7 Questions With Damon, The Genius Behind Damonza Book Cover Design
My name is Esther Rabbit and I am a writer and content creator for upcoming authors. As soon as you take your first step in the writing industry, the name Damonza is everywhere. Vloggers praise the design guru & his team, and most importantly, all their clients are thrilled (I personally know quite a few).
Because as soon as you finish writing and editing your manuscript, it’s the cover design that’s going to be the first selling feature of your book and Damon appears to have found that secret recipe to leave readers and authors in awe when looking at the magnificent covers Damonza produces daily.
Damon Freeman is the owner and creative director of Damonza.com, a specialist book cover design and book formatting firm. Over the past eight years, Damonza designed covers have appeared on over 4000 books, on everything from debut novels to New York Times bestsellers.
One question into his interview, and I knew why Damon managed to turn his project into possibly the most resounding name on the book cover design market today. Have a look…
Esther Rabbit: You’ve made an incredible name for yourself in the cover design business, Damonza. How did you pick your brand name and for how long have authors counted on your services?
You’re too kind! I’m not one to blow my own trumpet, but I’m happy for others to blow it for me. I started the whole thing in 2011, and eight years later I’m proud to say we’ve designed over 4000 truly awesome covers for a wealth of truly awesome writers.
I always wanted this business to be online only – it meant I could instantly go international, and let’s face it, digital storefronts are way cheaper than real ones. That being the case, I wanted to make the name short, snappy and easy to remember – the sort of thing that was perfect as a URL, closer to Uber than PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Most important of all, it had to be original – something that really stuck in the head. So after a movie montage of throwing scrunched balls of paper at a slowly filling wastepaper basket, I decided to take my first name, Damon, and add on za. I’m a South African who was living at home at the time, and ‘.za’ is South Africa’s internet domain. It also sort of sounded cool – Damonza.com
Esther Rabbit: What mistakes do authors make when approaching you and what advice do you have for them in that sense?
As a general rule, the best designs are the simplest. But the best writers have a talent for stitching together a rich and complex story, really painting a world for the reader, so when it comes to designing the cover they’ll often lean towards the complex. They want to include way too many elements, or portray a really specific and visual scene.
A potential reader will generally spend two seconds looking at a cover before deciding to pick it up or move on to the next one. Your grandma was wrong – people always judge a book by its cover. If it’s too complex, they’ll move on. If it’s simple and eye-catching, they’re far more likely to take a closer look. So a cover needs to instantly say what it is (the genre should be obvious at first glance), and convey a sense of intrigue or allure. Symbolism and simplicity are what sell.
My pro tip? Trust the designer. Give them an idea of the central message of the book, what the key elements are, and any specific symbolism you’d like to convey. A good cover designer will then be able to come up with the cover concept that will do the best job of selling the book. That is, after all, the cover’s job.
Esther Rabbit: What details should a new author offer you upon requesting a book cover design? Can you share more details to help new authors prepare for this experience?
Terrific question. OK, let’s dot point this thing.
- Know your genre: When your book is sitting on the shelf in the thriller, sci-fi or steamy erotica section, it needs to look like it belongs there. For better or worse, readers will gravitate towards books that look like the type they’ve enjoyed before. You need to fit in, then stand out. An author needs to convey the genre to the designer.
- Offer up some inspiration: No one knows a book better than its author, so ideally you’ll bring a bit of cover inspiration to the table.
- Listen to the professional: But at the same time, you can’t be inflexible. You need to be open to covers that might not be what you’d envisaged. The designer’s job is simply to create a cover that sells the book. The cover shouldn’t tell the entire story before the book’s been opened. It should instead hint at the excitement inside.
- Provide a short synopsis: To create a cover that both accurately depicts the book and compels people to read it, the designer needs to know what it’s about. Provide them with a short synopsis that covers the key elements of the story (character descriptions, themes, important places, symbols, etc.). Other details like title, author name, back cover blurb, page count, trim size and who will be printing the book will also need to be provided.
- Show the designer what you like: A good designer should be able to create a cover that you love and that will get the book flying off the shelves. So show the designer some examples of cover designs that tickle your fancy, and they’ll hopefully be able to draw some inspiration from them.
- Provide constructive criticism: Feedback of ‘I don’t like it’ on initial drafts moves the design process exactly zero steps forward. You’ve written a book. You’re obviously a talented wordsmith. Use those skills to explain exactly what you don’t like, and how you think the cover could be made better.
At the end of the day, every designer wants the author to be 100% happy with the finished work. Following these steps makes that far more likely.
Esther Rabbit: Why should an author choose you over a “cheaper” alternative?
To my mind, Damonza.com is nestled in a delicious book cover design sweet spot.
There are cheaper options, but they don’t offer unlimited changes, a dedicated account manager, guaranteed availability (no waiting lists here), and, most importantly, loads of talent. We’ve designed many a cover for New York Times and USA Today bestsellers, and there have been times when as many as seven or eight of Amazon’s top 40 titles have been Damonza.com designs.
There are obviously more expensive designers too, and they’re often amazing at what they do. But on top of the extra cost, they can be booked up months in advance and sometimes only provide one option with limited changes.
Esther Rabbit: How does one go from struggling book cover designer to running a successful business?
Dedication, planning, and more than a little bit of desperation.
I was in the wars when I started Damonza.com. I had a mountain of debt looming over me, and my graphic designer salary wasn’t making any sort of a dent in it. I was on the hunt for additional income, so Damonza.com was born. The response was honestly unreal.
After a short few months I was coming home from my full time job at 5pm, having dinner with my family, then working again from 8pm to 3am on book covers. Every. Single. Day. After realising that I was slowly killing myself, I made the decision to quit my day job, and went on the hunt for talented designers who could help me out with the ever-increasing amount of cover work. Next came the need for other support staff, like account and project managers.
At the start of this journey I stumbled upon my bible: The Four-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. That book changed the way I set up my business, and allowed me to grow pretty quickly.
I’m now at a point where I’m so happy with my design team that I’ve stepped away from the sketchpad myself. Instead I steer our creative direction and other big picture business stuff, although I still approve every cover design before it gets sent to the author. I want to ensure that everything that leaves our office still screams DAMONZA.
Esther Rabbit: What’s an approximate price authors would pay upon hiring your service?
It depends – we have a range of packages. Most authors go for the print and ebook cover design package, which goes for $595. We also have cheaper ebook only packages, as well as interior formatting services and an awesome book trailer offering (if you want a little bit of Hollywood added to your book release, be sure to check our trailers out!). We’ve recently started offering a copy editing service as well.
Esther Rabbit: How long does it normally take to deliver a finished book cover design?
We’ve got a strong process. We guarantee delivery of the first drafts within 14 days, and there’s never a waiting list. Depending on changes, the entire process from start to finish usually takes around 3 to 4 weeks.
I hope you enjoyed Damon’s interview as much as I have. But that’s not all! This interview comes with a 10% discount upon hiring the services of Damonza. Email me for the COUPON CODE and feel free to sign up to my Newsletter for the latest & greatest. If you are a writer, make sure you check The Journey From Writing To Publishing a novel for the best tips & tricks.
Are you in the Writing Industry?
Shoot me an email, I’d love to interview you!
And if you’re a fan of Paranormal Romance, check out Lost in Amber:
“A new Interplanetary Alliance ambassador on an earthbound mission.
A handful of genetically altered humans to be rescued.
Meeting her changed everything.“