Part 8 in our ongoing series is about the importance of the book cover! Book covers are the most important tool that we have to sell a book. Book covers instantly tell us what a book is about. And if they are really good, they also draw us in and make us want to read the blurb and buy the book. Today we feature a Q and A with the very talented and creative book cover designer and artist, Laura Givens. Laura creates all the wonderful covers for Lachesis Publishing.
How did you get into cover book design?
For years I was basically a cartoonist and was doing advertising work, cut and paste work mostly. Then I got diabetes and my vision went all wonky. There was no comfortable distance for my drawing board that left me free to look at other things. Then a friend gave me a graphics tablet for Christmas which sat around gathering dust for a couple of months. I mean, what do I know about computers? Bored and depressed one night, I started to play with the darned thing and . . . WOW!!! Within a couple of months I was turning out some pretty slick stuff which I showed to another old friend, Robin D. Owens, an award winning Paranormal Romance writer. She showed my stuff to an editor friend and I was given a tryout assignment. That editor must have liked what she saw because nine years later I’m still doing them.
What and/or who are your artistic inspirations?
That would be a very long list ranging from comic book illustrators to classical illustrators to fine artists like Van Gogh and Picasso. Two that I will single out, though neither was a romance artist, are James Bama and Norman Rockwell. Rockwell always told a story with his paintings that made you feel like you had been there yourself. This is so important for a book cover, it invites the reader in to hear a good story about someone who could easily be a friend. Bama is the Guy who did all the marvelous Doc Savage covers back in the sixties. He did dozens of covers that always had Doc standing there in a torn shirt. They were basically all the same cover but he managed to make each one feel fresh, new and exciting. That is magic.
Why are book covers so important and what are the most important elements that go into a good book cover?
While romance covers are a particular challenge, they still have the same job as every other type of book cover. A cover has to stop a potential reader long enough for her to pick the book up and want to see what’s inside. From that point it’s all on the author. With romance readers there is also the task of letting them know that this is an author that they have likely read and loved before, but this is also something new and fresh.
What kind of research do you do when working on a cover?
My work with Lachesis Publishing mostly involves my skills as a designer as you (LeeAnn Lessard) usually give me an image to start with that didn’t originate with me. So I go plunging into typefaces, trying to find something that will enhance the book and evoke the right emotions. I often also have to do research of old clothing to get details right for the period of the book. Those wonderful dresses rarely come off the rack as is.
If I looked at your desk right this moment, what would I find sitting there?
Oh geez, there’s my Kermit the Frog mug filled with pencils, my Rollgirls hand fan (Yay, roller derby!) and various drawing tools. Next to all that is my cool, detailed skull wearing a cheesy, plastic pirate eye-patch. There’s canned air, a bendy grey alien, various CDs, papers, half a bottle of Gorilla Glue and my trusty graphics tablet . . . You know, the usual.
We love all of your covers! Here are 3 of the covers you did for us: It was hard to pick!
Tell us what you like about each cover and how you came up with them.
The Possession by J.D. Spikes
More Than Charming by JoMarie DeGioia
Season For Murder by J.M. Griffin
As I said before, I usually don’t come up with the actual “art” or photograph used in these covers. What I do is take these various elements and work with my editor until it becomes a real, honest-to-gosh cover. This can entail everything from re-coloring, to cropping, to adding dramatic lighting and a sense of drama or humor. I always love working on J.M.’s books because they let me stick my tongue into my cheek, where it should be. Both of the covers by J.D. and JoMarie let me stretch my drama legs, finding that special place that brings a sigh and a smile to the reader’s lips. They know they are in for a great read. When you pick up a book by these authors, the cover reassures you that you have stepped in the right door and that is what branding is all about.
What do YOU like to read?
I’m not much of a romance reader, though I do read Robin Owens sometimes, but tend more toward science fiction. Now I’m not talking fantasy here (Though I do make an exception for George Martin’s marvelous Game of Thrones) I love hard SF. Vernor Vinge, Alan Steele, Arthur C Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Connie Willis. Give me space ships and time travel and I am a happy girl.
What do you do when you finish a cover? Do you celebrate or take a nap?
On a really good day, I jump right into the next cover. The only thing I dislike about being a book cover artist is when there is nothing fun to plunge into. It’s sad to think that everyone doesn’t have a job they feel that way about.