally I feel much too close to my own stories to dare design covers for them. I would struggle to get out of my own head and think in terms of dynamic imagery rather than specific scenes or character looks, etc. These days, I am often very much involved with the talented artists who create my cover images . . . but ultimately I try to let the creative invention and imagination be theirs. I’m usually much happier with the covers I end up with as a result.
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