Lori Wolf-Heffner, like most writers, loves to read. No matter the author, indie or traditional, she expects a fluid reading experience, i.e., one that’s not interrupted by dozens of errors and clunky graphics work. And although she’s not a visual artist, she still expects a visually beautiful and unified book.
“The saying, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ is about people not books,” she says. “People absolutely will judge a book by its cover—I do, and so do almost all other readers out there.”
Wolf-Heffner says that Angie’s work reflects the stories. “My book series for teens is certainly not about blood and gore,” she says, “or even heavy teen drama. Angie’s designs reflect the feel of my books exactly.”
Readers frequently compliment Wolf-Heffner on the designs of her book. “The covers have been called ‘beautiful,’ ‘elegant,’ ‘gorgeous,’ and I don’t know what else,” she says. “And people offer those compliments: I don’t ask for them.”
For Wolf-Heffner, who grew up in the family car business, it comes down to the reader, or in regular retail terms, the customer. “I think it’s too easy for authors to forget that their readers are customers,” she says. By having Angie take care of both the book cover and layout, Wolf-Heffner knows she’s offering readers an excellent customer experience.
Wolf-Heffner jokes about that a lot, she says. “Because it’s true. My skill set is in crafting documents using words, not images. So why would I spend time trying to figure out book cover design?” She understood that every hour she spent working in an art form she had very little experience with was an hour she couldn’t finish work for her clients, spend much-needed time with her family, or market her books.
“I know I’d need at least twenty hours to do a book cover myself,” she says. “Multiply that by three books a year, and it becomes clear I can’t spend that time on something I’m not good at.”
Wolf-Heffner understands that initial book sales are mostly done in person. “I knew that if I’d designed the book covers myself, and people walked past my table without stopping, I’d wonder if it was because of my poor design or if they really didn’t like books,” she says.
Wolf-Heffner has sold books at several pop-up markets, including Christmas ones, and plans to do so for the foreseeable future until online sales take off. She finds that knowing her books look professional makes it easier to sell them.
“I’ve had so many compliments on the designs—even from complete strangers—that when people walk past, I know it’s because this genre doesn’t interest them or they’re simply not my target reader, if they read at all. I’m not questioning myself, which makes it easier to sell books to those who do stop and look.”
Wolf-Heffner requested that Angie take care of the interior, too. “Yes, many programs exist to help you create a ‘beautiful’ interior,” she says, “but again, I didn’t want to spend the time doing it, and I wanted another pair of eyes on the books.”
Wolf-Heffner has a plot consultant/writing coach and an editor already on her team. “Although Angie doesn’t do any proofreading for me—I need someone familiar with Canadian spelling—she picked up on layout issues, for example, orphans that I might miss, that sort of thing,” she says.
One aspect of the interior design process that Wolf-Heffner didn’t expect was the added flourish in the footer and header. “I didn’t even think of something like that, and Angie added it and made sure it matched with the exterior accents, too. It gives my books a unified look that I can see my readers do appreciate when they open the books.”
“I’m really impressed that Angie can take my one-page synopsis of each book and turn it into a cover that reflects the entire book,” Wolf-Heffner says. “When I was shopping around for quotes, I saw one book cover designer who charged around $2,000 for one cover! Part of her justification for that price was that she would read the whole book. I did not want to pay someone for that.” Wolf-Heffner appreciated Angie’s ability to work with the basics and produce something that reflected the whole.
“I could keep going on about all the things I appreciate with Angie,” Wolf-Heffner says. Another example is Angie’s patience. For example, when Wolf-Heffner first started working with her, she didn’t know how to work with a book cover designer. But within two books, they had a process nailed down. In addition, Wolf-Heffner’s books are part historical fiction, and Angie has worked hard to get the images right.
“I send Angie a two-page document with all the specs, she sends me an idea, I give her feedback, she does the first draft—if that’s what it’s called in graphics design—and then we clean it up together. Done. No drama, no millions of emails, none of that.”
The added bonus is that Angie includes the necessary social media marketing graphics as part of Wolf-Heffner’s cover design work.
“That makes social media marketing so much easier,” Wolf-Heffner says.
“That’s how I would sum up Angie and her work,” Wolf-Heffner says. “If you’re an indie author and you’re humming and hawing at paying for someone to do your graphics work for you, think of it this way: Angie saves me about twenty hours with each project. That’s the first draft of the next book, work I can bring in for my freelancing business, some time off…three times a year. More if I expand to more books.”
Wolf-Heffner also knows Angie’s work works.
“The more books I put on my table, the more people slow down and look at each cover: I can see it.” While working on Between Worlds #3, Wolf-Heffner asked Angie to develop a set of marketing graphics for the entire series, including a vertical banner. “People stop at the vertical banner and read it top to bottom. Yes, that’s my writing on it, but they wouldn’t read it if the graphical elements didn’t catch their eye and then lead it all the way down.”
Wolf-Heffner knows she found the right graphics designer in Angie Underwood.
“No doubts at all, no regrets, zip. Angie’s book cover designs accurately reflect my books and speak to the varied ages of my audience. If you’re an indie author, you need to treat your writing as a business. Hire out your book cover designs to a professional.”
Lori Wolf-Heffner is an indie author based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. As Lori Straus, she’s also a freelance writer and writes for performing arts and tech industries. Her articles have appeared in just dance! magazine, The Dance Current, The Globe & Mail, and The Ontario Dealer. Lori is busy with not only writing novels and copy, but also with part-time graduate studies and her family.