Who Is Mistral Dawn?

Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)) where she works as a hospital drudge and attends graduate school. Taken By The Huntsman is her first effort at writing fiction and if it is well received she has ideas for several more novels and short-stories in this series. Please feel free to visit her on FaceBook or drop her a line at mistralkdawn@gmail.com

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cover Art At Its Best! Erin Dameron-Hill Interviewed By Mistral Dawn

Hi Everyone!!! :-)

We have a very special guest here with us today.  Erin Dameron-Hill is an indie author, but what she's most known for are her beautiful amazing book cover designs (like the stunning cover of Taken By The Huntsman ;-) )!!  I know a lot of you write, are writing, or want to write your own novels, and Erin is a truly gifted artist to work with when it comes time for that all important marketing tool:  The Cover! ;-)  So listen to her, she's really amazing at what she does and she helped me (a totally clueless newbie) a lot!  Sprinkled through this post will be some examples of her work.  Feel free to drool, I do. ;-)

Erin, thank you so much for coming today!  Will you tell us how long you've been a cover artist and what made you decide to start creating book covers? :-)

Erin:  I've been a cover artist for several years and have been involved in self-publishing since 2004.  Yeah, that's before self-publishing changed the world of reading as we know it.  I became enthralled with the industry in 2003--I tried to be an author.  I wanted to write a vampire thriller so I did.  I wrote for an underground group.  The story was awful.  I'm a terrible author.  Anyway, someone actually decided to publish my story.  That's where I met several talented authors.  The publishing company we were contracted with treated us all like crap (which is one of the reasons self-publishing became big--authors were upset at how they were being treated and rightly so).  My fellow authors and I decided to go elsewhere--self-publishing.  Our experience with publishers had put a nasty taste in our mouth and we all thought we might try self-publishing.  This was in 2006.  Well, we looked for artists who created covers and at that time, there was no one who created covers who weren't associated with publishers.  This put us all in a pickle.  We racked our brains and by unanimous vote, my fellow authors decided I should create our covers because of my artistic background.  I knew nothing about creating covers.  I had classes in digital art and all things art but creating covers seemed foreign to me.  My first cover was terrible.  I admit it--it was tragically awful.  But I had enjoyed the process immensely so I took classes about cover art, marketing, advertising.  I did research on covers that were always on the bestseller lists.  I found great stock sites.  I learned how to digitally paint.  I loved the process so much that I stopped writing--I'm a terrible author anyway, I know where my strengths lie LOL--and continued to improve my craft and knowledge of cover art.  Now, I am an Award-Winning Cover Artist who absolutely loves her job.

Me:  Wow! You were one of the pioneers!! Congratulations on your awards, I'm know they are well-deserved. :-)  What are the things you like most and least about creating covers?

Erin:  The best thing I like about creating covers is the freedom to create.  I know that sounds weird, but being able to create something unique and eye-catching just makes my day.  I absolutely love it when the author is pleased as a pig in mud because they've let me experiment and create something original.  The worst thing about creating covers is searching for stock images.  I know, I should love it because I get to look at semi-naked models all the time but it gets boring after awhile.  The models all start to look the same. 

Me:  I can definitely relate about needing a creative outlet, though I have no talent when it comes to visual design. :-)  So, from what you've said about stock images, I'm guessing you'd say one of the biggest challenges when it comes to cover design would have to do with selecting a model, can you tell us about that?

Erin:  The biggest challenge is finding a stock image that doesn't scream "posing".  So many models, females especially and the photographers who aren't great, decide that the poses need to be for Playboy.  A cover is not a porno.  When it comes to romance covers or erotica covers, emotion is the key factor.  Not showing body parts.  I don't choose images where the butt or boobs are prominent--I'm looking for passion, desire, and as I mentioned before, emotion.  Regardless of the genre, if a model is on the cover, that model has to portray emotion.  It can't be just a simple pose or sexy pose--it has to grip a potential reader by the short hairs.  The look on the model or how he/she is holding a sword/weapon/gun/flowers is key.  So many models and photographers just don't understand this.  So, I spend HOURS searching stock sites for just the right look.  That's the biggest challenge.  It gets frustrating to see so many unusable images.  But when I do stumble upon the right image, I literally squee and jump for joy :-)

Me:  Ha! Well, I don't know how long it took to find it, but the image you used for my cover is perfect!! You really do have a very good eye. :-)  When designing a cover, what's the first thing you have to do and why?

Erin:  The first thing I do when designing a cover is to choose the fonts and their placement.  I am a font snob.  A cover can look truly amazing but if an amateur adds a Microsoft Word font or some other common font, the cover can then turn blah.  Fonts are important for establishing genre, feel, and balance.  Of course, I change the fonts throughout the process but I first start with fonts so I know which direction I'm going.

Me:  See that! You learn something new everyday! I never would have guessed you start with the font, but your reasoning does make sense. :-) What's the most important thing a person who wants to hire you can do?

Erin:  The most important thing a person can do is to keep an open mind.  Don't have a preset cover in mind.  Authors are very close to their work--as they should be--but this can hurt a cover.  The author wants everything in the book on a cover and a cover just can't hold all that awesomeness.  It needs to have focus--just a few important objects, nothing more.  Otherwise the cover can become chaotic and potentially repel potential readers.  Let the cover artist do his or her thing.  Before hiring a cover artist, don't look at pricing.  Look at their portfolio.  Choose a few artists whose work you absolutely love.  Then look at pricing.  Choosing an artist because he or she is cheap will hurt you in the long run if you hate their work.

Me:  Hey! I resemble that remark! The one about wanting to include everything. ;-)  I have to say, the less-is-more concept is not always an easy one to embrace, but you are definitely correct. :-)  And you're also right about needing to appreciate an artist's work.  Not every work of art will appeal to everyone, just like not everyone will like our books; that doesn't mean the work is bad, it just doesn't appeal to your taste.  Find one that does. :-)  Otherwise no one will be happy.  If there was one thing you wish that the people who hire you understood, what would that thing be?

Erin:  That I have loads of experience in this field.  If I offer advice, please listen to it.  Don't disregard it.  I only have the author's best interest in mind.  I create covers that sell books--that's my goal, that's my job.  So if I feel something requested would potentially harm sales, don't ignore me.  I want only the best for your book.
Me:  And I can say from personal experience that your advice is spot-on! :-)  How long does it normally take for you to complete a cover, start to finish?

Erin:  That depends.  Some covers require less work than others.  The process generally takes anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks.

Me:  Well it's obvious you put a lot of heart and soul into your work as well as elbow grease. :-)  I know we've posted a few samples of your work here today, but just so these lovely people can find more of it to admire, or hire, are there any links you'd like to post?


I don't have any favorite covers--they're all my favorites!  But attached are the most recent covers so you can get an idea of where my style is at the moment.  Thank you so much for inviting me to be on your blog!

Me:  You're welcome, Erin, I was thrilled to have you!  Thank you for telling us all a bit about your process and how to make sure we get the best cover for our books! :-)  Everyone else, thank you for joining us today, and please check back often for the latest news, updates, and interviews! :-)

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