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Interview with James Price, Cover Artist

(James Price is an accomplished freelance cover artist, and was kind enough to offer us an interview for our launch day event on Facebook. You can find the original thread on our Facebook page and his website at www.aepbookcovers.com.)

OMT:  How important is cover art to a book? Have ebooks changed the importance of a good cover?

James: Well, it plays a large role, actually, almost the most important! The cover is always the first thing to be seen and well it can make or break any good book! In recent years there have been an explosion of published books, and with that only the cover makes them stand out. My question for everyone is, can you afford not to have a professional cover?

OMT: I'm guessing that becoming a book cover designer was not your plan. What decisions directed your path into this area? 

James: Well, I would blame my wife! (I say blame but I thank her everyday. I really love making cover art.) I started to work on her covers because we could not afford to pay someone else to do it! I actually fought her on it for quite some time because I tried using Photoshop at a younger age and I was TERRIBLE at it! Turned out not that bad, I think.

OMT: How do you go about the process of designing a cover? Do you read the book and pull a visually interesting scene from the text, or work with the author to come up with a composition?

James: No, not at all! Normally to create an image all I need is the genre and the blurb, and if it revolves around specific characters I try to find images that resemble those characters as much as possible. Sometimes to make a beautiful cover all I need is a very brief description. I asked my author friends to give me a brief description of an image that they would like to see, did what I could to create them, and 4 out of 5, I nailed it! Of course, I also ask the author if there is anything specific that they would like to see.

OMT: When there are people on the cover, how do you decide whether they should resemble the main characters in the book or not? I personally like it when they do and it throws me off when there's a detailed description that doesn't match at all.

James: I try to make every character match as much as possible! However, that is not up to me, that is up to the author. Sometimes I find it slightly annoying that the author has a say. (Laughs.) But ultimately I have to do what I am paid to do! The author is the one that decides that. But I have successfully been able to change some details such as hair color, eye color, height and such... so really I come as close as possible. Another problem is when an author picks a PREMADE cover and only does so over price and looks.

OMT: Is a publisher ever involved in cover decisions?

James: Oh yeah! Actually sometimes they have more say than the author. Sometimes I don't even discuss anything with the author when it comes to a publisher!

OMT: How should an author decide between a premade cover and a custom one? What are the advantages of each?

James: I believe that the number one mistake in making a cover, or having someone else make one, is too much detail! And this is why:

  1. Cost. By putting too many images on a cover your cost will go up!
  2. It gets cluttered.
  3. Too many artworks and text can over-garnish a cover and overwhelm it.
  4. Why are you trying to tell the story before the person has a chance to read it?
  5. Vague covers seem to leave more to the reader's imagination.
  6. If you look at most of the bestsellers their covers give nothing away at all, they were just pretty! A perfect cover should have parts, but not so much detail that the person can already see [the story] before they read it.

The difference between a premade and a custom cover is cost. Mose of us cannot pay for a custom, so we find a premade that fits well. These are okay, but you have to be wary - a lot of designers resell the same premade over and over. Make sure that you know the difference between a premade template and a premade cover.

OMT: Thanks James!