Benita started creating book covers when she self-published three of her own books and realised that indie books deserve to look just as gorgeous and professional as books from big publishers, because they have amazing stories to tell. (And we all know we do judge books by their covers.) Aside from helping authors produce gorgeous books, she also love thunderstorms, flowers, fairy tales, Dutch food, and Regency England.
Let’s get started with a quick rapid fire.
Q1.Your favorite superpower you fantasized about.
The art of small talk.
Q2. When do you usually design? Morning or Night?
Late morning, except when I work full days at my external job – then I design in the evening.
Q3. Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Absolutely introverted (I have literally climbed out my window to avoid talking to people).
Q4. Who is your favourite Anime character?
I don’t watch anime but my favourite movie is the 2015 live-action Cinderella!
Q5. Would you rather travel to the past or to the future?
To the past, specifically the time Jane Austen lived.
Q6. What is your last Google search?
“Questions to ask to design a logo” – I was working on the questionnaire I send to logo design clients.
Here's how The Broken Prince came to fruition
Q7. Which art style appeals the most to you?
Fantasy art, because it’s always so creative and vivid.
Q8. What is the kindest thing someone ever did for you?
Out of nowhere my roommate wrote me a really sweet letter telling me all the things she loved about me!
Q9. Fellow Creators or Artists you admire.
Kirk DouPonce, Megan McCullough, Maria Spada, Azullyn …
Here's how Shinju And The Master Of Tides came to fruition
Q10. Describe your style in one word.
Q11. What is one missed opportunity that you wish you could have a second chance at?
Whenever I look back at a past book cover I see a detail I could’ve or should’ve added.
Q12. An art or piece of work you wished you had created.
Kirk DouPounce’s book covers for Dust and Shadow by Kara Swanson.
It’s time for a more detailed conversation, Benita.
You’ve answered our rapid fire so well, Benita. Now, it’s time for our readers to know more about the person behind the designs.
Q. Tell us something about yourself that’s going to make us wonder more about you.
I studied philosophy and the humanities in university because I love intellectual discussion, logical arguments, and thinking about the big questions, but I also laugh inappropriately hard at memes that make absolutely zero sense, specifically because they are meaningless. (Google “surreal memes”.)
Q. Well, that will keep you in our thoughts. So, what kind of art inspires you?
Every time I see a gorgeous book cover (especially fantasy) it gets me imagining how I could incorporate what I love about it into a brand new work. And sometimes movies will do the same – I created one premade book cover based on a landscape in the “A Whole New World”scene in the live-action Aladdin movie.
Q. Interesting. What, to you, are the most important elements of a good art?
Specifically for book cover design, typography can make or break a book cover. I’ve seen covers with absolutely incredible photo manipulations but the typography doesn’t fit. It totally takes away from the effect. The text needs to be part of the image, not just sitting on top of it, if that makes sense!
Q. Do you hide any secrets in your art that only a few people will find?
Not specifically, though sometimes an author will ask me to include a certain detail that readers might not notice. But sometimes I spend a ton of time on tiny details within the artwork that nobody would ever notice. For example, I’ll often spend five minutes moving an element of the book cover one pixel to the left, then back to the right, back and forth over and over, because I can’t decide which I like better. It sounds ridiculous but it actually does make a difference (sometimes)! Then there are the other little details within the artwork like small flashes of light, or subtle textures and overlays. It’s those details that make a good cover stunning.
Q. What’s the toughest work you’ve created so far? What made it so challenging?
The book cover I made for Kara Linaburg’s The Broken Prince went through five very different versions before I hit on a concept I liked enough to move forward! Usually I get there within one or two versions. The author had given me a wonderfully detailed brief (i.e. what she envisioned for her cover) and there were a lot of directions I could have taken the design, as well as a number of elements to include and a specific vibe to portray. It was definitely a challenge to pull everything together, but I had so much fun and in the end she and I both absolutely loved what we came up with.
Q. What’s unique about your style that’s been appreciated by your fans over the years?
I have a huge soft spot for fairy tales, and that comes across in my designs with lots of sparkles, glowing light, and deep vibrant colours. A number of people have commented on how magical some of my covers look, which is exactly what I’m going for!
Q. How do you progress from an idea to the final piece? Describe your process.
My clients start by filling out a detailed questionnaire about their book and their vision. They also tell me some “comp titles”, which means published books that are similar to their own. I don’t read their books, but their answers give me a strong sense of what their book is about and what kind of cover they’d like. I look at similar books and what the conventions are for book covers in that genre. Next, I mesh all those things together and come up with a mental sketch of what the cover might look like. After that, it gets a bit haphazard! I start by bringing my mental sketch to life using photo manipulation, but things always change a lot during that phase. I just experiment with different ideas that pop into my head until I like the result. Then I send the author my draft, they give me feedback, and I keep revising until they’re totally satisfied.
Q. What does success look like to you?
In a nutshell, I’m happy when my clients are happy. But to go into more detail, I have a couple gauges for success in my projects. I’m passionate about self-published books looking just as stunning and professional as any traditionally-published work, so first and foremost I need to be confident that my work meets both those criteria. Within that framework, the book cover also needs to fulfill the author’s vision—it’s their book, after all! So I always double and triple check the brief they sent me to make sure I’ve incorporated everything they were looking for.
Every now and then, the author’s vision might clash a bit with the established expectations for professional book covers in their genre. That’s actually when I have the most fun, because I get to figure out how to reconcile the two (which are both incredibly important)! It’s like a puzzle. How can I incorporate this element that the author really, really wants in a way that works with the genre expectations? When I find the right answer to that question, I consider those my most successful projects.
Q. What inspires you, and where do you seek inspiration for something you’ve never created before?
I follow a bunch of super talented designers on Instagram, people who specialize in book cover design and some who do more general design. I’ve seen so many new styles of art and typography that I’m desperate to try out. My folders of saved posts are enormous! On the practical side, if I’m designing a cover in a genre I’m not as familiar with, I like to take a look at the most popular books in that genre on Amazon and Goodreads. I get a great sense of what the expectations are and I often find myself inspired, too.
Q. How do you deal with pressure and deadlines?
I’m a procrastinator extraordinaire, so deadlines are my favourite because they keep me on track. The pressure works in my favour by forcing me to get started and keep going. Once I’ve begun working, I often become so absorbed that I lose track of time. (I’ve worked on a cover for six hours straight without even realising it till afterward!)
Q. They say time and tide waits for no one, and one needs to keep evolving to survive. How do you adopt and develop new skills?
Like I mentioned above, I make a point of following other designers on social media. Since I’m self-taught as a designer, seeing other people’s work is both inspiring and educational. Imitation is a great learning tool! Practicing my art by imitating what other, more experienced designers are doing has taught me so many tips and tricks that I can incorporate into my original designs. I also take online courses from time to time to develop specific skills like photo manipulation, colour theory, typography, and so on. One other big thing I do is watching timelapse design videos on YouTube. I have learned so, so much by watching other designers’ processes, and it’s also just great fun to see a book cover come together from start to finish!
Q. It’s been fun. Now, before we wrap this up, do you have any suggestions for newcomers in this field? If so, what are they?
I have so many tips but I’ll limit it to four for now! First, immerse yourself in design by looking at other people’s work and figuring out what you like and don’t like about it. (I strongly recommend watching timelapse design videos like I mentioned above.) Second, learn typography! I can’t emphasise this enough, because text is an essential part of a book cover and missing the mark there can mess up the entire cover, no matter how good your imagery is. Third, research the genre expectations. If a thriller has a gorgeous cover but it makes readers think they’re about to read a romance book, that gorgeous cover is still failing to do its job. The cover’s purpose is to tell the reader what they can expect to find inside. Finally, practice a ton. Whether that be by copying other book covers you like (obviously for practice only, not ever to sell!), making new covers for your favourite books, or whatever other techniques you find, just practice creating covers that fit the stories inside.