I’d like to welcome Jennifer Quinlan to Layered Pages today to talk with me about her book cover design business. Jennifer, aka Jenny Q, owner of Historical Editorial, is an editor and cover designer specializing in historical fiction, romance, and fantasy. A member of the Historical Novel Society, the Editorial Freelancer’s Association, the American Historical Association, and various local and regional historical organizations, she lives in Virginia with her husband, a Civil War re-enactor and fellow history buff.
Jenny, please tell me about your graphic design company and how you got into the business.
I’ve always been an extremely visual person, and my love for design began about eighteen years ago when I started scrapbooking. That was back when we worked with actual printed photos and paper, scissors, glue, etc. A few years later, I started working in the advertising department of my hometown daily newspaper. As an outside sales rep, I met with local and regional business owners and helped them create print and online advertising campaigns, and I worked with our team of graphic designers to bring the ads to life. I learned more about the process then and the collaborative relationship designers have with their clients. Then I moved into real estate and began designing marketing materials for my brokerage. When the economy collapsed and advertising and real estate both collapsed along with it, I turned my attention and my skills to my biggest passions—books!—and helping self-published authors, and thus Historical Fiction Book Covers was born.
What is the latest book cover you designed?
I have several completed covers that I can’t share to the public yet, though I’m itching to do so! My most recent published cover is Blood Enemy by Martin Lake.
How far in advance do you schedule clients work?
My schedule is usually filled several months in advance, and I’m currently scheduling cover designs for March 2018 and beyond. A piece of advice for indie authors: Don’t wait till the last minute to choose a cover designer and book a spot in their schedule. Busy designers are often booked well in advance and are rarely able to take you on immediately. Plus you’ll want to have your cover early so you can start generating some pre-publication buzz. It’s also required to make your book available for pre-order.
What have you learned the most about book cover design along the way?
That I will probably work my whole life and never know how to use even half of Photoshop’s amazing capabilities! I’ve also had to learn how to swallow my pride and handle feedback and criticism of my work objectively and professionally. And I’ve learned that although I may have strong opinions about each cover I design, I have to always remember that it’s not my book, it’s the author’s, and ultimately they have to make the final decision and walk away with a cover they love and feel is most appropriate for their book.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! But mostly I draw inspiration from other covers. Covers are like eye candy for me, and I’m always browsing through them, studying them, drooling over them. It’s important to be knowledgeable about trends in my genres and also to keep an eye on which types of covers are selling the most books. I also find inspiration in artwork as I’m browsing. I’m constantly finding images of models or backgrounds or historical paintings that make me stop and say, “Oh, that would make a great cover someday! I better save this.”
As a Historical Fiction enthusiast, do you feel this helps when creating book covers for Historical Fiction writers?
No doubt about it. Spending so much time in the genre makes me very familiar with cover trends and the types of covers that appeal to particular audiences. It’s also immensely helpful in choosing accurate period clothing and settings.
In your professional opinion, what is the importance of book cover designs?
Your book cover is at the top of the list in terms of importance. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your book, but no one outside of your immediate sphere of influence will read it if you don’t have a cover that catches their attention. I’m sure we all wish it weren’t so, but we do tend to judge books by their covers, and I think this is especially true of indie books. I tend to skip right over books with crappy covers. Not because I’m a cover snob (okay, maybe a little bit), but because I expect an indie book to be just as professionally produced as a book coming from one of the big publishing houses.
What are the other services you offer?
I often create social media banners for my clients based on the covers we design, and I can also prepare print files for bookmarks, business cards, and other marketing materials. On another note, I do offer several tiers of pricing for cover designs. A custom cover design can be expensive (as it should be given the hours and hours of work that go into finding and choosing the right artwork, creating concepts and putting together multiple mockups, and then the rounds of revisions necessary until the final product is complete), but authors who already have their art or who are willing to take on the responsibility of finding their own cover art get steep discounts from me.
Where can people find you on social media?
I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google +, and LinkedIn.
What advice can you give to inspiring graphic designers?
Keep honing your craft and studying your market. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. Be sociable and network, which is easier to do than ever thanks to the digital world and social media. Strive for professionalism and to develop a reputation for being easy to work with, but don’t let people take advantage of you either.
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