We have been really fortunate to be able to get some time with Scarlett Rugers, Artist, Illustrator, Book Cover Designer and even a painter of words.
There is no doubt that a brilliant novel can be made even more shiny and bright with a fabulous, well designed and thought out cover, and we wanted to ask Scarlett about the process, and how an artist like herself can help. Look out tomorrow for a piece by Scarlett on "Making a Bad Book Cover Look Good", an unmissable read for anyone embarking on publishing their first book.
We started asking Scarlett about herself – who is Scarlett Rugers?
"I’ve been a writer for seventeen years, and a graphic designer for six. I work with Amazon as a book designer, but also work directly with self-published authors as a Publishing Identity Consultant and Designer.
I’ve published 1001 First Lines, and am working on publishing Oscar and Josephine next – a fiction novel. Apart from design and writing I love movies, food, and reading."
How did you get to specialise in book cover design was it something you had always planned to work in or just sort of grew into?
"As a writer long before I was a graphic designer it was an ultimate dream of mine, to bring the two passions together, but I had to get the experience in the design industry under me before I could make the launch. And the launch happened very unexpectedly when a friend of mine asked me to design the book cover for her novel, Love on the Fly, and then after that I got an explosion of requests for book design and it took off from there!"
Scarlett, can you talk us through the process of creating a book cover from the moment an author contacts you? What can they expect and how prepared should they be?
"The process varies from author to author, depending on their ideas for their cover (if they have any at all), their understanding of how design works, and how flexible they are on their vision.
I’m always ready for questions. I don’t expect the authors I collaborate with to know how it works or to be very prepared- that’s my job!
The questionnaire I get them to fill out gives them the opportunity to think- for themselves, not just for me- about what they really want for their cover.
So it starts with reading the book which I believe is a vital part of the process. Not even the entire thing, but enough to get the themes and major elements that play the big part.
While I’m reading the book I ask the author to fill out a questionnaire to refine their ideas, and so they can share with me other designs and images that inspire them.
Followed by brainstorming and gathering ideas, researching your competition and carving out the best concepts that represent your book the best.
It’s back and forth between the author and myself to gain clarity, and a true vision, for your book cover.
Then the book cover comes together. I spend the next few days building three or more comps (different versions of the cover) to send to the author for feedback.
After the initial sending of the cover it’s all about hearing the thoughts of the author, making the changes they’d like to see, and making sure it’s in alignment with their ultimate end goal.
Once we whittle the book cover down in to the image the author is truly happy with I send over the final high res images ready for upload!"
Being a writer yourself how much emphasis do you think should be placed on having a good cover for your book in today’s market?
"A book cover is no longer just a book cover. It’s an identity, a brand. By publishing your book you are entering the world of business- whether you know it or not. You’re producing a product- your book- which you sell to your customers- the reader.
As a Publishing Identity Consultant and Designer I help authors understand how much it will change them as a writer to have a professionally designed book cover.
Book covers are about selling your work- and also establishing the identity of the author in their industry. It’s more than just having a pretty cover on a book. What sort of identity do you want in your industry? Do you want to be an author who has a book cover which looks rough and amateurish, and therefore your identity as an author says “This is the quality of my work, and how much effort I put in to publishing”? Or do you want to be the author with a gorgeous book cover that says about your identity: “THIS is the quality of my work, and how much effort I put in to publishing”?
Let’s look at it closely:
Your book cover should look professional because that will show you are a professional who produces quality work. Therefore it will sell more.
Your book cover should look professional because that will encourage you to act as a professional. By doing the things a professional author does, such as getting a high quality book cover designed and paying an editor and a proof reader to go through your book, you set a much higher bar of expectation for yourself than you previously would have. Therefore your book will sell more.
Your book cover should look professional because that will show- to yourself and your readers- you have what it takes to be a best seller. You perform as best sellers do by writing and editing the best book you can be. You don’t cut corners, you’re not on this journey for a brief moment. This is your life and you will be the best you can be. Your work will always improve, always get better. Therefore your books will sell more."
What do you think the state of the self-publish market is like today? I mean there are some truly great works out there but at the same time there is a lot of rubbish just being put out in the hope of making some quick money.
"If you don’t think it should be published, don’t publish it. If you haven’t put the best effort you can into your book, don’t publish it. If you say to yourself before hitting the submit button ‘it’s good enough’, don’t publish it.
Just like everyone else out there I’ve read some extraordinary books by self-published authors, and I’ve read some books that needed serious reworking. I want this industry to BOOM and with it I want authors to recognize with pride and joy the great quality of work they CAN produce.
I think the level of quality in the self-publishing industry can- and will- improve. It’s a purpose of mine to help it. By enabling authors to seize that inner power, grab it with both hands and drag it along with them, to be a best seller. By doing that I hope the industry will see better, higher quality work as time goes on.
But I know that quality reading won’t come of a book until the author realizes they need to approach a book with the same hard edged critique and tough love a traditional publisher would."
On the same note as above what are your feelings on all the talk about paid reviews and have you any thoughts on how Amazon and the likes can regulate the review process?
"Paid reviews are just a part of the evolution of self- publishing. The industry is a toddler, still trying to walk, still trying to find its place in the world. Some say the paid reviews are heinous and the witch hunt began but others have had huge success with it. We’re just trying to find our way, find out what works, and as someone who tries to work and create work that breaks barriers and forces people to question their actions, their thoughts and beliefs, I encourage this.
It didn’t work, okay, let’s move on to the next thing. That’s what all business is- innovation and marketing. It touched both of these points and we might see more of it. But I’m not against it. I think it’s great that people are out there trying different things, even if they don’t work out!"
Apart from book cover design and writing what other creative activities hobbies do you do paint, sing, dance etc?
"I’m a huge movie buff. If I wasn’t an author or designer I’m sure I would have got into cinema, maybe even just as a movie reviewer. But since design and writing are my deep loves, passions that run in my blood, I don’t leave room for much else! If ever I have spare time that’s what I’m doing. I’m drawn to it, I have to be productive!"
And, of course, a few fun questions to round things of
Would you rather be a great writer or a great artist?
"Writer. That is what I found inside me as a child, it’s what made me start living!"
Which Cartoon Character best describes you?
"Fry from Futurama. He and I are both lazy and awesome."
Do you sing in the shower or bath?
"Not so much, but I note take in the shower. Writing on the tiles with whiteboard markers- I don’t know why but showers are pockets of untapped brainstorming productivity. You get into one and immediately the answers of the universe and plot lines and characters to your story become incredibly clear."
What’s your favourite food?
Look out tomorrow for a piece by Scarlett on "Making a Bad Book Cover Design Look Good", an unmissable read for anyone embarking on publishing their first book.