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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Welcome Cover Artist Lily Smith!

I’d like to welcome my cover designer LILY SMITH from COVERS BY LILY to Lady Scribes today! Actually, Lily has done covers for a number of Lady Scribes (so I probably won’t be the only one welcoming her.)

Ava: Hi, Lily! Welcome!
Lily: Hi, Ava. Thanks for having me today. Even though I haven't done a cover for Andris Bear, she and I did teach a cover making class together earlier this year. So I do happen to know a number of you. 

Ava: That Andris does get around. I'm trying to imagine the two of you teaching together.
Lily: It was a blast. I only terrified her once during the course. I'll have to work harder next time. Actually saying there might be a next time probably terrified her just now.

Ava: Ha! Well, I was hoping you could start off today by telling us a little about you and your process.
Lily: Well, that’s a very long answer. I’ll try to be brief as I could go on and on and on, and I’m fairly certain no one wants that. 

OK. About me - in another life, I was a traditionally published author who was more than unhappy with a number of things involving my publisher (which will remain nameless to protect the guilty) up to and including the covers I was receiving from their art department. Their choices didn’t seem to make sense to me. Artistically, I thought they could have done more, cared more. So when the opportunity presented itself for me to design covers instead of writing books, I decided to take my creativity in that direction.

As far as my "process", each project is different. I believe in having open communication with my clients – finding out what is most important to them and trying to figure out the best way to achieve that goal. Having been on the other side of the cover (so to speak) in my previous life, I know how frustrating it can be to end up with a product you’re not happy with. So I strive to give each and every one of my clients an end product that reflects their vision, their story and their brand.

Ava: Can you talk a little about that? About branding?
Lily: Sure. But I can probably best show you what I mean. I recently finished working on three different series for Claudia Dain. It was important for each series to have their own look/feel; but equally important for each book to have Claudia’s brand as well. 
You can see that each book in her ENGLISH WARRIORS series has a shield.
This allowed me to indicate the number the book was in the series as well as help brand them.
I went with a bold/deep color for these books as they are serious in tone.
The color/font for these books' titles is the same across the series. 

For Claudia's new MORE COURTESAN CHRONICLES series, I used a gold quill for these Regency-set books.
I also used the same combination of fonts for the titles, though the colors vary, depending on the color of the cover.
(Taming Miss Grey is not yet available)

For Claudia's THE WILD AMERICANS series, I used a revolver  on each cover to help brand the series.
I used a white banner for each of these books, which is different than the two previous series.
And in this series, I chose not to show the models' faces.
(Dances With Lords and Once Upon a Time in London are not yet available)
Claudia's name is in the same place on each book and in the same font. Her titles are all at the top, a cover image is in the middle, and each series has its own font(s).  All of these things speak towards the branding of a book/series.

Ava, your name is in the same location on all of your books. The same is true for Jane Charles, Rose Gordon and the covers I’ve done for Jerrica Knight-Catania. But you each have your own individual look. Deb Marlowe’s name can move around depending on the cover, but her signature look is still integral to each design.

Ava: Is there a genre you like best as far as design?
Lily: As luck would have it, most of the authors that I know rather well write for the historical market. So I’ve done a lot of historical covers, as you can see above. But as far as my personal favorite goes, I don’t really have one. I think each genre offers its own challenges and rewards. So far, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve worked on, and I’m always excited to try something new.

Ava: I have been amazed at how fast you are! I can’t think of a time I haven’t had a cover returned to me within a 24hour period. And I love your work. Each cover has been exactly what I wanted. Do you ever sleep? Did you make a deal with the devil? What’s your secret?
Lily: LOL! I hate to have things on my to do list. I hate to ever feel as though someone is waiting around for me to finish something. So depending on the project, how many covers are involved, etc. – the majority of my clients do have their finished product back within a day or less. I’m not sure I have a secret other than I give all I have to each project until it receives final approval and I’ve sent it on its way.

Ava: I know on your website you offer pre-made covers in addition to your custom work. Do you prefer making covers in advance or custom designing?
Lily: I do offer both on my website. The pre-made cover idea was actually a suggestion of Jerrica Knight-Catania’s. And while I do have fun creating things with no one in particular in mind, just whatever happens to strike my fancy at the time - I think I prefer custom work. I prefer getting to know the author, what exactly they're looking for, helping them develop their brand. But if a pre-made cover works for someone, that makes me happy too. (I should mention, Andris has a number of pre-made covers available in my library as well.)

Ava: Well, thank you again for being with us today. I hope you will be available to answer any questions that anyone has about cover design. 
Lily: Of course! I can be around today to answer any cover design questions. And as a special for your LadyScribes readers, I'll offer a 25% discount to any new-to-me author who mentions this blog when they contact me.

Ava: Cool! (Though I'm feeling slightly slighted by the "new-to-me"caveat. But I'll get over it since I adore you.) Since you're making that generous offer, how can people contact you?

Lily: Through the Contact page on my website is the best - www.coversbylily.com

I'm also on Twitter - CoversByLily

Though I don't Tweet a lot, I do show off covers once they've been approved. My latest was for your very own Samantha Grace.

And I can always be DMd there.

Thank you, Ava, so much for having me today. This was a lot of fun!


  1. Welcome Lily! As you know, I adore my Covers by Lily! I love seeing all of your new work, too. Samantha, that one is my favorite of yours!

    Thanks for hosting her, Ava!

    1. Thanks, Deb! I wanted something with a similar feel to the Summons anthologies since that's where the story was originally published. It made sense to have Lily make the cover for me since she did all the Summons covers. Plus, she does beautiful work.

      The story is sweet rather than steamy like my full length novels and it has a fairytale feel. I think Lily captured that perfectly, and she stayed true to my branding from my other books without me having to ask. A cover artist who reads my mind! How cool is that? :)

    2. Hi Deb! Thanks for the welcome. And I'm so glad you adore your covers. :)

      LOL, Samantha. I don't know that I'm always a mind reader, but we can pretend like I am.

  2. Beautiful covers! Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us, Lily!

  3. Thanks, Terry. It's so nice to be here. :)

  4. Beautiful covers, Lily! They make me want to run out and write a historical :-) And man do I wish I'd had you at work on a couple of my covers :-). Thanks for the insight into your process!

    1. Aww, thanks, Suzanne. That is very sweet of you. :)

  5. This was interesting, but I still don't like for the faces to be left off. Takes away from the cover for me. We don't have a choice when we meet someone new, so why should it be different with our books?
    Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

    1. Hi Maxie. Sometimes faces aren't there because we each have our own ideas about what/who is beautiful. Someone I might think is attractive, you might think is the exact opposite and vice-versa. When a head or most of a head is missing, you can fill in those details with how you envision the character based on the author descriptions.

      Back when I was with a publisher I had some awful, AWFUL covers with male faces. Not only were they not attractive, they looked mean. So sometimes a cover with just a torso is a blessing. ;)

  6. The covers are truly interesting and grab the reader. I like how the fonts and the color schemes all line up too. The fact that they almost “match” in a sense is good because that helps flag the potential buyer that they are part of a series which, hopefully, will result in them buying the whole set. I know I would. Well done!

    1. Thanks, Connie! I'm so glad you like them. :)

  7. Bahahaha! Lily, you could never scared. I adore you. And I had so much fun teaching the cover class together. I don't think there is a cover you've created that I haven't like but I must admit that the cover you made for Claudia Dain's Much Ado About Dutton is my favorite! There's just something about the color that pulls me in. Love it!

    1. I know for a fact I scared you, Andris. You sent me a text saying something that is not repeatable. ;)

      And I love the Dutton cover too. That model is so pretty.

    2. Well, yes, there was a pants filling moment there for a second but aside from that, never in fear! ;)

    3. LOL! You always crack me up. :)

  8. Can I just say how much I love my new covers? They are so beautiful! I think readers will be drawn to the books just because of the covers . . . which is exactly how it works. Thank you, Lily!

    1. Aww, you'll make me blush, Claudia. :) I'm so glad you're happy with your covers!

  9. Hi Lily! Rose Gordon talked about you to us (her Sisters) on her blog more than once before so super glad to see you here. My question, do you pay for the pictures you use on the covers? And do the authors get to choose which picture they want and pay you the buy the pictures and then make them a cover? Do you have a contract with a certain photographer for this purpose? I find that some authors have the same pictures as their covers but from different designers and such so I was just wondering.

  10. Hi Kipha. I love Rose. She is so sweet and so easy to work with.

    To answer you question - yes - to everything. It all depends on the client. Some have a general idea of what they want. Some trust me to make decisions on my own. Some are very specific. I would never buy an image without getting the authors approval first. Often, I'll work up a comp cover using comp images. If the author approves, then we'd purchase whatever we need.

    I am actually in the process of contracting with a photographer who will be scheduling photoshoots, etc. So that is in the works and coming soon.

    I've seen the same images used over and over. I try to avoid using any image I've seen a lot of. But you can always do a lot with images and they won't reflect the original in the least. It all depends on how it is used and what you're looking for.

    Did that answer everything?

  11. Hi Lily, I more than recognize your cover works. As a beginner cover designer myself, I've gained a wealth of knowledge just from studying how other digital artists add their own flair. Thus far I've only had a couple of authors use me to design their covers and I feel like I'm bumbling my way through the business process. For me the art comes easy, but it's understand the business aspects that seem to be difficult. I am awful when it comes to selling myself lol. My question is did you take a course in business or did it just come naturally?

    1. Hi! I didn't take a course in business, but having been a part of the publishing industry as an author first did give me an insight in the business side of things. If you have any specific questions, don't be afraid to ask. :)