When I am asked to design a cover, I always start the same way. I create a template to the size of the book, import the cover copy into separate text boxes and then import the picture(s) supplied. I study the image for quality, content and whether it’s good enough for a full bleed cover or if it needs to be smaller and boxed, or vignetted, or whatever. Then I just play around to see what works. I would normally do three or four designs, sometimes more, sometimes less, and send them to Savas Beatie for comment.
When I designed the first cover for the Emerging Civil war series, way back when, I was not aware of how big the project was to become!
On the face of it, the first cover seemed simple enough: find a background texture, decide on title, subtitle and author type, design an unobtrusive logo and add an image. Simples! The trick now is to make so many books look part of a series, but different in some way so they stand alone in their own right.
Apart from the coloring, I guess this is largely done by the picture choice. There have been some images that have been stronger than others, which give more impact on the covers – for example, Calamity in Carolina has a great color image, To the Bitter End has an intriguing picture and Fight Like the Devil has an amazing emotive content. These are probably my favorite covers, along with Strike them a Blow, which shows what you can do with a black and white image in photoshop.
The title type is fun, unusual and striking . . . err, and also a pain to work with. But it is the key to the branding, I think. What you wouldn’t realise is the amount of time spent using photoshop, retouching the font characters and remaking letters that don’t read well without some modification. I think we should avoid titles with words starting with F’s, G’s, J’s, Q’s and U’s . . . please!
With so many titles on the list, it must be hugely successful, so I am glad that I have been able to be involved in a project that has stood the test of time and will last for many years to come.
Ian offered additional insights into his work as a book cover designer in the “Behind the Scenes” column of the September 2021 ECW newsletter.