I love the cover of my new book Married to a Perfect Stranger. The purple is gorgeous, and the look the couple is exchanging positively sizzles. It fits the story so well. Wondering about the process of creating covers, I talked with talented artist/designer Duncan Eagleson about how a great book cover comes about.
Where do you start when you're designing a book cover?
DE: For preference, with reading the book. This isn't always possible. Sometimes I have to get by with a synopsis, or the back cover copy, or even just with descriptions of the main characters. But the more I know about the book, the better job I can do.
Do you get guidelines from the editor or author, or do they leave the concept up to you?
DE: Generally clients leave it up to me. I've done this sort of work for over thirty years now, and most of my clients trust me to create the concept. I recently had a client who already had a very specific scene and layout he wanted. I did a color sketch to his specifications, but I also showed him an alternative design of my own. He fell in love with it, and we went with my design.
Say you're commissioned to do a romance cover. Is there anything in particular you think about?
DE: The first thing I consider is the mood and tone of the book. Is it light and witty, almost a rom-com? Or serious and moody? Perhaps it's got mysterious elements, or shades toward the paranormal. Romances are always about relationships, but every book has its unique aspects, and you want to convey those in the cover design.
For cover paintings, do you use models or still-lifes, or just your imagination?
DE: Not all my cover illustrations are paintings. Some use stock photos or photo-manipulations. But I always begin by sketching based on imagination. A reference photo can save a lot of time in painting, showing how clothing will drape, or the shape of a cast shadow.
Are there elements that a non-artist might not realize are part of the design process?
DE: I’d say, composition. You can't just throw a couple of figures in there, slap at title on it and go. I show a client three or four color sketches, but prior to that, I may have done dozens of thumbnail sketches working out the composition, so that the elements lead the eye around the page the way I want them to.
Thank you, Duncan!
Duncan Eagleson is an author, painter, animator, sculptor, and award winning maskmaker. He contributed art to Neil Gaiman's SANDMAN, adapted and illustrated Anne Rice’s THE WITCHING HOUR, and has made masks for Wes Craven's CURSED, the WWE wrestler Kane, the Big Apple Circus, and the Smithsonian. His first novel, Darkwalker, is now available.
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