Jenn FitzGerald’s intro to cover design
When I first got started in the book industry, I had just graduated from SWFL college with a degree in web design and development. A friend of mine asked me if I could possibly make an ebook cover for him. I said of course!
I had never designed a book cover before, although if it had to do with using photoshop, I knew I could handle it. My first class in photoshop was almost 10 years before that, during my first college degree program at FL Keys college. I had been designing print materials and websites for years at that point, and he said he could tell me what I needed to know.
I quickly learned that my friend is what I now call a serial writer. I don’t mean a writer of series books, although he does that too. I mean he writes a book a week. He is part of a rare breed of people who require very little sleep, and thus he accomplishes the equivalent of three people in any given day.
It was a good thing for me though. As soon as I agreed to design his book cover, he emailed me information for the 25 covers he presently wanted to have me design. It was a lot, although a great way to break into what I now do full time. Most people who begin in cover design start slow, having to go through months of finding clients to build up a portfolio that will attract new jobs. I was blessed with a large portfolio right from the get go.
He directed me with the size dimensions required, and then told me about the stories. We worked through what should and shouldn’t be in the image, and how it needed to be clear enough to be recognizable as a small thumbnail.
Today, even though you cannot find these first books I made, I still use this information to begin any design. My skills and knowledge have expanded almost exponentially since then, of course. I am constantly taking new classes in photoshop and now design print covers with InDesign if they are going to a traditional publishing printer. I also added classes in marketing, sales, and research to my tool belt. No longer are my covers simply a pretty picture, they are thought out with discussions, keyword research, and more before I even open my design software.
I am considered an expert in my field now. I give lectures on this subject, as well as other areas of publishing, and I have two published books on designing book covers. I wrote the books with authors in mind, not designers though. I realize most authors really should not be designing their own covers, for many reasons, although I feel it is very important for an author to understand what the process is. If an author has that information, they can use it to find the best designer for their book. And, if a designer picks up my book, it will launch their design skills years into the future.