As much as we try to not ‘judge a book by its cover’, when it comes to selling books, the cover is absolutely crucial. For many readers, it’s the shop window, the hook, the invitation to look inside and, if you get it wrong, your words may sadly go unread. As a self-published author, it’s a huge concern. It’s no good trying to put something together in MS Paint – I’m not artistic at all, and any drawing I do looks like it has been scrawled by Puglet the dog. So, the only option is to outsource it. But where to start?
I had a vague idea of how I wanted my first book cover to look and I needed to somehow get my thoughts over to an illustrator and there was only one person in my mind that I could imagine working with. So, I called upon my best and oldest friend, Wendy Annal. (When I say ‘oldest’, I obviously mean the length of our friendship, as we’re both youngsters, obviously…ahem.)
We communicated our ideas via email as there’s a bit of distant between us… known as the Atlantic. Yes, I’m in the UK and Wendy’s in America, and so we couldn’t sit down together and sketch, draw and brainstorm. But, we got there – it was great fun, albeit a little frustrating for Wendy due to the different image sizes and properties required by each platform (Amazon’s graphics are a different size to Kobos which is different to Ingram which is different to Google, etc etc) When I saw the finished product it was as though Wendy had dived into my mind and pulled out the image I could see, as she came up with exactly what I wanted. And, the experience can’t have been too bad as she agreed to do the second one too.
Anyway, here’s a little interview with Wendy so you can find out a bit about her. We’ve been friends since babies and ‘Friendship, Love and Apple Tea‘ was based a little on us in terms of a best friend moving away to another country, and the loss you initially feel when they’ve gone. We still get together when possible, have long phone calls and texts, emails etc and will always be the best of friends. Well, unless I drive her too mad with my illustration demands…
So Wendy, tell us about where you live in the world…
As you know, we grew up together almost since birth in Deanshanger, near Milton Keynes in England. But after my sister married an American, and my parents followed her to the States, I followed them in December 1992. I dragged Mark, my husband-to-be at the time with me, and we moved to Western New York, not too far from Niagara Falls. We settled in a small village very much like Deanshanger. It was just an American version. It even had a chemical plant instead of the Oxide Works that Deanshanger used to have. 18 months ago we moved closer to the city of Rochester, into the suburbs. I moved to The States when I was 24, and I’ve been here 23 years! So forgive me if my spelling and grammar have changed.
Yes, you do use a few Americanisms, which always make me smile. When did you first become interested in illustration and art?
As a little girl I loved to draw and color. I remember when you would come to my house before school, waiting for my mom to walk us down the village. We would sit on the couch with a coloring book on a little table in front of us. I would color one page and you would color the one opposite. Good times! I would always copy birthday and Christmas cards, and checked out every “how to draw” book from our local library. Of course, that was back in the pre-internet days. If I was a kid now, I wouldn’t need to go to the library for inspiration – there is so much amazing art on the internet. I think kids should be encouraged to be creative. My parents never minded the scraps of paper littered all over the house with my scribbles on. I think drawing helped me “recharge” and get away from the pressures of the world. Writing probably does the same for you, too. Later, I got my degree in Graphic Design and Illustration, in 1989. But that was all pre-computer too. Cut and paste was literally cut the paper and paste it on another piece of paper. Getting things straight was a nightmare – and patience is not my strongpoint!
So, how did you become involved in designing book covers?
To be honest, I had never really thought about designing book covers until you asked me. Thank you. At college we did a lot of typography, and I really love different fonts. Playing with the title and your name was more fun than you would think! I have done a lot of posters and fliers for different groups that I have been involved with, so a book cover is similar to a poster. Only it has to also work on a small scale to be seen successfully on sites such as Amazon.
What did you find challenging?
I think the most challenging part was getting the size right. All the help I could find basically said that each format – Kindle, Nook, etc. had different sizes. Even different versions of the same platform differed. And trying to keep in mind that the image must work at a thumbnail size for the internet, or work on the side of a bus, should you want to advertise that way! I designed Friendship, Love, and Apple Tea with a standard graphics program. With Bringing Billie Back I used a vector program which means that nothing gets lost when it is resized. It was a challenge getting used to thinking in vectors – you have to think of points in space and shapes instead of regular old lines. But now I love it!
What type of books do you like to read?
My go-to book is usually something factual. I love to read about people who have done amazing things. At the moment I am reading about a blind mountain climber! I don’t read a lot of fiction, but I’m trying some James Patterson and it’s going down well. I wanted to find an author who has written a bunch of books so I can choose other ones that I know I will like. I think you are making a wise choice, writing a sequel for that very reason.
Rom-coms are not my usual choice, but I thoroughly enjoyed your books. Especially trying to figure out which bits of the characters are you and me. I seem to feel very much like Billie sometimes! It’s funny because sometimes a character will do something in a way that reminds me of us. Not that we have done that particular thing, but just the way the character reacts to it. And I find that all the worst parts of the characters are possibly me – am I just paranoid?!!
Yes, you are most definitely paranoid! I can’t think of a single, bad character trait that you have, you’re all good. As well as your art work, what else do you get up to?
Well, the thing I’m immersed in at the moment is Operation Christmas Child. I became a year-round volunteer in March and totally love it. It’s a project of Samaritan’s Purse, and sends shoeboxes of gifts for children in areas of the world where they are facing many challenges. In December I went to help at one of the Processing Centers where the shoeboxes are checked for inappropriate items and packed into shipping containers. It was an amazing experience.
At home, our son, James, is in his last year of school, and he is a distance learner. Even though we live in New York, his school is in California. Technically it is homeschooling, but he comes out with an accredited diploma, which is American speak for proof that you had an education that was as good as the regular schools. Our daughter, Beth, is in her 3rd year of college. Her boyfriend (from Texas) now lives with us while he is attending a local Universtiy, so no empty nest just yet! Apart from drawing when I can, I love knitting (I know it’s a granny sport), veggie gardening, hiking and something similar to running that is done with less speed and gracefulness! I also enjoy my pets – 2 naughty cats, a temporary bunny, and a newly-acquired guinea pig who’s owner became allergic. Oh, and of course I love to read your books! There, am I still your best friend?
Always! Thank you Wendy for sharing that with us and , of course, for designing my book covers. I love the fact we get to collaborate, despite the distance geographically between us. It’s perfect!