Cover Artist Frauke Spanuth

- by Laura Phillips

Frauke Spanuth

Frauke Spanuth

Tell us about yourself
I always tell people that behind CrocoDesigns is one woman who loves crocodiles as much as her design work and if I can’t be found working on a project, that I’m reading the latest romance/urban fantasy novel. And it’s true! I’m living 24/7 a dream, involving lots of books.

When I’m not designing covers, I work on promotional items like bookmarks or on websites.  I specialize in WordPress powered websites,  and I don’t only design them, but maintain them, too. If you are a Brava or Aphrodisia author for example, you also know me as your webmistress at bravaauthors.com and aphrodisiaauthors.com.

As I’m German and living in Germany, I’m also known for answering emails at odd times and doing some funny things with the English language. Lucky me, though, so far, no one has complained.

Why did you decide to develop ebook covers?

My career as cover artist began in 2005. The e-publisher Venus Press (long gone now)  held a cover art contest in which I participated.  I always loved reading, books and all things publishing. I thought designing covers must be fun(and yes, it still is! – I’m always giddy with excitement when a new cover assignment arrives).   I won the third place in that contest. As result I got hired by the publisher and a little later the same year I also started working for Loose Id. In past years you could also see my covers at Ellora’s Cave/Cerridwen Press and Cobblestone Press.

Carina Press, Harlequin’s digital-only publishing house, hired me this year in January, and come October 2010 you’ll get to see my first Harlequin Nocturne Bites covers (and my first Harlequin Undone).  Currently I work for Harlequin/Carina Press and Loose Id as well as design covers comissioned by authors (for other publishers and/or self-publishing plans). The majority of the covers I design are eBooks.

How long does it take to create a cover?

There are some cases where I work up to eight hours on a cover, requested changes by the author/publisher not counted. I’m very picky myself.  If you also calculate in the time spent on searching for the right models/stock images/fonts, it can take even longer.   When I count in the time to receive feedback on different cover versions and then applying requested changes (or even starting over), it can take a full month sometimes to get a final cover approved by marketing, editor and author.

What type of information do you need from the author in order to create an effective cover for the book?

Tea and Spices - author commission

Commissioned by the author

If authors commission me directly, they receive a little check list from me. Technical requirements are important, such as cover size, bleed, and so on because the best cover doesn’t help if it’s not meeting the specs asked for by the printer/publisher.

I need the usual info like book title, author name, genre, time/settings and mood. Beyond that I’m thrilled if authors provide me a story synopsis/short excerpt, let me know about key symbols and what their characters look like (or if they prefer no people on the cover at all). Often images, i.e. other covers,  the author likes are attached.

Publishers provide me from time to time with competitive covers, i.e. covers for same genre books. So we also look at what others are doing.

How much does it cost to hire someone to create a good cover? What’s the range?

I can’t talk for all artists here, but expect to pay something between $200 and $500+ for a full cover flat (front, spine & back). Prices for eBook covers that only require a front cover may be found at the lower end of that range.  Important factors for the price here are the cover art type and the rights management.  As you can imagine a cover using exclusive photos (no stock image anyone can purchase) or painted covers will always be more expensive.  Same with the usage rights. You usually have to pay artists extra for example for the rights to produce merchandise (e.g. Cafe Press items) based upon the cover art.

Exit Light from Carina Press

Commissioned by Carina Press

If you prefer exclusive photos, make sure your cover artist offers this service (i.e. is her/himself a photographer or works together with one exclusively). Discuss all questions concerning cover art usage and copyright. Cross your t’s and dot you i’s where rights management is concerned.

Also, when you discuss pricing, ask if/how many requested changes are covered by that fee or if there will be extra charges for changes.

This link takes you to a PDF about the making of Patricia Briggs’ Moon Called cover by Dan dos Santos. When you see what’s all involved here in the cover art creation process you’ll understand why sometimes even not $500 is the end of that range by a long shot.

Be sure when hiring a cover artist to cover all these questions about price, rights, and so forth prior to any work (though most good artists will educate you or/and offer you a contract).  And don’t forget to mention if you ‘only’ need a cover for a free read (no-profit). Often artists offer lower rates than when you use the cover for profit.

On a budget?  Due to popular demand by my clients, I offer now ‘mini covers’ (for eBooks only). While authors prefer an attractive cover, the budget isn’t often there yet. If they self-publish stories, for example short stories or novellas, they won’t be pricing these very high. Until they know how sales go, this whole thing is an experiment and they don’t want to get burned by investing more money than they receive in the end. Absolutely understandable.  The mini covers I do are very simple: one single stock image, maybe with a color hue and the author name/book title on top of it. Size: 600 x 900 pixels, price: $ 25.

Do you upload the covers directly for your cover customers or just deliver the file to the customer?

I don’t upload anything, not covers, not bookmarks or anything else for that matter. All final files once approved and paid for are emailed to the author.

What issues should authors be thinking about when selecting a design, whether they’re hiring a designer or creating their own covers?

My top three in no particular order:

Demon's Fall from Carina Press

Commissioned by Carina Press

1. Fonts, font colors and font size. Really! Recently I saw an eBook cover whose colors have been black, dark brown and blue. The font color was also blue. We don’t want to talk about thumbnail size here, but even with a decently sized copy it was hard to tell the title or author name of that book.

2. Covers also have to work at thumbnail size. (Amazon thumbnail size is about 80 x 115 in pixels).

3. Attract the right readership! If you want to sell a Sci-Fi novel, have the cover say Sci-Fi, and not differently. Don’t put pink flowers on a cover just because you like them when your book is full of hard, kick-ass cyberspace action.

What, in your opinion, is the difference between a cover that effectively sells a book and one that’s mediocre or just plain awful?

Mini-cover

A good artist. Though, I think that even an awful cover would effectively sell the book if Nora Roberts is the author’s name. For a new or less known author, a good cover is more important. And if the author loves her/his cover, it’s more likely that s/he likes to showcase and promo with it.

Really, selling a book depends on more factors when just the cover, but an attractive cover will definitely be an advantage.

How can authors interested in your services reach you?

Contact me through the Croco Designs website:  www.crocodesigns.com

You can also check Twitter for the latest news: www.twitter.com/crocodesigns

2 comments

  1. You do great covers, Frauke! So I was keen to read this interview and find out a little about what goes on in the creation of cover art. Thanks so much.

  2. Beautiful work, Frauke! I love hearing so much about a lesser known side of the business!