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Interview with Bad Star Media: All about book covers!

This week I am talking to Kate Newburg from Bad Star Media, a provider of “fierce book cover design for the indie author.” Join me to find out what makes a great book cover, how digital covers differ from print covers, and more. Then check out Kate’s website,, to find out more about her fantastic cover designs!

What is one thing that makes a great book cover?

Typography, typography, typography. Typography can make or break an otherwise compelling composition. For example, you can have the perfect stock photos, but if you use Comic Sans with no sense of space to complement the layout, you will kill any chance you had of it being a decent cover.

A writer does so much heavy lifting during the writing, rewriting, and editing phases of their book, and a great book cover should carry it the rest of the way into a reader’s arms—or their e‑book reader.

What information do you get from the author to help you in the design of their cover?

Personally, I like to get to know the author and hear her rave about the book and her hopes for it. I ask about genre, or what she envisioned. I usually ask for examples of other book covers she likes or what audience she is trying to reach. If there’s a clear subgenre, I check out the bestsellers on Amazon at that time to see what is selling well and how we can approach that genre convention in a unique way.

Plot synopsis and character description, on the other hand, are a secondary priority. There’s only so much a book cover should promise: location, emotions, genre. If there’s something absolute about character descriptions (e.g., he has to have dark hair because of a plot point), then I search for stock photography I can transform within those parameters. Photoshop is magical, but even magic has its limitations.

How do the covers for different genres differ?

Book covers have specific genre conventions for a reason—to visually appeal to whatever the reader is seeking and provide that promise. It’s the ultimate marketing piece.

For example, a romance novel could have a couple, and the heat of their romance (e.g., sweet romance versus erotic romance) would be conveyed in their body positioning. Thrillers or suspense novels tend to be darker in color with bold, sans-serif fonts shouting intrigue and danger. DIY books aimed at women tend to be bright and cheerful—think Pinterest in book form.

While the majority of clients I work with are romance authors, I still peruse other genres for book cover ideas. This year I started a blog series called “Jane, Undercover” to try out other genre conventions by designing a cover for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

What is the main difference between designing for digital versus print?

Aside from dimensions and technical specifications, the preparation. E-book covers are basically like movie posters for books—a promise of a story at a quick glance. In a digital market, an author would want their book to stand out in a sea of thumbnails.

Paperback covers, however, need to be meticulously laid out. There are the margins and the bleed. There’s the spine and the barcode. There’s the color of the ink. I need more information from the author such as a blurb and testimonial information. CreateSpace, whose standards I follow most, provides templates for certain book sizes and lengths that I then take and use in Photoshop.

Thanks to Kate from Bad Star Media for taking the time to answer my questions. If you have questions for Kate, you can reach her at

What matters to you in a book cover? How important is it to your decision to buy a book? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments!

Kate was born on a Friday the 13th and lives in her favorite city, Atlanta, Georgia. She’s circumnavigated the world and can't imagine living anywhere else. Always passionate about books, Kate started designing book covers and assisting authors with marketing in 2013 after she founded Bad Star Media.

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