Design Talk: Book Cover Edition feat. Porcupine Strongwill

design talk book cover edition

For indie authors such as myself, one of the best ways to capture a prospective reader is to have a kickass book cover. Let’s face it, we can’t really expect everyone to not judge a book by its cover, especially if you’re a relatively unknown author competing against big names. I remember having a conversation with author and #romanceclass mentor Mina V. Esguerra during the recent Manila International Book Fair about the factors that get people to pick up our indie titles when there are literally thousands of other books at the SMX Convention Center that week. The top factor? Book covers.

It makes perfect sense when you think about it. We are very visual beings, especially nowadays. We like scrolling through our Instagram feeds and Tumblr dashboards and pin photos on Pinterest. We like taking selfies, OOTD photos, photos of our food, and of course, books! You can’t deny the power of the #bookstagram hashtag! I’ve personally met readers who found my books through Instagram and decided to give them a try because they found the cover/s pretty or interesting. There was already an “I need to have that book!” thought in their minds before they could even read what it’s about. I think that’s amazing.

For the next three weeks, Design Talk will be featuring interviews with three different book cover designers whose work you may have already seen (especially if you’re a #romanceclass suki). Let’s learn more about them and how they work, and who knows–if you’re an indie author yourself, you might get ideas for your next book cover or meet your next book cover designer. ^_^

Click on the Continue Reading button to meet our featured designer this week, Porcupine Strongwill.

design talk porcupine strongwill

Porcupine Strongwill, or Porcey, is a freelance artist from Manila. She usually creates book illustrations and layout art for independent local authors. (Porcey is also an author, and you may find some of her work here.)

What’s your design style like?

I don’t stick with just one style. I can do minimalistic, like black ink against a plain white background (Forgotten Things to Say, 2014), or plain letters with subtle illustrations (Letters From Bethlehem, 2016). I can work with photography (Pangako ng Singsing, 2015), digital paintings (Signature of God in the Lover’s Hearts, 2016), digital vectors (The Story of Summer, 2014), and traditional art (The Angelic Conflict, 2016, normal and pre-order versions).

When it comes to commissions, of course, what I produce relies heavily on what my client wants. But I try to explore as much as I can.

forgotten things to say cover
Forgotten Things to Say, black ink

What do you think makes a good/bad book cover design?

A good cover design is always one that represents the story the book holds.

If I were to give out a tip to new book designers, I’d say: be relevant.

How do you go about creating a cover design? What processes are involved?

When doing book cover commissions, I always ask first and foremost for: 1) the budget; 2) the blurb; 3) the summary (yes, that’s different from the blurb); 4) and a list of existing book covers that appeal to my client the most (there’s always Google) – these are what I consider even before giving out an estimation quote.

pangako ng singsing cover
Pangako ng Singsing, photography + type

After a bit of dialogue with the author on how I envision the design theme, I doodle different layouts and illustrations on a piece of paper and think on those sketches for days (yes, days). The planning is almost always more difficult (and tedious!) than the execution itself.

If the client is going to pay for a major revision, I usually show them the sketches and let them pick two that they like the most. I would then draft out both before making them choose which direction they’d like me to continue.

What can you say has been the most challenging project you’ve done so far? What was challenging about it?

The most challenging projects are the ones where the client has no idea what he or she wants for the cover! There are people who are so clueless, and that situation is most hard for me because I’d have to inspire them first before we can settle on an agreement.

Take a look at samples of Porcey’s work below:

sogitlh cover
Signature of God in the Lover’s Hearts, digital painting
the angelic conflict cover white
The Angelic Conflict (White Version), traditional art
the angelic conflict cover black
The Angelic Conflict (Black Version), traditional art

BONUS TRIVIA: It was Porcey who did the illustration and calligraphy for my novel, Scandalized!

Would you like Porcey to create your next book cover? Contact her at for a quotation, or add her on Facebook for more details on her work.

Thank you for your time, Porcey~ and I hope to be able to work with you again soon. <3

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *