Today, I’m featuring an interview with book cover designer, Mariah Sinclair. If you’re a fan of cozy mysteries, chances are that you’ve read a book with a cover designed by Mariah.
Cover design is such a critical element when it comes to marketing and selling your books. I’m always amazed at how cover designers, like Mariah, can take images, fonts, colors, and other design elements, sprinkle their magic on them, and transform them into pieces of artwork that draw potential readers in.
Mariah offers custom designs and pre-made covers. I’ve also seen some cozy cover makeovers she’s done recently. It’s been interesting to see how she’s taken the original covers and design concepts and transformed them into something that really captures the fun, quirky nature of the cozy mystery genre. When it comes time to makeover my own covers, I’ll definitely be touching base with Mariah.
But before you check out all of those links above, have a read below and find out what Mariah has to say about designing book covers, penguins, and cookies. She’s got some fun answers!
Interview with Mariah
1 – What inspired you to become a book cover designer?
I was a graphic designer/art director for ad agencies and magazines during the 1990s and early aughts, but took a 10+ year hiatus from design. A few years ago, I was earning my income by being a voice over artist. (Listen to an example of my voice over work here.)
Relocating from New Orleans to the Arizona desert dried out my voice so I couldn’t do that type of work. I had to come up with another income—and quick. I hadn’t truly designed in a decade, but started playing around with digital art on deviant art. Stock sites (not as prevalent when I was a designer long ago), made designing so much easier!
I spent 6 months designing book covers on 99Designs to test the waters. While I DO NOT recommend contest sites for authors, it gave me a way to test my abilities, and research the market. When I learned over 3000 new titles are published on amazon daily, I decided it was a healthy market to jump into (and doesn’t require a sexy voice!)
2 – What’s your favorite thing about cozy mysteries?
The titles. I didn’t know cozies existed before I started designing book covers. The word play of the quirky, punny titles drew me in and I *had* to design those covers. Without examples of cozies in my portfolio, I couldn’t attract any custom cozy work. I started creating cozy premades which meant I could add my own quirky titles! Cozies have become a sprinkling of joy in my business and I’m so thankful I discovered them.
3 – What do you like the most about being a book cover designer? What do you like the least?
I love that I am helping individual creatives achieve their dreams of publishing (and hopefully earning a full time income.) It’s wonderful helping indie authors reach success, instead of marketing corporate widgets. I also get to work from my couch with my cats sitting on my lap!
The hardest part is when an author requests changes that break graphic design rules. Many people don’t realize how many *rules* are involved with design— including many book cover designers because they were self-taught. As a traditionally trained designer, I know the rules. Sometimes an author request will require breaking design tenets which forces me to choose between customer service and good design. Customer service wins, but it’s sad when good design is sacrificed in the process.
4 – What does a typical day look like for you?
I naturally wake up between 5:30-6:00. I’m thankful that I don’t have to wake-up with an alarm. I grab some coffee and settle into my spot on the couch to begin working. Facebook and some word games while I’m waiting for the caffeine to kick in. Then email and admin and then I start designing.
Lately I’ve been doing design sprints with fellow designer Sylvia Frost of The Book Brander. We work for fifty minutes and share our progress. It’s been so helpful when the procrastination/burn-out bug hits. I work in silence in the morning, but around 2pm, I take a tv break while I eat lunch. Then a hot bath. Sometimes I go back to work in the evening depending on my work load. I’m in bed around 9-10pm every night. It’s a pretty boring life, but should get more exciting in the coming months, as I’m making some huge life changes.
5 – What advice do you have for cozy mystery authors when it comes to cover design?
Your cover doesn’t require a lot of tiny details. It’s better to catch the eye with a specific focal point and engaging title. In my opinion, the title is really important to cozies, more so than other genres, so show it off! Contrast creates readability. If you want a readable title, make sure the image behind the words is simple and even toned (I use the “sky” as the title background most often) and use a contrasting color/value for the title.
6 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?”
Asking for my favorite cookie is like asking about my favorite color— I love them all!— but a rich buttery shortbread with a dollop of homemade lemon curd is sublime.
7 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?
Ha! My first thought was the penguin saying “Slide” (fans of Fight Club will understand that reference as seen on this YouTube clip).
In the interest of not using a pop culture reference, my penguin would say, “Hey love, it’s time to travel the world.”
8 – What else would you like us to know about you?
I’m truly thankful for this opportunity to work with other creatives achieving our dreams. Being a part of the author community as been life-changing for me and I will be forever grateful.
Thanks so much for being on the blog, Mariah! It was really interesting to find out that cover designers do sprints, just like we writers do. And shortbread is always a good cookie choice!