Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Unimpressive Journey to a Decent Book Cover

As many authors I know can also attest… the journey to arriving at a decent and acceptable cover for your book can sometimes be a long and harrowing journey. A journey that is widely unknown to those who've never had to deal with it firsthand.

The first decision I made with my last cover, by way of example, was the “art work”. Did I want a photo, an original piece of art, something with free licensing, etc.? I approached a few people and I Google surfed for ideas. I ended up going with an existing photo I found on a fashion blog from the UK. I contacted the photographer and secured an agreement to use the photo, and got her to send me a high-resolution version of it.

The next step or my next step anyway, was writing my back blurb. If you work with a larger publishing house there are sometimes marketing people who do this for you, I understand. I like the idea of keeping this level of control, but it means writing and rewriting the blurb and sending it to trusted friends to tell you if it sucks. Input is very important to me, at every stage of the game… but I have to trust the people giving it to me.

Once I had the cover art, and the back text, I found a designer. Then we started down the road to layout joy and happiness. It’s not always a long road, but it’s often full of potholes and varied fonts.

Once the designer had done his job… a few times, because I’m picky… I had a cover.

I released the book, and guess what? All of the positive feedback I’d gotten up to that point changed. No one liked the cover. It was called into question by reviewers, and worse yet… other authors… as a sign of my book looking “unprofessional.” Wow! I was shocked.

I stand by my cover, but I also realize that if I’m going to sell books I need to have a cover that appeals to readers. Enter: Book Two in the series I’m working on.

I have now spent 6 months looking into cover design, and I have managed to discover a lot of what I don’t want, but very little of what I *do* want. I have the back text, but absolutely no idea of the artwork. This being my fifth release, I am little wiser… but I’m still, by no means, an expert.

If you are setting out to publish a book I suggest the following:

(This all comes after writing a book you are proud of, and hiring an editor with a love for your work, but a frank honesty for making it the best it can be.)

Step 1) Observe other covers in your genre – where is the market at? What’s expected of your cover, so it will sell your book at a glance.

Step 2) Artwork – hire a professional, or buy from one. Don’t skimp. They say “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” They say that because everyone does. Fact.

Step 3) Designer – you need one. I don’t care if you are a graphic design pro yourself… you need one who isn’t you to tell you what you don’t always want to hear. Make sure you communicate well with the designer what you want, and don’t be afraid to tell them “no” if you don’t get what you want.

Step 4) Outside opinion – a step I wish I had employed more with my last book. Send “sample” cover art from your designer to book reviewers in your genre… heed their words well. They are on the pulse of your target market. If they all hate your cover, odds are, your reading audience will too.

Take all this as you will… it’s only advice, after all. But don’t ever say I didn’t warn you. :)

(Below is the cover of another of my books that I am really proud of, just so you can see it)