Today I have Christa Holland talking about the covers she did for The Star Thief Chronicles by Jamie Grey, self-published through Createspace.
How did you become a designer? Was it an area you always wanted to explore, or did it simply happen?
I remember spending hours working with Gimp and Photoshop in high school, trying to teach myself everything I could. During college, I was hired by a local print shop as a designer and then, later, at a t-shirt company. I also ran my own small photography business around this time.
As a life-long reader, I always loved cover art, but it wasn’t until after college that I began to really consider the idea of doing cover art myself.
How was the process of developing the cover? If someone wants to hire you, how should they proceed?
The covers for both novels (Star Thief & Athena’s Ashes) as well as the novella (Fortune’s Risk), were all a bit different. To be honest, Star Thief gave me a bit of trouble at the start, while I was trying to find stock and pull everything together. The very first proof was much more blue and had less of a “grungy” feel overall. However, once I got Jamie’s feedback, everything began to fit together. Athena’s Ashes and Fortune’s Risk, however, started much more smoothly, since we’d already worked out the fonts and over-all style for the series.
Still, all custom covers start the same: The author/publisher contacts me and we’ll schedule a week to work on the cover together. Then give me some info about the book! For anyone that’s curious, there’s a list of details that helps me get started here.
How much was the author involved in this project, and was there a clear goal in mind since the beginning?
Jamie was very involved. Actually, she found the model that we ended up using on the final cover art, and I am so glad she did!
Personally, I need a clear goal to even get started on the artwork. If I can’t get an overall feel for the story from the beginning, I struggle to pull everything together. Each aspect of the cover – stock image(s), font and typography of the title as well as the font of any other text – all have to work together to communicate the genre and a bit about the story in a single glance. So, needless to say, I have to get a feel for the story from the beginning of the project. Sometimes this involves sharing stock images, other times, it’s just one or two extra questions that get me pointed in the right direction.
Do you have pictures of earlier designs?
From your experience, do publishers have the final say regarding the design of the book, or does the designer/illustrator have free rein?
The publisher and/or author always has final say. Personally, as a designer, I love it when the author/publisher comes to me with a clear vision, but at the same time, I need a bit of “wiggle” room. Too specific and the artwork feels a bit “stiff”, but too vague and it’s hard for me to catch their vision and get started.
Still, I always want the project to come together so that the author/publisher has that “this is the cover for my story” moment.
Finally, what are some of the favourite book covers you’ve seen (recently or not), from other designers and illustrators?
There are so many! I love looking at new releases, mostly so I can stare at all the pretty covers. One that has really caught my eye somewhat recently is YOU by Caroline Kepnes. Also, ALL OUR PRETTY SONGS by Sarah McCarry, SPARK by Rachel Craw, and the covers of all three novels in THE GRISHA TRILOGY by Leigh Bardugo.
Thank you so much Christa for your answers!
Here are more examples of Christa’s work, and you can see more on her website Paper and Sage!