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Hi and welcome to the Library of Erana, please tell us a little about yourself. My name is Esther Byrt.  I live in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada.  I am married with two grown children and two grandchildren.

You are a cover designer, what made you decide to get into this line of work? I have always been into art, progressing up to oil painting and an avid reader since I was a child.  Later I got into computers and spent 8 years running my own computer repair business.  Now I have finally married my three loves together to create book covers using Photoshop.  I love it!

Can you tell us briefly what is involved? I use mainly Photoshop to create covers.  I have stock photography that I purchase as well as my own photos.  Using Photoshop, I apply different artistic effects to the photos and blend them together into one picture, taking an element from one and overlaying it on another.  I buy my stock images from several websites but Shutterstock.com is one of my favourites.  All the images are priced the same so they can be very economical.  Other sites might have a single image priced at $100, which would double the cost of a book cover.

Where does your inspiration come from? Do you read the book first, then come up with a design? I have the author fill out a form briefly describing the book style/genre, plot line and characters.  Often the author will have something in mind already and I will take all of that and come up with a few possible layouts.  Then I send them to the author to see what they like best.   Usually it’s something like “I like the layout of #1 but the colours from #3”.  After a few back and forth exchanges like that we have a cover we both like!

When buying a book do you find yourself scrutinising the cover? Always!  Although I mostly buy ebooks now I am always looking at book covers in the store as I go by to see which ones jump out at me and why they do.  Getting your book noticed is the first step in making that sale!

What are your thoughts on ‘generic’ covers – such as a sword or throne and skulls for fantasy, or torsos for romance? The covers you describe aren’t necessarily “generic” as they can be made from unique artwork or photography rather than stock photos.  That said, one of the challenges of doing a romance cover for example, is making it unique, something that will stand out and catch the readers eye, yet still identify it as romance. The “generic” style of covers can do that.  A bare male chest usually indicates romance or urban fantasy/romance.  A sword will usually indicate a fantasy.  So in that way the generic covers help to identify the genre and can still be very well done and eye catching.

When you buy a book do you look at the cover first? What else attracts you?  Yes, I always look at the cover first.  The second thing I look at is the blurb to see what the book is about.  Third is the rating and reviews.  I will always troll through the reviews to the negative ones.  Often a negative review is simply that the reader didn’t like the characters or genre, which won’t necessarily be a deterrent for me.  But – if someone complains about the book being full of grammar and spelling mistakes and leaps of plot that are ridiculous I won’t bother buying it.  That’s one of the reasons I am adding copy editing to my services as well.  With so many authors self-publishing the need for freelance copy editors is growing.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out in this line of work or who might want to design a cover? First, make sure you are very well versed in using Photoshop or other graphic design software.  Second, it better be something you love doing.  As with copy editing, there is a growing demand for covers from self-publishing authors.  Because of that, there are many graphic designers out there offering cover designs at quite low prices so the competition is fierce.  I would recommend cover design as a supplement to something else that you can make a living at until your cover design business takes off.   Some designers are also photographers who sell their stock photos online.  Many also have more mundane design services such as business cards, flyers and company branding.

What are your thoughts on sites like Fiverr? That’s a great resource for anyone who needs a quick cheap cover.  I see some offer unlimited revisions but others don’t mention what happens if you don’t like the cover they design.  Another requires you to provide the image to be used on the cover.  You will get what you pay for with a service like that.  One of the problems with that type of service too, is that if you need to get your cover in a different aspect ratio to upload to a new book sales site – you may not be able to get the same designer and therefore can’t adapt your cover.  One of the authors I work with has done ebooks and print on demand at several different sites for her books.  Each one requires a slightly different template design, with more “bleed” area around the edges for one or a slightly taller and narrower layout for another.  Audio books require a square cover.  So it’s good to know you can go back to your original designer for revisions like that.

Can you tell us about your favourite image? I tend to like dramatic images and arresting eyes.  So my favourite is probably one I’ve used on a book cover of a stunningly beautiful young woman dressed in furs and holding a sword.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I’m a total geek.  I played Dungeon’s and Dragons in my younger days (the real game where you actually got together with friends – not the online world).  I read every X-Men comic my older brother bought and all the other super hero ones.  And I’ve been a computer nut ever since DOS and the 286 (I know, not everyone will even know what a 286 is!).

Blog/website links etc.

My website is at http://estherbyrt.ca.  Check it out!