Editor Kelly Shorten - Behind the Scenes
This month, Kelly Shorten, IT/Art Director for Musa Publishing shares insight into creating book covers. In addition, she tells us how an author can help in getting the cover they envision when given the opportunity for their input.
Share a little about yourself, Kelly. How did you become a cover artist and now Art Director at Musa Publishing?
I started working with computers when I went back to college for my Administrative Assistant degree. While going to school I had to take a class on web design. That started my quest for learning anything and everything design and layout. After earning my degree I got a job with Montana Lottery. While working as an Admin Asst. I was lucky enough to work with the art department to learn all I could about designing lottery tickets, promotional & marketing items and teaching me more advanced web design. After 5 years with MT Lottery, I was asked to apply for another department in the state as a web designer. I worked for the State of Montana for 10 years then I moved my family to Texas. I needed a job so I started freelance web & graphic design. While in the internet world I found eBooks and fell in love with my second love all over again... reading. I joined an author group and started talking with the author about some promotional ideas. From a design I did for her, she recommended me to another author for more promotional items. That progressed into more and more design work until an author asked me to design a cover for them, and it has grown from there. Growing from one author to multiple, I also started working for a publisher. When the publisher had problems, I stepped in to help organize and continue the business for the authors. When that went south, the other staff and I got together and started Musa Publishing.
When a cover artist applies to be on the Musa staff, do you test them? What does that involve?
I don't test for a cover artist but I do look over their portfolio carefully. What I look for is skill with photos, illustration and an eye for layout and design. How an artist puts a layout together, use of color and fonts is also a big part of how I view an artist’s work.
What happens if you disagree with the suggestion an author makes on what they think should be on the cover?
I disagree a lot with what an author wants. LOL Sometimes I make other suggestions or recommendations, but if an author is set on a specific design I try my best to make what they envision work.
Does management team at Musa ever get involved in cover designs, or is that area left up to you and the author?
Occasionally I will ask others to review covers and let me know their thoughts on what they think needs improvement, but mostly it is the author and myself that decide on the final cover.
What types of covers do you think sell best?
The best designed covers are ones that catch your eye and make you go WOW. Some covers are over designed with too much color or too many images. It is hard to find the right balance but when you do, it is perfect. Some covers call for one object to pull in a reader, some require more detail. No matter what is on the cover it definitely needs to attract a reader to pick up the book. The cover is the first step in getting a book into a reader’s hands. If you have the wrong cover, or even the wrong content on the cover, and you miss a reader. Balance is everything. How erotic do you make the erotic covers? How sweet do you make the sweet romance covers? How can you convey a mystery cover over a thriller cover? These are all good questions and a cover artist always has to answer these or similar questions to begin the process of a cover.
Who determines the heat level of a cover? Are their guidelines in place on how hot a cover can be?
The other Directors and I discussed the cover requirements for each genre at Musa when we were setting up the company. Musa does have rules for different imprints and heat levels for the covers. We don't want to put naked people on a sweet romance or a background of a classroom on an erotic title.
How frequently do authors have issues with the cover models used on their book and the look they envision for their characters not being right?
With the Delphi Book Details System we created for Musa Publishing that isn't too much of an issue. We have a cover and marketing form for the authors to fill out before we start on the covers that ask for a lot of details. If the artist or I have questions or need more information we ask the author. If the author doesn't like their cover for whatever reason, we work closely with the author to make it as close to their vision as possible. Sometimes it works quickly, sometimes not.
Is there a set number of times a Musa author can request changes to their cover before the publish date?
I try to keep the changes to a minimum because we have a lot of covers to design along with the other art we provide. Luckily it doesn't happen often that we have to create the cover over and over.
What advice can you give to authors when they envision their cover? What helps you the most in meeting their vision?
The best advice I give an author is to tell me a pivotal scene in their book. If that doesn't work then describe or find images on the internet of what they envision their characters (house, city, etc) to look like.
Thank you taking the time to share with us, Kelly.
Readers can view the Musa covers on the Musa Publishing website http://www.musapublishing.com
Columnist Lizzie T. Leaf: Award winning author, Lizzie T. Leaf enjoys writing Paranormal/Fantasy with a twist of humor and heat. Her Magical Love series is available in print and eBook at Passion in Print and other sellers. Beyond Magic, the first book in the series won the 2012 AOE Best Paranormal/Fantasy/Sci-Fi. The DEAD series is available through Musa Publishing where she also has two Christmas novellas, the Contemporary Fantasy, Forget the Mistletoe and Making Christmas, the LRC Best Historical winner and the 2012 Aspen Gold Best Novella winner.