My Book Cover Design Experience & Process With Damonza
Everywhere you turn the name Damonza is the equivalent of book cover design greatness. Award-winning covers, New York Times bestsellers, indie-published, they’ve done it all and I had my heart set on hiring them to design my cover for Found in Amber.
Heads up for all authors looking into hiring Damonza for designing the cover of your next novel: they usually design around 80-90 covers per month and their busiest time is from August to October. They charge $595 for ebook + paperback book cover design. Damon, the head of Damonza recommends approaching the book cover design of your novel as soon as possible, “as it helps with the motivation of completing the project.” If you don’t have all formatting in order, they can start working on the ebook and you can send the details later when your paperback is ready and polished.
With a team of 8 graphic designers (and growing), Damonza also works with images the author provides for cover design as long as those images “are correctly licensed and are of good quality”.
The Book Cover Design Process With Damonza
In their own words, this is what the process looks like:
1. We start off with the front cover or ebook cover. We provide at least 2 first drafts/concepts upfront.
2. If you want changes to ONE of those drafts/concepts, we’ll do them to the best of our ability in a reasonable time, usually within 1 or 2 business days – sometimes a bit faster, sometime a bit slower. This depends on the nature of the changes and how busy we are at that time.
3. We won’t make changes to both drafts. Those two different drafts will be made up of two different concepts. This is the time for you to make a decision on which concept you would like to move forward with. And that’s the one we will work with until you are happy (in most cases – see below).
4. If you really don’t like those first drafts, then we will design at least one new draft option, although it may be more at our discretion, and the change process (for one concept) will go from there. If you’re still not happy with any of the drafts/concepts created so far, we may, at our sole discretion, decide to continue with at least one new draft/concept, or cancel the project and refund all fees you have already paid.
5. Once you’ve decided to go with one of the concepts, and we have started finalizing or making changes to that draft, the earlier concepts are “off the table” and no longer available to be used. If you decide to continue with an earlier draft after it has been rejected, the later draft designs will be charged for at a separate fee of at least 50% of the value of the normal ebook cover design fee.
6. Once you have selected a concept to move forward with, we will make as many changes as necessary for that cover, within reason. We want you to be happy with the final cover, but if we can see that no matter what changes we do, or if we just cannot do what you are looking for and it’s not going to be satisfactory, we reserve the right to cancel the project and refund all fees you have paid up to that point.
Well, because they’re on everyone’s lips in the #writingcommunity and because I wanted to try something different than my first time around the block when I chose 99designs for the cover of my first novel, Lost in Amber. You can check out my experience with 99designs here if you’re curious.
Because I’m a self-published author. The perfectionist, overly-disciplined, picky kind who also blogs about everything. I’m nobody’s picnic, but hey, blogging about this process alone had been on my wishlist for over a year.
Many of my literary buddies had tried Damonza’s book cover design services and were beyond delighted with the result. Others were impressed the first time around and disappointed the second, so (rubbing hands) let’s dive right into it and see how it all went down for yours truly!
How Much Detail Does A Book Cover Designer Need?
To begin with, every book cover designer is going to ask you for these details upfront:
- Word count
- Platform where you intend to publish
- Page color (cream or white)
- Trim size
- Examples of covers you like
- Key elements you would like featured on the cover (characters, a specific scene, etc.)
Muahahaha – silly, naive me actually thought I was going to knock their socks off with all the details I had in store.
First off, Found in Amber is the second installment in An Out Of This World Paranormal Romance saga, so I figured that alone would be enough for the designer to get a grasp on the story at hand. I also added the previous cover along with a short description:
The focus of the book is on the adventure as well as the growing romance, friendship and girl power. The characters are 24-36 years of age so it’s a New Adult novel with a strong appeal for a Young Adult audience as well. In Book 1 (Lost in Amber), Zoey and Jasper discover each other and try to go against their feelings in favor of other factors (duty, the fact that alien ambassadors never stay on Earth for a long period of time, the symbiotic factor, etc.) which is why the chosen characters for the cover of Lost in Amber look at each other as if making a discovery.
In Book 2 (Found in Amber), Zoey and Jasper eventually give into their feelings and take their relationship to the next level. I think it’s important to have the same 2 main characters on the cover but I am open to your suggestions. There are however many obstacles in the way of their happy ending which is why I’d like to avoid sexy poses, smiling, etc. We can show them concerned, thoughtful, you have more experience on this ground than I do.
I provided a variety of pictures of both male & female models to be used on the cover of Found in Amber
I had learned that lesson early on 99designs: save yourself the trouble and comb Shutterstock for models resembling your main characters before hiring any designer. You’ll find that although you paint a detailed picture with words, some designers take the matter into their own hands altogether and the result will be a far cry from what you described.
Additional physical description of the characters:
Jasper: athletic, blond, amber eyes, wavy hair shoulder length, no facial hair;
“Jasper is the new Interplanetary Alliance Ambassador sent on a mission to Earth to clean up the former ambassador’s mess. He excels at telekinesis, portalling, strategy and has interplanetary language skills (meaning he learns languages really fast)
Zoey: redhead, freckles, green eyes. For Zoey we will use the model in the pictures I provide and the pose you choose. Zoey is one of the altered subjects who now possesses powers beyond our world. She is able to reproduce and harness energy from sparks to gamma rays.”
Setting: “Most of the action happens between a time loop on Earth and Opt (a planet where the sky is lilac and they share an orbit with another planet which appears on their skyline as a huge moon and I would like this particular setting depicted on the cover).”
Poses: I specifically asked for profile and torso shots as I was unsure what would be a better fit for Found in Amber.
Jasper’s outfit: “tiny detail that might help the designer: throughout the book Jasper is featured wearing a uniform similar to Superman (navy blue made of tiny scales and s silvery white line front pattern similar to the outline of a vest but very abstract). No cape.”
Overall message: “The covers need to feel somewhat connected as they are part of the same saga, but that doesn’t mean they should be too similar.”
Other details I included: Full blurb of Book 1 & Book 2, important events in both books, characters, genre, reader appeal, storyline, what sort of poses to avoid.
No pleasant surprise ever came from me leaving anything to chance, so playing the “surprise me” card with a book cover designer was out of the question to begin with. At the beginning of this collaboration however, I found that what I initially thought to be great detail in the beauty of my mind, was in fact… nearly abstract nonsense for the designer as the first drafts were based on the cover of Book 1 rather than on my indications for Book 2 (womp, womp).
First Draft of Found in Amber by Damonza
While I thought I was practically showing how the sausage is made in more detail than necessary, two weeks later I received the first 2 drafts and a fair amount of hyperventilation followed. To continue, you’ll see the proposals along with some of my comments on the matter. I won’t include everything, just the few notes here and there.
Instead of receiving one profile pose and one torso pose, I had received 2 profile poses one of which with an entirely different model than the one I had chosen. In all fairness, when I said I was open to suggestions, in my head this meant possible poses and not using different models.
The first proposal lacks composition, the characters don’t look connected and the overall piece is terribly unbalanced. There’s too much of everything going on on the cover. The second proposal, although better looking, used a different book cover model. Both proposals left me wondering:
- Why the hair thunder?
- Why the stellar outburst on their faces?
- Where’s the lilac skyline?
- Why is Jasper’s hair not how I specified?
- Why didn’t I receive both torso and profile alternatives?
At this point in time I rolled up my sleeves and started on a brand new document outlining everything that didn’t sit well with me, went to Shuttersock to look for backgrounds similar to what I had in mind, researched MORE pictures on Jasper’s hair (please admire model Christopher Mason).
Second Book Cover Proposal By Damonza
Third Book Cover Proposal By Damonza
Now according to Damonza Guidelines, it was my time to choose the cover I wanted to move forward with and this one was my choice. I liked this book cover because it was more dynamic and it gave my chosen models a chance to shine. This cover tells a story. I was however, horrified at Jasper’s six pack (in my head that screams smut and in all fairness, that’s not the main focus of my novel).
In Found in Amber, my characters go on a quest to unravel an intergalactic political scheme of cosmic proportions. There’s adventure, strong undertones of good and evil (as Mike Robbins likes to say) and love. Yeah, yeah, you need to be a special breed of something to mix intergalactic politics and love, but hey, this cover had potential.
Fourth Book Cover Proposal By Damonza
At long last Jasper’s hair had gone from nutty professor to something worth cracking open a bottle of Prosecco for. I mean it. Hopes and dreams had gone into that hair and a lukewarm sentiment now filled my heart. Half Prosecco, half great hair. But that pesky little hand (despite the designer’s best efforts) burned the retina.
Okay, I have two theories about the designer’s MO:
a) He’d given Jasper wrinkles on purpose as a digital slap to yours truly for all my red arrows and endless feedback;
b) He’d cropped the hair from an elderly someone, bastardizing Jasper’s pristine forehead with the work of the Devil himself;
Either way, my brave and very awkward optan soldier now had the potential of a sex symbol. And with that thought in mind, I’d finish my Prosecco.
Fifth Book Cover Proposal By Damonza
Final Conclusions On Working With Damonza
I am overall satisfied with the end result. I found that the designer is not a magician who can miraculously capture the exact picture in my head and make it happen. Designers work with what they have, the best way they know how. Some designers are likely to have a vision and some lack it depending on their creativity and experience and sometimes, the trick is matching the right designer with the right author (as I said before, I’m no picnic).
Every single book cover has a degree of difficulty which is why I recommend looking for stock pictures prior to working with any designer. If you have something specific in mind, try to have it sorted before embarking on this adventure.
Of course, some things could have gone better in my case. Like when you specify the exact type of hair on your character and send multiple pictures as examples, you don’t expect 5 covers with the wrong hair. That’s when you feel the designer is not taking you seriously. I do appreciate the designer has made an effort and I’m sure it wasn’t a walk in the park finding that uniform or hair. I know for a fact it took several pictures and a lot of hard work to get to the final result. Sometimes, I think authors need video proof of what book cover design is all about because we’re so oblivious to the work behind it.
The whole process lasted around 1 month from beginning to end and all communication is held via email with either Alisha or Chrissy, who I believe are the intermediaries between authors and designers. The response time between emails is +24 hours but the overall communication is good and they do try very hard until an author is completely satisfied with the result.
If you need the layered PSD file (if you ever want to edit your blurb or change your book title in the event you might have it translated into another language) Damonza will charge $50 per version (ebook + paperback). As you know, the trim size of the paperback is different for white or cream paper, if you wish to have both add another $50.
I hope you find my experience useful & I wish you all the best of luck with your book cover design adventures. Oh, and visit Damonza’s website if intrigued 🙂
For the ones of you who are new to my blog, I’m Esther, writer, content creator for authors and massive nerd. If you’re interested to know all the tips & tricks surrounding the process From Writing To Publishing Your Novel, you’re only a click away.
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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.