Finding Milan

Finding a solution for the book’s outside was as challenging as the inside.

Robyn, the internals print artist, mocked up ideas but nothing gelled for us. Cover design is a very specific skill for a very specific job: to turn a fraction of a second’s interest into a pick up (in a shop) or a click (online).

Cover experts know the tropes for story types and age ranges that make readers act. They know the genre trends. It’s why we find ourselves drawn to books. The designer’s already worked on our subconscious to say, ‘hey, this might be for us’.

We then check to see if the content matches the promise.

Thunderpaws is a complicated prospect in cover design terms. It’s for adults as much as kids, and it can sit on many different bookshop shelves. Cats, fantasy, action-adventure, ghosts, humour, London, middle grade, YA, fiction, gifts, even graphic novels. The cover had to work in all those places, for all those readers.

I wanted three elements: a black cat, the Tower, and a raven. And I wanted it to stand out on all those different shelves, and in different markets around the world. And I wanted it to reflect Robyn’s work inside, so we had a cohesive whole. Or as near as I could get with my first novel, first production experience, limited budget, and limited access to pros.

I researched cover designers – a lot!

Most pros only work for publishing houses, they are booked out for months and cost a significant sum (note I didn’t say expensive). They will read the book, do some thinking work, maybe read it again, experiment, think some more and work up draft ideas. It takes time.

I tried freelancers.

What came back was average-to-rubbish, even from one person who covered a New York Times bestseller.

Sometimes the brief was just ignored. I paid and moved on.

A service was recommended. Affordable. Good people said it was good. And yet what came back didn’t quite work. No WOW! In truth, barely okay. Not in the zone. Time and money were disappearing.

Self-publishing across print, ebook and audio I needed to research everything. Facebook groups are useful places. I was monitoring many. On one, a self-publishing author posted a question about their cover and title combination. The cover was a wow. Clever, intelligent design. Loved it. I can’t give you details because it’s not out yet, but I gave an answer to their question and the author and I got chatting. I asked about the designer and she kindly gave me Milan’s details.

I dropped a mail to Milan and a in a few short iterations we got to the cover you see today, which for me does what I need – to communicate across genres and to stand out in those genres. It can’t just be a fantasy cover. It can’t just be kids’ cover. It is Thunderpaws.