Julius Thompson Q/A session with Kellie Dennis from London, England!
JT: Please tell us about the life of an international book cover artist.?
KD: Busy—really busy, I always have something to do, my mind always has ideas floating around. I could be working on one cover and scrawling through lots of images on a stock site and I will suddenly see an image that I really like or that may work for another cover I have on my list. I will end up downloading it and sometimes even leave the cover I was working on because the new ideas are there. Then going back to what I was previously doing.
Designing covers is a bit like writing books; you must be in the right frame of mind to even start work and sometimes this can take a few days to get really into the mood to start designing.
JT: What is the process of developing a book cover?
KD: Every cover artist works differently but for myself the first thing I do is ask the author for the title, authors name, series and/or tag line lines, then I need to know more about the book: where it’s based, what the genre, and most importantly what the main characters look like, also if there’s any items in the book but could be used on the front cover.
I always recommend authors stay away from trying to re-create a scene from their books for the front cover unless they have a picture or images that they have written the scene around, it’s very hard to find the exact image that an author would have written about. And we all know the readers love to pick holes if something is not right.
From the information the author’s given me, I will then have a look on stock sites (like Shutterstock, iStock, Adobe Stock and places like Period Images) to find the perfect images. I say images because many of my covers have anything from 1 to 10 images to create the perfect single cover.
For authors that want exclusive book covers I would contact model/photographers direct to see what they have image wish. These images can cost anything from $200-$2000 per image.
Once I have the images I would then start the design process. This can take me anywhere from 30 minutes to a full day’s work—it’s a case of laying the images over each other to get the layout I want, then the process of cropping images removing them from backgrounds touching them up and adding the finishing touches like colour, tones and magical glossy look that lot of my covers are known for.
JT: What exciting covers are you working on now? How do you know when you are finished with the cover?
KD: All my covers are exciting I love working with first-time authors where everything is new. When they first see samples I send them, they get so emotional and can’t believe that I have brought their world to life. I’ve had a lot of authors say that I’m a mind reader.
I do have an exciting series of covers I am designing for USA Today Bestselling author, Lexy Timms, using model Nathan Hainline images. Lexy is a great author, and I have designed close to 200 covers for her so far.
When I started designing covers I was watching a YouTube video on how to do something. I always remember the guy that was in the video said something along the lines of “as humans we have a tendency to over doing things so whatever you doing to an image if it be make it lighter/darker adding colour, once you think you have finished reduce it by 10%” and that’s what I always do to finished a cover, I’m a great believer in less is more.
JT: Please tell us about your life as a book of artist in England?
KD: It’s probably the same as everywhere else in a sense. Maybe in England we get more rain and it’s a lot colder but I don’t find being in England to have an effect on my business. Most of my authors know my times zone are different and are willing to work around it, I’m also not a great morning person so I don’t mind working late into the evening once the kids are in bed, and sleeping in a little in the morning.
JT: When did you first consider yourself an artist?
KD: Probably not until recently. My son had to do some schoolwork where they had to google the parents pictures and when my son put my name into Google loads my book covers appeared and his teacher asked him what they all where and he said, “My mum designed them and she the artist.” Also, recently this year me and my husband went to a book signing and at the after party I got chatting to quite a few different people and I was shocked at how many people knew who I was and they all had books that I have my designed.
JT: How long and when did you start your work?
KD: I’ve been doing graphic designs for almost 10 years. I started off doing adverts and website design and got into designing books covers around four years ago now. It wasn’t even on my horizon to design covers; I literally fell into the job. It started with my mum telling me to read this book and I had a look at it on Amazon and was like really mum because the cover was not great. That’s a big factor for me when buying books (I freely admit to being a cover snob myself) Anyway, I bought the book and loved it and end up staying up really late reading it and going on Facebook and liking and following the author. She popped up and said thank you for becoming friends. We got chatting and talking about her books I told her that the book had been recommended, but not one I would’ve picked up if I’d been browsing Amazon on my own. I nicely explained that the cover didn’t really appeal to me, one thing led to another and I remade her a new cover that got shown to another author who then ordered a cover and so on so on.
JT: Do you work full time? If so what’s your workday like? If not what do you do other than design and how do you find the time to do this work?
KD: I am a full-time cover designer. This is my only job. My company, Book Cover by Design, has been around for 4 years and became a limited company over year ago.
A normal work day for me usually involves answering around 20 to 50 emails and Facebook messages. Then I usually try and do all printable wraps that may need finishing and little odd jobs like update blurbs etc. I think I spend anything up to 2-4 hours a day on stock sites looking at images and contacting the models and photographers.
I normally design between 2 to 5 covers a day. I have been known to do up to 15 covers if they are part of a series as these tend to be quicker. Once the text is laid out and in place, it’s just a case of changing images and editing images etc
I always try to finish designs the same day as I start them as I can find it quite difficult to get back into the flow of a design once I have stopped.
JT: What would you say is your most interesting artist quirk?
KD: I talk/shout at my PC a lot, lol. I’m not the most patient person in the world so if the Internet go’s slow and I need to get images downloaded I can get loud.
With my actual designs I personally prefer a more realistic looking cover then the really fantasised painted affect covers you see a lot. I’ve become really good at saying no that won’t work in very creative ways. There is only so much that can fit onto a 6×9 space that gets view in thumb nail size more that full size.
JT: As a child what did you want to be when you grow up?
KD: That’s a hard question… I didn’t have a clue.
When I was 11 my parents moved us from Essex to Wales and in the school I was really badly bullied. So when I was 14, my parents pulled me out of school. We had 14 horses and a livery yard stables so I spent time training the horses, working on the farm etc, but when I was 15 turning 16 I really got into drawing and applied to go to college where I was accepted a year early because of the work I had shown the professors in the interview. While I was at college I got diagnosed with dyslexia, which answered a lot of questions of why I struggled in school. I spent two years learning classic art using watercolours, oil paints and charcoal, and after finishing college I started working in retail sales, and worked for a few big company working my way up to store management all before I was 21, after meeting my husband I started my own business making handmade wedding stationery from there I moved onto digital art, which led me into designing the covers.
JT: Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
KD: Just to say big thank you to the authors and readers that continue to use my services and love my covers. Without you I would not have designed over 5000 book covers in the last four years.
My favourite saying is never judge a book by its cover… but why not?
JT: What advice would you give to people that may want to go into this profession?
KD: Make sure you know the laws around copyright licenses for images and fonts, read the terms conditions on all stock sites you may use.
Google images should never be used to find images for book covers.
Watermark your work and never give out your psd files.
You need to have very good computer equipment and a good knowledge of photoshop. If you don’t want to go to college or do online courses there are plenty of helpful videos on YouTube on how it works.
1. Kellie Dennis Contact Details
2. Book Cover by Design Ltd
3. Email: kellie.bookcoverbydesign.co.uk
4. Website: www.bookcoverbydesign.co.uk
5. Facebook: www.facebook.com/bookcoverbydesign
6. Twitter: .bookcoversbyme