A Conversation with My Cover Designer

On Tuesday, I had the fantastic experience of revealing the cover for FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS, which comes out October 21, 2014. I have been so excited about FMTD cover for almost a year now (yes, that long) so wanted to tailgate my reveal (and feed my excitement) by having a conversation with my amazingly sweet and talented cover designer (who also moonlights as a book blogger and author) Hafsah Laziaf of IceyBooks and IceyDesign. 

Danielle: Hi, Hafsah! *smotherhugs* Thank you for joining me here today! I know that you’re insanely busy. Do you see that pretty thing up there? You made that for me!! You’re so creative.  How did you get started in cover design?

Hafsah: I had been wanting to dip my feet in cover design for a long time, but never knew where to start, or how it worked. When Britta Gigliotti and Taryn Albright pointed me to Spencer Hill Press’s call for cover designers last year, I jumped on the chance. I had zero cover designs to share in my portfolio, so I quickly put together a few samples.  Note: I don’t own any of these images, they were simply taken off the internet for sample design, not commercial use.


Danielle : I remember us looking at those and loving them immediately. They were so pretty.  🙂 I can’t imagine making visual art; you’ve seen my “art” and I can barely draw a stick figure. What’s the part you love about designing covers?  What’s the hardest part? 

Hafsah: I love every aspect of cover designing, but the part I love the most is hearing (or reading) an author’s excitement when they first glance at the cover.  Sure, there are always revisions, but the author’s initial excitement plops me on cloud nine.

The hardest part would be finding the right models/scenes to go with the cover. I first thought cover designers simply purchased stock imagery and that was it, but in reality, it’s much more difficult than that.

Danielle: Ah, yes, the revision process. We, luckily, didn’t have many on FTMD, which was a mind-boggling thing in itself. You got my cover immediately. What is your typical process with a cover?

Hafsah: When I first get a cover inquiry, I ask for a few things: a scene from the book that the author/publisher might like to portray, the theme/emotion of the book, it’s synopsis, tagline, cover, and author name as well as any other text to include on the front.

My next step would be gathering ideas, hunting through stock images, or sketching my own ideas. Font treatments are my favorite, because you can’t purchase them online. To me, a title’s treatment needs to match the story, and blending/styling it to match the cover design is my favorite part.

I’ll let the cover sit for a bit, then come back and look at it once more, tweak it, and send it to my client. Then the revisions begin!

Danielle: You nailed almost everything on my first design comp. If I remember correctly, I think the only things we really changed were the models in the moon, the design of the moon, the water had some tweaks, and the color of my name at the bottom.  When I came to you with my book cover, I didn’t really know what I wanted on the cover, but I knew what I wanted the book to feel like. That feeling was really important to me, that a reader saw the cover and immediately felt the tone of the book.

I sent you three of my favorite covers (THE SHADOW SOCIETY, BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, NOT A DROP TO DRINK) and a few pictures before you started anything.  I loved the feelings they invoked, and still do. A feeling I wanted to capture the cover, vs. an image or an accuracy that some covers have.   How did you go about creating my cover? If you can remember, what was the process of FTMD for you?

Hafsah: I rarely read a book before designing a cover, because I’m usually pressed for time. For FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS, however, I was able to read the story. I wanted to portray a symbol, and while it wasn’t where the story takes place, the beach stood out to me as a symbol of hope in Neely’s eyes. But because a beach is something we see on a lot of covers, I wanted to add another symbol. What looks like a moon at first glance, is actually two halves of a circle, one depicting Neely, and the other depicting Thorne. (Once you read the book, you’ll see that it also represents an important aspect of the Boundless trilogy.)

The final part was the font treatment. The covers you sent me as examples all featured font-driven designs, and I wanted that, too. I love font-driven covers and I was glad you had the same idea. I wanted a font that depicted a sense of sorrow, a dystopian-feel, and one that stood out. I think the one we used included all three!

Danielle: *beams* Even now, I read your answer and just sigh because it’s exactly what mattered most to me! When people ask, I say that you gave me the  cover I imagined and didn’t know I always wanted. It’s above and beyond and perfect. What do you think makes FMTD stand out from other covers?

Hafsah:  I think the FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS cover stands out from most covers because it combines both elements—a font-driven cover, and one with symbols. Dark covers are seen pretty much all throughout YA, but I like that this has something that makes you go “ah-hah!” once you’ve read the book.

Danielle: I love the “ah-hah!” There are definitely a lot of them here, which is surprising because it seems such a simple cover, but you really tied in so many elements of the story. Is any part of the cover your favorite? 

Hafsah: Can I say I love every part of it? The moon/half circles, the beach, and the font!

Danielle: You can, because I do too! But maybe I’m biased. I will say that I’ve had this cover for almost a year, and I still never, ever get tired of looking at it. It’s hard to believe it’s mine! You’re such a talented designer. Once people see this I’m sure you’re going to be so unavailable! Do you have other things coming up that we can look forward to?

Hafsah: I’ve designed the covers for all three books in the Boundless trilogy, and can’t wait to share the other two.

Danielle: Someday…

Hafsah: I’m also designing another cover for Spencer Hill Press, that I’m equally excited to share in the coming weeks. And since we’re talking design, I’m also working on a new website design for IceyDesigns, along with a new project I can’t wait to share!

Danielle: And I thought I was busy.

One last question from me! What’s one thing you want people to know about cover design that they may not know?

Hafsah: That it’s not as easy as it may look. Sometimes, it looks like a designer has thrown text on top of a stock image/photograph, but in reality, it’s much harder than that! Unless of course, the designer has just thrown text on top of a stock image, which I have seen  before… *shudders*

Danielle: That’s always a sad day. Books need confidence outside to represent the inside, just like people do. Hafsah, thank you so much for helping out with this and sharing some insight into the process.

Hafsah: Thank you for having me!

And to all of you reading this, if you need a GREAT designer — for book covers or websites or anything!! — check out IceyDesigns. And if you’re looking for an addictive read with some really beautiful prose, you should read Hafsah’s book UNBREATHABLE. 

If anyone needs me, I’ll be over here  finishing prep for the NoVa TEEN Book Festival and counting down the days until/obsessing over Veronica Mars: The Movie while staring at the pretty that is my book cover.  Cheers!


63306_595695634866_1242484003_nDanielle Ellison is not here right now. She should be writing, but she’s probably drinking coffee, fighting her nomadic urges, planning events, working at one of her many jobs, watching too much TV, or dreaming of the day when she can be British. Her first novel SALT came out in January and the first book in the Boundless Trilogy, FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS, releases October 21, 2014. You can find her on twitter @DanielleEWrites. 

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