At a recent meeting of the Minnesota chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers, our guest speaker was Jennifer Parker, Senior Graphic Designer at Bethany House Publishers. Jennifer began by asking us what we thought made a good cover, and then went on to explain her thoughts, and the process she goes through to create the beautiful covers she designs for many bestselling authors, including several Inspired by Life and Fiction authors: Lynn Austin, Tamera Alexander, Jody Hedlund, Becky Wade, me, and Karen Witemeyer too, I think. (Karen?)
I met Jennifer Parker about 17 years ago back when I was the advertising manager for Bethany House Publishers and I interviewed her for a job as a graphic designer. I consider it one of the accomplishments from my years there that I’m most proud of—being smart enough to hire Jennifer Parker!
Jennifer’s covers consistently win online reader’s choice awards and top spots on Goodreads favorite cover lists. And it was an honor to have her share her insights on cover design with us.
Among other things, Jennifer shared the challenges of creating the best cover (attractive & attention-getting, accurately representing genre, readable, etc.) for each book, searching out background photos, and the many steps she goes through in preparing for photoshoots to create unique images for her covers. One funny story she shared was when the beautiful model she’d chosen (who’d worn scarves and long sleeves in all her sample shots) showed up for the photoshoot with a very modern-looking tattoo! The tattoo would have shown under the short-sleeved Regency gown Jennifer had ordered. Thank heavens she had also had a long-sleeved Spencer jacket made as well. (Though knowing Jennifer and the magic of Photoshop, she could have taken care of it one way or another. 🙂 )
When asked if she ever receives feedback from readers about her covers, Jennifer replied that she does. I was glad to hear that readers and reviewers (especially book bloggers) have taken the time to pass on positive comments when they love one of her covers.
As an author, I often receive praise about the covers of my books and am quick to redirect all kudos to Jennifer and the creative team at Bethany House. I have very little to do with the covers beyond providing input in the form of a synopsis, photos of how I see my characters, and ideas for costume and setting. Jennifer and the team take it from there. Here’s what I recall of the steps Jennifer described, in layman’s terms:
- Creating sketches/mock-ups from author & editor input and period research
- Creative team and marketing input
- Hiring model(s)
- Directing stylist, who transforms model’s hair & makeup for period
- Finding costumes, jewelry, and props
- Working with a professional photographer
- Taking tons of shots and then arduously narrowing them down
- Creating the cover with photo, design elements, typestyles, etc.
- More input from the creative team, sales team, etc.
- Finalizing the cover
Whew! A lot of work, but what wonderful end results.
How would you answer the question: What makes a good cover?