Writing Tips: How to Help Your Cover Designer Come Up With a Killer Design (Guest Post by Nikki Jefford)

How to Help Your Cover Designer 
Come up With a Killer Design 
by Nikki Jefford

In a sea of eBooks, you want to do everything you can to STAND OUT. In other words, you need a catchy book cover.

Maybe you’ll get lucky and your designer will nail it on the first try, but I don’t believe in luck. I believe in revision and team work.

You know your book better than anyone, here are three helpful things you can do to help your designer capture the right tone.

- Provide a descriptive summary and/or synopsis of your book
- Send links to covers that are similar to what you want
- Send links to royalty free stock images or models you think represent your novel or characters

I’m lucky that my designer is not only talented (and very patient), but that we work well together, which is why I’ve used Naj at Najla Qamber Designs on all my covers.

Here’s an inside look at our process.

The Spellbound Trilogy

I first contacted Naj about designing Entangled around the 2011 holiday. I scanned a picture I liked in Glamor magazine and asked for something similar: woman with hair blowing in the wind. I saw at once on the mockup that it didn’t represent my character Graylee Perez or the feeling of mystery and magic.

The original Entangled cover model has since been used for another author's book.

I spent a week afterwards clicking through royalty free stock image sites until I went cross-eyed. The moment I saw “Gray” I knew at once I’d found my cover. I felt like I’d given birth. It was just like, My Baby!
Cover "modeling": Authors Jenni Merritt, Keary Taylor, Nikki Jefford, and Rachael Wade.

From there we used the same model with different color tones. The first Enchantment mockup was done in red. My choice. I thought love spell = red or pink. No! That plus the image of Gray (which we changed) made her look like an obsessive Devil Girl, not a fun-loving witch in love.

I love the purple tone and the pedals Naj added. It’s like a kiss good-bye since this is the final installment.

(Enchantment just released, by the way, and I’m having a blog party with prizes and guest appearances all week. Check it out!)

Aurora Sky: Vampire Hunter

I have to admit I got a bit cocky with Spellbound and decided I’d go find my own model again with my new Aurora Sky series. I sent Naj a link to a stock model I thought was perfect for Aurora Sky – a young blond in a parka. Naj humored me and made the mockup, adding that she thought it looked like a winter romance rather than an urban fantasy.

This is one where I told Naj what I wanted and she delivered big time! I wanted a cover that screamed Alaska, assassin, cold, dark – and a girl with a red scarf blowing in the wind.

I’m crazy about what she did.

And, as you see, communication is key when aiming for the right cover to represent your work.

Buffy and Faith - the inspiration for Aurora Sky, Vol. 2's cover.

Northern Bites (Aurora Sky, vol. 2)
This cover took the longest to nail down – over a month. Although it’s not releasing until June 27th, I had a cover reveal scheduled at the beginning of April.

The problem was I had Naj start it before I had a clear picture of where I was going with the book. I’ve always wanted a sexy male/female couple on a cover so she tried a couple of those, but they just weren’t doing anything. Finally Naj asked me to email her a synopsis so she could help brainstorm.

We gave it a rest. In the meantime, I wrote a big chunk of the novel and synopsis and realized the book wasn’t going where I thought it was. A character named Valerie ended up partnering with Aurora, which made me think about Buffy and Faith. 

I looked at Buffy and Faith photos and emailed the one above to Naj. I also emailed stock images of the models you see here. From there Naj manipulated them into their current pose holding daggers. 

As you can see, with a little team work, you and your cover designer can make your covers kick butt!


Nikki Jefford is a third generation Alaskan with a degree in journalism from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She loves fantasy, magic, fictional bad boys, and heroines who kick butt.

Nikki married Sébastien, the love of her life, while working as a teaching assistant at a high school in France during the 1999/2000 school year. They now reside in the not-so-tropical San Juan Islands, 70 miles northeast of Forks, Washington in a town without a single traffic light.

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