Article by Cory Richardson.
Imagine my pleasant surprise to meet savvy, smart, and eye-catching Tatiana Vila from El Salvador through a recent business venture in which I never even left my town of Walla Walla, Washington. Thank you Internet and global economy!
It all started with my browsing a Smashwords newsletter. Smashwords is a gem in the world of publishers for independent book authors. In the resources list of the newsletter, an entry caught my eye: “Mark’s List – Low cost cover designers and ebook formatters.”
Since I had recently read an excellent Smashwords article about ways to improve visibility of your books, I was already thinking that, without a doubt, my book covers needed a serious update, especially since I had done them myself. Though I like to think of myself as an artist (writer and musician), I needed to shove down a little pride and admit that I can’t do everything like an expert…ah, for example, my own book covers.
Reviewing the book cover artists’ portfolios on Mark’s List, one stood out in particular: Vila Design. Visually, their covers really seemed to “pop.” That’s exactly what I was looking for. Oh, how my own book covers looked even more sad! This was definitely the needed slap in the face. Their website looked fresh and simple too. After an inquiry, I was immediately contacted by a Tatiana Vila.
Tatiana seemed enthusiastic about working with me on a cover, her prices were right, and I especially liked the statement on her website that there could be “Unlimited rounds of revisions until you’re 100% satisfied!” We perfectionists appreciate that! Besides, she had me at “Tatiana.”
Now, it is always a bright idea to do some research on anyone you are doing business with, whether online or anywhere else. Tatiana’s presence online was easy to find, such as her blog, and her profile on Goodreads and Smashwords, where I discovered that she is an author too. Okay, so she probably knows a thing or two about books! And book covers, obviously. She came across as a pro who knows what she’s doing so I thought, ‘let’s go for it!’ Besides, remember that Mark Coker from Smashwords recommended her? I already had a basic trust in “Mark’s List” because I think that Smashwords is genius. And how can you not be thoroughly impressed with Mark’s free guide for publishing ebooks, “Smashwords Style Guide,” which by the way is THE best instruction on using Microsoft Word that I’ve ever seen (okay, I haven’t seen any, but I’ve used Word plenty so there’s no doubt he knows what he’s talking about)? But I’m diverging.
Fast forward a month or two. Currently we’re at book cover number five with Tatiana, and her talents continue to impress me and my wife. She has a great eye for design and I must say, she’s pretty much nailed every cover on the very first try. And I tend to be a detail freak. A few times I’ve asked her to make some changes (which she did without hesitation) only to end up going back to her original version anyway. Yep, she’s got a real talent for this.
But it’s more than just book covers. In our conversations back and forth in the course of doing business, I learned a few things about Tatiana, like she:
Lives in San Salvador, El Salvador.
Studied in the south of France for four years.
Has a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Management from the Institut Vatel in France.
Adores spicy Mexican food, wine a close second.
Has traveled, besides France and other European destinations, to the United States (Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky).
And she loves spending time with family and friends, and going to the coast and the mountains.
So, see why I must do an interview? She is so intriguing that I thought it would be golden to find out some more about her.
Tatiana Vila Interview:
Cory: Your book cover design website, Vila Design, is so professional looking, a fitting showcase for your impressive portfolio of book covers. Did you design your website?
Tatiana: Yes, I did! Good thing that you mention it because it took me a long time to design it. One more thing I can put in my skills, I suppose. 🙂
Cory: Your portfolio of book covers caught my eye more than any other cover designer in the Smashwords listing. When did you start designing book covers and what led you to do it? How did you end up on “Mark’s List” from Smashwords?
Tatiana: Like you said, I am a writer and started just like any other Indie writer looking for a good cover designer. To my surprise, though, the ones that offered professional work were too expensive and way out of my budget. That’s when I realized I had to give it a try and do it for myself. Fortunately, it ended up well! I received a lot of compliments on my cover for THE YLEM, my first book, which drove several authors to seek my help. When I least realized it, I had a small portfolio of 10 book covers. I knew Smashwords was accepting submissions for their “ebook cover designers list” and since there seemed to be a lack of good, affordable cover designers, I decided to send my work to Mark. As you can see, I ended up being accepted, and work and satisfied customers have increased over the years. Life is good. 🙂
Cory: Do your customers usually discover that you are from El Salvador? Do they ask you many questions besides business?
Tatiana: Normally they don’t. Crazy, right? Some authors do ask me but most assume I’m from the US or Russia (because of my name).
Cory: When designing book covers, are people generally super nit-picky (a pain in the ass) about what they want so that you spend a lot of time making changes? Or are people mostly easy to please? Or do you just hit a home run every time because of your talents?
Tatiana: I would love to say I hit a home run every time but perfection is hard to achieve, especially when tastes are so different. But I can’t complain. Most people are easy to please, really. I haven’t had a hard time doing rounds of changes. There are some customers who are nit-picky and take advantage of the rounds of changes, but hey, it’s completely understandable. Writing a book is hard work and the cover is your card of presentation. Getting the best cover possible is a golden rule. 🙂
Cory: Where is most of your book cover business from? Where are some of your other customers from?
Tatiana: Most of my business comes directly from Smashwords, but a major part comes from word of mouth as well. The latter is my favorite, of course!
Cory: When did you start writing books? How many books have your authored? What genre? Are you working on a book now?
Tatiana: I started writing books just after I graduated from college in France. The written word has always been a passion of mine, so having the possibility to get something published, even if self-published, was a dream come true. Until now, I’ve written two books and I’m finishing the third, Alluvion, which is part of The Ylem trilogy. Break Away, my second book, is part of another series. All of them are YA.
Cory: I noticed quite a few books on Amazon that you have co-authored? What was your role in co-authoring?
Tatiana: Honestly, I didn’t do much. I just gave my output regarding titling and plot. So nothing fancy.
Cory: Have you designed the covers for your own books and your co-authored books?
Tatiana: Yes, all of them. 🙂
Cory: Have you used other publishers besides Amazon and Smashwords?
Tatiana: I haven’t. I’m really satisfied with their service so changing publishers isn’t in my mind, really. I totally recommend them!
Cory: What general advice would you have for book authors wanting to make it big?
Tatiana: Write a lot. It’s harder for indie authors to make a name so releasing 2-3 books a year is good marketing (something I haven’t been able to do, unfortunately).
Cory: What is your dream job?
Tatiana: Actually, I’m already doing it. No kidding. But if I had to choose something else, then I would love to have one of those shows where they scare people! It’s just too funny and, of course, I LOVE to scare the hell out of people. Just ask my family. Lol
Tatiana: I was born in El Salvador but I have a Spanish passport. See, my dad is from Valladolid, Spain, so that entitles me to have the Spanish nationality, which is really cool because I get to vote for both countries. 🙂
Cory: Have you lived anywhere else besides El Salvador and France?
Tatiana: I lived in Mexico for 6 months. Thank God I decided to come back to El Salvador because if I stayed one more day over there, you wouldn’t have noticed the difference between Shamu and myself! Mexican food is just SO good and yummy!
Cory: What did you do on your visits to the U.S., Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky?
Tatiana: My sister Heidi lives in Indiana, so most of the time I go to visit her and we occasionally do road tips. For the rest, it’s just for the sake of good, old fun tourism. 🙂
Cory: In all our emails back and forth, your English has been perfect. I noticed that from your very first email. It didn’t take me long to realize that you are one smart cookie. So I figured you might speak other languages. You told me Spanish, English, French, and Portuguese. Wow, you don’t say! When did you learn these other languages?
Tatiana: In High School! That is one of the perks of studying in a French school. You get to learn a lot of languages. Traveling helps a lot, too.
Tatiana: Oh, I wish I could play the guitar. I tried once but, really, my fingers couldn’t keep up with me! Lol. I’ve just recorded myself singing a cappella, without music so it’s pretty much boring.
Cory: You told me that you are getting married next year. Congratulations, I wish you the best. Your beautiful picture, “I said Yes,” is every guy’s dream. Your husband-to-be is, no doubt, one lucky guy. And your life will be enhanced too. It’s all a big change. Do you plan to continuing writing and designing book covers after you are married?
Tatiana: OF COURSE! I don’t see myself in life without this! I’m a creative person and I really feel the need to let my creative juices run wild.
Cory: Do you have any grand travel plans in the next year?
Tatiana: My honeymoon? Lol. Though I still don’t know where I’m going. I’m planning to go to Indiana again sometime next year, too. 🙂
Cory: What do you see yourself doing in five years?
Tatiana: I’ll be boring here. Sorry! But I see myself doing more and more book covers and, ok, perhaps signing a film contract for my books! Lol. I just couldn’t help to say that.
Okay, people, what do you think? Tatiana, you are gold.