Please welcome the talented Marion Sipe! I’m thrilled to have her visiting today!

Hey there everyone!

I’m Marion Sipe, and I’m a cover artist. I work with publishing companies and independent authors, creating covers that I hope authors are happy to have connected to their works. I’m a writer as well, so I’ve been on both sides of the cover and I know how tough a job it can be. Today, I’m guesting here with the lovely and talented Kim Cresswell—I got to make the cover for Reflection!—to talk about the process of making a cover, and working with an author to come up with something that’s fitting, and captures the feel of a story.


The feel and mood of the story are actually the most important things. A cover doesn’t necessarily illustrate a given scene, in fact that’s not really the way you want to approach things. Instead of trying to illustrate a book, it’s best to use recurring and important elements to establish the mood you want the reader to be in, what you want them to feel when they pick up your book. Connecting with a reader on that level means they go for your book, instead of all the others lined up next to it, because readers read to experience something. They want to know that reading your story will put them in it, that they’ll connect to the characters, and that the plot will engage them, and that the setting will create a feeling in them. You can’t just write all of that on the cover, of course, and even if you could the reader probably wouldn’t believe you. This is one of the things that must be shown and not told. *G*

So, at the start of any project I want to know what the book is about, what its genre is, because that’s what will establish the mood. There’s more to it than that, of course, but genre is the first step. Should the reader be primed for romance? Should they be ready for action? Should they be drooling for a good sword fight? The genre tells me the first elements of the cover, and the first step in creating a mood for the reader.

jonasbarloff - web

Next, I need to know the flavor of the story itself. Is it a bitter-sweet drama? Then I should use rich, deep tones, with notes of both solemnity and joy. Or is it a tart mystery with an acerbic main character? For which I should clearly use bold, contrasting colors to get the reader tense and ready to pounce on any clues. Or it could be a sweet romance, which calls for longing eyes, soft tones and an organic composition that lets the eye move easily between elements. Or maybe it’s an action-packed thriller, with explosions and guns and kick-ass women? Well, then it should obviously be bold, but not contrasting, complimentary colors with a straightforward feel. All of this I get from the synopsis, which tells me not only the twists and turns of the book, but far more importantly tells me its feel.

From the synopsis I also pick out recurring elements and themes which suit that feel. These should be visible in both the synopsis and the cover. Often authors incorporate these elements intentionally, for instance the recurring theme of snakes to represent the bad things. However, sometimes the elements are more subtle, or come from how an author describes their work. The particular words we use are important. There’s a big difference between ‘sexy and sophisticated’ and ‘romantic and sensual.’ Even though they’re both romances, the mood the author’s looking for is different in each case and requires different kinds of art. So, I like it when an author uses descriptive words to tell me what they’re looking for.


I use all of this to come up with the basic cover proof. This is the first draft of the cover art, but it’s not finished. I send it to the author to get their feedback and make sure I’m on target. Often authors need adjustments or changes and we discuss what they’d like to see or how they’d like it tweaked and I give my input from an artistic point of view. Sometimes authors want things to match up exactly which can be an issue, but I do my best to accommodate any changes they request. I include two sets of revisions in the price of my covers because an author should have input and be able to ask for changes to the proof, but I put a limit on it because, as we all know, authors also love to tweak. *G* I know I do. It’s actually pretty hard to pry a manuscript out of my digital hands… Sentences or word positioning, it doesn’t matter, but there always has to be a point at which you have to let it go.

In the end, authors should be happy with their cover and excited about seeing it up, and that’s my goal. I hope this post has helped you see a bit behind the curtain, and given you some insight into what your cover artist is looking for!

You can find my portfolio here, my premade covers here, and my promotional artwork here. If you’re looking for a cover artist, feel free to contact me at!

I’m also having a sale on my premade covers throughout February, so make sure to drop by and check out the pretties!

Or check out my video portfolio!


REFLECTION is available at Amazon | MuseItUp | ARe | BookStrand | Goodreads | AmazonUK
Coming soon to Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo and other fine retailers. Available in print (late February)

Don’t forget to enter The Spread the Suspense Contest! Click here to find out what you can win!


  1. Interesting and a lot of good suggestions for authors to think of when talking with their book cover artist. I know from personal experience (Marion Sipe designed both of my book covers for Taming the Hawk and Luscious & Lethal) that an intuitive artist is wonderful to work with. In future, I will be more aware of what is required in the process. Thanks, Marion.

    • Thank you! I’m glad you found it interesting! It was for me, too, because… Well, this really isn’t something I think about consciously, you know? And laying it out like this made me consider it as an active process. I’m so glad you had a good experience working with me!

  2. As an editor I have always encouraged authors to work as closely as possible with their cover artist. It seems so obvious, particularly in the case of a new writer, that the cover, the title, coupled with the backcover blurb will be the main selling points for the book. I am very familiar with Marion’s work, talent extraordinaire!
    Joelle Walker

    • Thank you very much! And I agree that covers are very important. I think, even when we don’t want to admit it, we do look to the cover to learn what kind of book it is. It’s so important to make a connection with the reader, to intrigue them and get them to pick the book up (so to speak) so that they read the blurb and the words and have the chance to be drawn in!

  3. Eye-opening post for me with my first book coming out this summer. I really had no concept of how the process might work. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ll be passing this on to other writers. The REFLECTION cover is gorgeous!

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