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5 Questions with Designer Tamian Wood – All About Cover Design

In our next five question series with a publishing expert we interviewed award-winning cover designer Tamian Wood.

Tamian Wood, former bookkeeper turned designer extraordinaire, shared some really great tips on how to hire the right designer, what the different types of designers are (illustrator, digital artist, etc), and how to negotiate your work contract, and how Gandalf is missing in today’s publishing world. Tamian also gave us a rundown of some of the most common mistakes that first-time authors make.
Read on for more!
1) Tell us about your background and how you started BeyondDesign.
I started Beyond Design International back in 1995 as a part time, off hours, freelance design business, because I finally figured out that I needed something more creative in my life than book keeping.
It stayed a part time endeavour until 2001 when the software company I worked for downsized. And since I had a few regular clients by then, I decided it was time to commit all of my creative energy towards design. It helped that I had a hugely supportive husband to back me up.  I finished up my Graphic Design Technology degree, and never looked back.
At that time I did any type of print design I could get my hands on. Billboards, ad design, package design, exhibit and trade show backdrops, and I even designed an entire museum. I created print works for companies like Disney, Burger King, Visa, Royal Caribbean and the River Heritage Museum in Paducah Kentucky.
I’ve specialized in book cover design since 2005. I still do all those other things, but book cover design is what I enjoy the most.
I had an astrologist client tell me that, based on my charts and such, my purpose (dharma?) in life is to make others shine. Wow! What a lovely purpose! I love that I get to create beautiful – and sometimes purposefully NOT beautiful – things that make others shine.
I now work for several small presses and publishers, and a growing number of indie authors.
2) What do you think is the one thing missing right now in book publishing?
Metaphorically? Gandalf.
Traditionally, a literary agent had to think a story was at least pretty good, then had to convince a publisher to take a chance. That story went through a process whereby it professionally edited, and designed both inside and out.
In today’s self-publishing paradigm, there is no Gandalf on the bridge saying “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”
“You shall not pass before you are properly prepared.” As a result, a lot of flotsam gets through the metaphorical mountain which gives self-publishing a bad name.
I once read a published work that had the protagonists’ name 32 times on the front page. 32 times!
3) What are some mistakes that indie authors make when getting their first cover designed?
Authors are writers and many make the mistake of thinking they can be EVERY professional in the process of publishing a book. More often than not, you get what you pay for. And make no mistake, it get’s paid for. One way or another. In investing in your product up front, or in loss of sales after the fact.
One of my favourite sayings is “Your cover either sells, or it repels.”
The advice I often give new writers is, start saving for the cover from day one when you sit down to start writing. You know it’s going to need a cover at some point. Just by saving your coffee money a couple times a week, by the time you’ve gone through the writing process, then editing, then beta reading, more editing, etc., you could have saved up a tidy sum to put towards the best cover design you can afford.
Some typical mistakes made by indie authors are:

  1. Thinking the cover doesn’t matter.
  2. Thinking they can do it themselves and it’ll be okay.
  3. Thinking their cousin, who took an art class in high school, can do it.
  4. Not trusting their designer when they do make the decision to use one.
  5. Wanting too many elements/concepts to be included on the cover. There is no need for angels with flaming swords on the moon, with the world on fire, a spinning cat and tanning salon.

4) What agreements, if any, should you have negotiated up front when working with a cover designer?
First and foremost, get a contract. Be sure to read the contract. The contract should spell out the scope of the project, what the designer will do for you, and what  you as the author are responsible for.
A good contract should include the number of sample designs you will get and the number of revisions included in the cost. How long each phase will take. What happens if those numbers are exceeded? What is NOT included? Are there any additional expenses? If so, what are they?
5) How can you assess whether a cover designer is a good fit for your book cover?
Do your homework. Know your genre. You wouldn’t use a cartoonist to create a True Crime cover. See what’s coming out from the traditional publishing giants.  They are your competition. Your competition is paying for professional cover design and it shows.
Also, you should know whether you need an illustrator or a digital artist.
Digital artists, like myself, use photographic images melded together to create a unique custom image. Digital artists are usually less expensive because what we do takes a bit less time than an illustrator.
An illustrator hand draws each element, either traditionally, on paper or canvas, or it could be done on the computer too. They are usually considerably more expensive because of the increased time involved in creating an artwork, but also in making changes.
Finally, choose your cover designer based on style, experience and reputation, and not necessarily just on price. Does that designer create imagery that looks like what is being published by Tor Books, Penguin, Harper Collins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt?
A good designer has spent years honing their craft, thousands on equipment, thousands more on software. It takes time, money and experience to become good at cover design. That kind of experience does not come to you for “a fiverr’ or a “99c design.”
6) Bonus question: What is your favorite cover design of all time?
I love the Twilight series original red, black and white covers. They are clean, conceptual and striking. They really draw in the reader with their strong, simple concepts and high contrast colour story.
For a closer look at her work, here’s her video trailer:

About Tamian Wood: 
Tamian Wood has 20 years experience, a degree in Computer Science, and another in Graphic Design Technology. She is founder of Beyond Design International. She’s on the National Deans list, and a member of Phi Theta Kappa National Honour Society.
A list of her countless awards and credibility are here.
Also, check out her website!
Video Trailer:


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