Today I’ve interviewed Troy Black. He happens to be a published author, but is also my publisher and cover designer. Firstly, I want to say brilliant job. I’m obviously biased here, but I’ve received nothing but praise for the art work you’ve produced.
Troy, I will ask you a number of questions, but before we dive into that, I’m posting an image of your design. Currently it’s showing all over my blog as we’re in the middle of promoting it, but for future readers the blog’s look will have changed and it’s important they see what you created.
Now, let’s dive right in.
Troy, how important is a book cover to its sales?
Troy: The book cover design is phenomenally important to sales. I believe that the cover of a book either persuades or dissuades a potential reader in three important ways.
First, a cover groups its book into a category in the reader’s mind. If a cover is current and has similar attributes to other books the reader likes, they often assume by association that they will like that book.
Another way the book cover either encourages or discourages the buy is through readability. Can the interested reader distinguish the title of the book from across the room? If not, there are hundreds of other books that may draw their attention first. The ability to actually read the cover (and understand how the title correlates with the imagery) becomes even more important on the online shelf. If a tiny thumbnail version of your book cover is impossible to quickly and correctly comprehend, then there is little to no chance the browsing reader will click through to your book.
The final way I believe the cover affects sales is by simply being original. It’s not hard to copy someone else’s design. What is more difficult (but worth it) is coming up with an original design that grabs attentions, stays true to the book, and also fits in with the specific genre.
Michael: Very well said, and I think you’ll talk later about how you had to lead me through this process.
Now, Troy, can you describe the process of coming up with a good idea for a cover?
Troy: There are five questions I ask myself when coming up with an idea for a book cover.
The first is: what aspects of the story must absolutely be included on the cover? If I wrote a book about a sea turtles and yet had nothing but ocean on the cover, I can kiss my chances of very many readers picking up the book goodbye. Why? Because people know it when they see it. If you want to read about sea turtles, you’re going to choose the book with the big sea turtle on the front.
The second question I ask myself is: what can I disclude from the cover? If you try to fit every character in the story on the cover then you’re going to run into problems. Your main problem will probably be cluttered design, which can quickly lead to loss in concept apprehension. Though sometimes it is important to the story to include many characters (such as in the case of Cheaper by The Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth). The other time I would shirk this rule is when the design leans purposely toward a more free, unconfined look.
The third question I ask myself is: what does my audience expect? You may have a great idea for a book cover, but if you’re ahead or behind the times then you might want to rethink your plan. What I consider to be even more important than being current is to understand your specific audience. A mostly female audience is going to react differently to a design than a mostly male audience. A fantasy fanbase is going to be expecting something different than a romance fanbase.
The fourth question I ask myself is: what color scheme fits best? The eye of a potential reader is going to recognize a color combination a lot quicker than the actual design or layout. The colors of a cover can create a specific mood for the book, but even more than that they can help a book to stand out in the crowd. Focusing on a simple one or two color color scheme is not appropriate for every book, but I try to utilize that strategy when possible.
The fifth question I ask myself: is what I have so far actually working? A cover design is almost never too good to be improved upon. One of the most important aspects of designing is to be willing to make a change or start over.
Michael: I love those points. They are invaluable, and I think even for authors like myself, who rely on others to design their covers, it’s a process we can go through as we process the various stages of design work.
A lot of people have commented about loving the green. What made you decide on this color?
Troy: I touched on this somewhat, but there were two main reasons I decided on the green color scheme. The first reason is that The World of Pangea: Path of the Warrior is mostly set in nature. You, Michael ,describe vast lands, forests, and islands that draw the reader into this world full of greenery and growth. There are several other settings that you utilize, but the green certainly stands out. I also chose the green base color because of its ability to draw attention. In a collection of books covered in an array of colors, a nearly solid color is easy for the eye to rest on.
Michael: May I just say, I think you’ve portrayed the novel inside the cover extremely well.
Were there any other versions of the cover you didn’t like?
Troy: We did not do any alternative version of this cover, however, we did have an earlier draft of the same design in which the lighting was more of a pale yellow color. This color scheme reminded me of a fantasy novel from the eighties. I was eventually irked enough by the lighting tone that I changed it to white, and it was suddenly right. It’s funny how a small change can make so much of a difference.
Michael: I agree, the difference was huge.
Can you explain how you worked with the author (Me in this case) during this process?
Troy: We always pass the ideas for the cover design back and forth with the author until we land on a layout that we decide will work. I honestly feel like I had to reassure you that it was going to turn out good up until the point that you saw the finished piece.
Michael: Very true. I knew and know, the cover is a big deal, but I couldn’t envision fully what you were going for. You were very open with me and very honest about all the steps involved as well as confident about the finished result. A great job.
Troy: But more importantly, I made sure that you understood that we were going to keep working on it until we got it right. You had some great ideas and feedback during the cover creation.
Michael: Flattery, I assure you 😉
Troy, how is the cover connected with the content of the novel?
Troy: The featured character on the front cover is Idris, the main character and protagonist in the novel. Also included on the front cover, but seen in the background, is Idris’s sister, Mari. These characters are central to the cover design because of the role Idris plays in the story and the love he has for his sister. The setting on the front cover reflects the mountainous locations that come into play several times in the story, and the back cover allows the reader a glimpse into the darkness of the forest.
Now, last but still important, how can people contact you if they want a good cover design?
Troy: If you’re looking to get your fiction book published, you can email me with inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re thinking about self publishing and you need a book cover design, book or author website design, or a book video promo, send me an email or contact me on LinkedIn.
Michael: Troy, thank you very much for your valuable time. I appreciate you being able to give my readers some insight into the design process and the importance of cover art work. Hopefully we’ll hear more from you in the future!