With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer/blogger Cherise Hensley present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with Book Cover Designer, Karrie Ross
In addition to book cover design, Karrie Ross also offers website design, branding, and consulting. Her client list is built of business leaders, entrepreneurs, authors, creatives, coaches, and artists of all kinds. Karrie is also a fine artist with artwork in homes/hotels/commercial and retail spaces around the world. She wrote an award winning book on Parenting, premise of coaching parent/coaching child; creating a conscious connection. Karrie also developed a Test/Quiz Plugin for WordPress Powered websites. She is the developer of Be A Smile! which features a line of characters named the Bebuddies and an amazing bee named BzzzBee. Karrie writes books on many subjects for her website, The Life Dialogue.
What first got you interested in design as a career choice?
In high school there was an advertising art class and we got to make all the signs for the school…I thought this would be fun. And then one year, I won an award from the Bullocks Art Project; what better way to be encouraged. I had a fantastic art teacher.
When did you first start designing book covers and author websites?
I’ve always, well, for a very long time, been fascinated with book covers. My father was a collector of Sci-Fi books and they lined the walls of our two-car garage. When I was very young, before I could read, I would smell them, touch them, and sit for hours imagining the stories inside based on the cover image.
Then, throughout my graphic design career, book jobs just came to me and in the late 1990s I started paying more attention to the industry and by early 2000s I was designing many books.
The websites came a little later when WordPress was developed and made life a lot easier for all of us…but the concept and organization of a website is still one of the most important parts and for the author to have access and know-how to make changes anytime they want.
I consult and train on how to create not only the website but the full web-presence and brand.
You’ve been involved with projects for corporate giants like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Microsoft, and even Disney. How do you keep from getting overwhelmed by the vast size of your potential impact? How do you approach such huge projects?
The projects you mention were from another lifetime, when I owned an agency in Beverly Hills with my late husband. However, to answer the “getting overwhelmed”. I really have never thought of that aspect of the projects I’ve worked on. I do know that what I do changes companies and people’s lives, no matter if it’s just an advertisement for a magazine or an annual report. My creativeness is directed to motivate a response…and since I come from a position of well-meaning, there is no overwhelm (worry) about the impact it will make. And in answer to how do I approach such huge projects, I do it with care and organization. I really enjoy being a communicator, project manager as well as creative director.
I currently keep busy with consulting, branding, designing books and am also creating promotional materials such as banners, websites, posters and any printed materials used to accompany the book.
In your experience, how much influence do smaller details like color and font choice have on the overall look of a book cover?
I recently received an email from a student asking for the “quick, how to” to designing a book cover so that all the parts look like they go together, and when I responded with “go to a book store and look, observe, figure out what you like and don’t like” she was not happy. It’s not easy and there is no instant answer of how to make the title look like it belongs with the images, although the font and color help with this.
Mind you, this is a challenge for me too… it sometimes takes hours/days to get all the parts to blend and balance and I’ve been doing this for over 40 years. Sure sometimes it all comes together quickly but most of the time, hours or days.
What kinds of trends do you see in terms of cover design? Do you think a cover should be designed differently if going directly to Kindle only? How does designing covers for electronic books differ from print versions?
Trends… right now it’s all over the place with so many people who don’t know graphic design copying what has been done before, and badly. Causing the world to go backwards in what is perceived as “good” or “acceptable” design for book covers. It will eventually even out but until it does…it’s running a muk. As far as e-book covers, for me there isn’t much difference as to how I approach their design. The basics of cover design are applied and each layout is considered at a smaller size.
What inspires your book cover designs? Do you read the written work before you start the design process?
My experience inspires me and I do lots of communication with the author, and do skim the book.
What is your process for designing the ideal book cover that fits the author’s work and expectation?
Communication. Life experience. Confidence.
What kinds of tips do you have for authors looking at designing their own website? Their own book cover? In your opinion, what are some key pieces that make a website more aesthetically pleasing?
Most basic tip for doing their own design is to be honest with themselves if they can do it or not. What is the time vs. cost and is it to their benefit to hire a professional, if even for consulting. It’s not easy to pull the necessary information out of ourselves that makes for a good cover; it’s not just about the imagery and fonts, it’s the back story. Websites need to be easy to follow and appealing in color and layout.
What are the biggest mistakes you see authors make in terms of branding themselves and their work?
Lack of direction and knowledge of what branding and good design really is and the how/why of it all. How it works and what it takes to make that happen.
How important do you think it is for authors to brand themselves as an author as well as their books?
Very, but it will all depend on the focus and final outcome they choose.
Do you have any upcoming projects or events we can look out for?
Working on some speaking engagements and will post on my website blog at http://www.bookcoverdesigner.com/bog Sign up for the updates to know when they are happening.
Contact Karrie Ross at: firstname.lastname@example.org and check out her website at:
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley is an English/Marketing major at Whitworth University. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is an editor and a writer, and loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.