Saturday, August 15, 2009

Beyond the cover

Jinger Heaston

“You can’t judge a book by its cover”. This is true but you can decide if you want to purchase that book by its cover. In my line of work judging the cover is what it is all about. I am a Cover Artist. I currently work for several online Publishers: Siren Publishing, Damnation Books, Wings ePress, PawPrints POD as Art Director, Whiskey Creek Press, as well as several Independents that self publish.

When I first started doing cover art I really had no grasp of the importance of the cover art and how crucial it is that the cover remains true to the story. Like so many others out there I just assumed it was simply a way to display the title and the author’s name. That line of thinking fell away as I created my first few covers, and I am happy to say those first few Authors are ones that I still work with to this day, 6 almost 7 years later.

When creating a cover I am provided with an Author Information Form that has all the details such as character description, brief story detail, setting, key items, and things of this nature. If it is an Author I have never worked with I will visit their website or blog to get a feel of what sort of covers they have had in the past and for their writing. I contact them to introduce myself and let them know that they are in good hands, inviting them to share any thoughts or ideas. I do believe in making the Author a part of the process when I can. They know the story best and that after all is what we are going for, a visual reflection of the story. Of course the other goal to keep in mind is something that will sell your book.

Things to keep in mind when going over your cover art. Simple is better, if someone cannot make out the image they will simply move on to the next cover. A lot of covers spend most of their time on the internet in a thumbnail view. The title should be crisp, clean and clear, Authors name the same way. If it is too hard to read, they will move on. My goal is to create something that will stop someone in their internet tracks for a closer look. Sometimes a scene from the book is requested, which can work out well if done correctly but often turns out too cluttered or busy if too many elements are added. Time period is also very important to reflect on the cover. I have seen a few books that were Historical that had covers with current technology or clothes on the front; this is not what we want.

As a cover artist we have the impossible job of creating an image from the mind of someone we have never met, about a story we have never read. This is a challenge I face daily with great pride and honor, it is one thing I love about what I do. To receive and email that says, “Yes!! That is it exactly!!”, “How did you do that? It is perfect!”, that is what I am going for! I have met many wonderful people over the years and made some fantastic friends as a result of a cover I created that reached them on some personal level, or reflected something they were feeling at that moment. I have even had a bagel special delivered to me with strawberry cream cheese as a thank you, which still makes me smile! An email from a first time Author who has just gotten their first cover who writes that they are so thrilled they cannot stop looking at it, that is the biggest payoff of my job. When creating a cover I keep in mind that this is a story someone put a lot of time and energy into, something they are passionate about and I strive to reflect that in the cover. Every cover I have ever made is personal to me; I remember it, creating it and the Author who wrote it. I actually have a bookshelf that holds about 300 books that I have work the covers on, this is just a small drop in the bucket compared to all that I have done. Some are autographed, some are not but each and every one holds a special place in my heart.

In a day I receive information, go over it, and process it. Think about what I can create that will be not only eye catching but will reflect the story within, something the Author as well as the Publisher will approve of. For the Author it is personal, for the Publisher it is their business and this can be a thin line to walk sometimes.

So the next time you look at a cover, take an extra moment to appreciate it and all the work that someone may have put into it. With all of the information, the Publisher, the Author, the story content and key elements all rolled into one image that will either make you pick it up or walk away, that cover says a lot. Or the next time you finish a book, look back at the cover and ask yourself if you feel it did its job of giving you a sneak peek of the story. Was it mass produced with general images thrown together to make a buck, or is there passion and feeling in it? And Authors, please do not judge me too harshly on this bit of blog, I just make the pictures, I leave the words to you!


  1. Hi Jinger,

    Welcome to the Grip. Thanks for a fascinating insight into what goes on behind the the creation of those front covers.

    There's some fantastic artwork here and I shall now be looking at covers with a lot more thought about what's gone on behind their creation.

    Best wishes,

    Ashley Lister

  2. Hi Jinger!

    What do you think of our little blog?

    I'm really glad you were able to be our guest here.On the Whisky Creek list I've seen some of the posts of grateful authors who you've made covers for. I've also liked the fact that you consulted with me for my cover and took time. It was something we worked on together. That doesn't always happen I guess. This has been a difficult blog theme for me, because I've been shoving my ignorance in people's faces quite bit on this topic and I'm still learning, In your case the process was so transparent and benevolent there were many things I didn't learn about until just now. You artists work hard in your medium making us wanna-bes look good, and I just want to say thanks from all of us.


  3. One more thing, I'm sorry that long sized image got cut off at the right end. It didn;t show that way in the preview, so it caught me by surprise. Live and learn.


  4. You should brag that the beautiful cover you designed for Turning Thirty-Twelve won for Best Coverart 2008 on the Preditors & Editors poll.
    I couldn't have been happier with my Damaged Heroes series, either.

  5. Hi Jinger. Great post! As one of your authors, I can honestly say I always feel safe knowing my cover is in your hands. The covers you have designed for my titles at Siren are fantastic and really stand out. What His Cowboys Want is truly yummy and Twin Games continues to be an oldie but goodie.

  6. Jinger,

    Thanks so much for joining us at the Grip. I really loved hearing how you work with your authors and the progress you yourself made as a cover artist. And these covers... Whowsahs!


  7. Hi Jinger. I enjoyed reading your post, and learning a little more about what efforts go into creating the covers for our stories. I can only speak for myself, but I was totally thrilled with the cover you did for my "Table for Three", and I am really looking forward to the next one you design for me.

  8. Wonderful blog post, Jinger.

    It was so interesting to see the behind the scenes making of a book cover from the cover artist's point of view. It certainly makes the whole process much more clearer and also more intriguing to me.

    A book cover helps sell the book as much as the blurb does if not more. That is the first thing to catch a readers eye and what will keep them anchored to learn more about the book.

    You wrote:
    "My goal is to create something that will stop someone in their internet tracks for a closer look."

    And that you do with grace and a delightful imagination, which reflects the author's vision entirely.

  9. Hi, Jinger. Great post. I recently filled out my author information form with SirenBookStrand and spent a significant amount of time admiring your evocative covers. You definitely have a passion for what you do.

  10. Hello, Jinger,

    A late-ish but sincere welcome to the Grip! Thanks so much for your post. You obviously have a large group of grateful authors who have followed you here.

    One of your points particularly struck me-your comment that most covers will be viewed as thumbnails. A simple insight but one that had not occurred to me previously. So many covers just don't work in a 200 x 300 resize. In the old, pre-Internet days, cover artists didn't like to think about that, but it's critical today.

    Thanks again!


  11. Hi Jinger, I'm so glad I caught your blog and got to know a little about you. You designed my cover with BookStrand and there is absolutely nothing I don't love about it. I'm looking forward to the next one.

    We're very lucky to have your talent and passion.

    Many many Thanks

  12. Hi Jinger and Oh Get A Grip - excellent blog! I love your art-work and I'm always impressed with the range of genres you work with.

    I second what Lavada says!!

    Thank you.

    Lindsay Townsend(Siren and Bookstrand author)

  13. Great info! Can't wait to see what you'll create for my book.

    Kris Cook

    PS - the Author's Information Form you sent me is an excellent tool. Made me have to really think about how I see this book.

  14. Hi Jinger!

    I appreciated this post and the old adage "you shouldn't judge a book by its cover" may be true, but people do--myself included. It's the cover that catches my eye first, then the title. Then the jacket blurb, and FINALLY, the writing. So getting a book to grab enough attention to get into a reader's hands (or onto their e-readers) largely involved a talented cover artist.

  15. Jinger, I've never contacted you directly. So, it's great to have this opportunity to thank you for ALL the wonderful covers you've done for me.
    I certainly have complimented your work on my personal blog, and to others.
    AND I AM VERY, VERY GRATEFUL for the covers you've done for my books. It always amazes me how good the thumbnails look as well as every size up to BIG.
    Being a cover art lover from the time I began reading romances... long, long ago, believe me, it's great to have such wonderful covers.

  16. Hands down, you always nail the cover art. I don't worry about covers for my books when you're behind them. It's just a given, you'll create something perfect. You're one of a kind, Jinger.


  17. Hi Jinger - I've received so many nice comments about the art you did for my first cover that I really believe it sells the book. You absolutely caught the image I was trying to present!

    Thanks again Jinger!

    Liza Curtis Black

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