7 Questions With Book Cover Designer Amala Benny
Amala Benny is the lead designer at Mayflower Studio and has been working as a Graphic designer for four years. She specializes in providing eye-catching fantasy covers that helps the author stand out in the market without breaking bank. She is also an author and cites her journey into publishing as the reason for discovering her love for cover designing.
It was to design the cover of her debut book that she had first watched a photoshop tutorial, which led to freelancing and then later forming her team and finding her own company. Now a favourite for best-selling and award winning authors across the world, she spends her day running her own publishing house along with her design company.
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What mistakes do authors make when approaching you and what advice do you have for them in that sense?
I think the most common mistake I’ve seen is not thinking through your genre. Your book cover could have the prettiest artwork in the entire world but if it does not tell the reader what genre and theme your story is, or even worse, misleads them about the genre, all that money and effort you and your designer have put into it will end up in no, or negative reviews, because it attracted the wrong audience. Even a badly edited cover can get you happy readers as long as it screams the right genre. It’s better to have a bad cover than a wrong cover.
Based on the design brief that the author fills out, I usually do a lot of market research to make sure that the cover stands out within its genre without looking out of place. So the foremost important thing I would tell any writer looking to hire a designer would be to research the covers in your genre. What are the invisible guidelines that govern them? Like, pretty dresses in Paranormal Romance, glowy colour palette for Urban Fantasy, the typography of middle grade novels. Know what helps the reader to identify the genre and since designers usually know best(unless they are inexperienced) trust their work.
Do not try to show the entire story in the cover. Sometimes my clients ask me to depict multiple scenes from the story on the cover and while the final result can end up looking good in full size, it is rare that it will look good in thumbnail size. This is another instance where I redirect my clients to amazon to look at the covers. Just because something is pretty doesn’t mean it will sell.
Sometimes I get clients by referral who are looking for covers in genres I don’t specialize in. For example, cozy covers or completely illustrated covers, in which case I usually refer them to my amazing peers who specialize in those genres. It’s important to look through the portfolio of the designer first before hiring them because they may have done a great job for your friend’s book but if they don’t have experience in your genre, it will show in the cover.
The publishing industry is riddled with scams and there are a lot of designers who showcase quality work from other designers as their own and then either deliver sub-par work or ghost the authors. To avoid this I would encourage explore the authors online. A lot of them have Facebook groups, myself included, where they show before and afters of covers, snippets of their process, new premades, other customs they have done.
An aspect of the cover that is so important in selling your book is the title of your book. Much like each genre having their own specific style in terms of book covers, they also have a specific way of being titled. Names should signify the genre and if possible the number of words in the title fits the norm of that genre. Something like “of Cinder and Ashes” brings up totally different feelings than a title like “Tempting the Boss”. Don’t choose a one word title if you are going for a typography based cover or object based cover. It can work, but it’s a risky gamble.
This is not a common problem since authors nowadays are very well-versed. However, I have encountered it a few times so I thought I would mention it in case it helps any newbie authors out there. When this happens, the author and I usually brainstorm and come up with a title that will look good on the cover depending on the font used and is spot on for the genre.
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?
I usually send the authors design briefs depending on whether they have bought a premade, custom, sequel or print version.
For premades, apart from the usual questions requesting title, author name and other bylines. I ask for a small summary or blurb of the story as well as the genre. This is in case any font or colour changes are required, or if the genre of the story doesn’t completely match the genre of the premade.
For customs, the brief is much longer and more in-depth. Apart from the earlier mentioned items, I also provide a lot of optional questions like their vision, themes, links to other books in their genre and a space to add any additional points if my questions had missed them. And if it’s a romance book I usually ask for the steam level too. Since they play a huge part in the composition of the cover.
For the print version, depending on whether the author will be using KDP print, Ingramspark or third party publishing, back matter, trim size, page number and colour of the page(alternatively the spine size) are required. Author info, website or any other link to be added as QR code, barcode etc can also be added as additional info.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover”… but we all do. What are some attributes of an attractive cover?
If I have to describe it in one word… it would be ‘clarity’. Since books are sold in both ebook and print format, the cover should signify the genre well even in thumbnail size and the title should also be legible in that size.
The use of contrast. The eye should be drawn to the most important point of the cover first, be it the main model, the magical skull or the dead body on the floor.
My personal weakness, when it comes to covers, is a well-controlled glowy colour palette. It’s my love for them that made me specialize in Fantasy especially Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy.
What’s an approximate price authors would pay upon hiring your service?
My Premades are usually between $100-$200 depending on the amount of stock used and hours invested. My customs range from $200-$300 depending on the genre, complexity and number of models required etc. The price is calculated based on the design brief if it’s book 1 in a series.
Sequels usually cost less since the branding has already been decided by book 1. Print books and additional services like bookmarks, author logo, business cards etc are available for a much lower price. I also offer bundle deals if multiple covers are bought together.
What dictates the price of book cover design?
Generally speaking, it would be how in-demand the designer is, their specialized genre (for example middle grade novels are much more expensive than contemporary romance ones), knowledge of the market and how complex the cover is. Most designers usually offer a few different tiers of price points depending on how involved you want to be in the design process and how much detail you want to incorporate into it.
A lot of amazing designers put out premades regularly. These are much cheaper than their customs and often you can score sets of them for amazing prices. I would recommend following their social media regularly to know when they release new work.
Personally, for me it would be how many characters are required on the cover and how detailed the cover has to be.
How long does it normally take to deliver a finished book cover design?
Anywhere from 2-4 weeks. The first step is reading through the design brief and figuring out the concept for the cover. Depending on the theme, I send 1-3 concepts and author can choose from them. Usually it is not required as most design briefs go something like this “white haired girl, fire magic, red dragon somewhere in the sky, ancient ruins” so concept discussion stage is usually bypassed.
Once concept has been decide I send a rough demo to show the composition within a week. Once the composition is approved, I send the final version within a week. After this, unlimited number of minor tweaks are allowed if required—I want my author to be 100% happy with the final cover.
What’s your favorite genre as a reader?
I pretty much read every genre. I am an avid reader so my favourite genres tend to change from week to week. I have a soft spot for Mysteries, Urban Fantasies with slow burn romance(huge Kate Daniels fan here) and non-fictions about writing and business.
I am also a huge fan of poetry by Atticus, as well as books by Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Helen Harper, Ilona Andrews, Nalini Singh. All of them are auto-buy authors for me.
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And check out Lost in Amber: An Out Of This World Paranormal Romance if enjoy girl power, adventure & a toe-curling love story.
She just wanted to mope over her breakup but the universe had other plans for Zoey Mills.
Read the full blurb here.