Cover Design   5 comments

So I’m working on the cover for Objects in View, the second book in Transformation Project. Someday, maybe, I’ll be able to afford a cover designer, but for now, I can’t and I am not without skills in this department, so why not use them?

I am not without bravery when I create my covers. I could go with a generic faded background where you can’t tell what the book might be about, but I don’t. I’ve always liked books that gave me a hint of what is inside the cover. Books don’t just speak with words. The way they are designed communicates so much.

I honestly think a lot of authors and publishers miss the point that the cover is a teaser. You want folks to see the cover and say “Hey, I want to read this book.”

The trend in book covers these days is to stick a face somewhere against an out-of-focus background with a nice bold title. There’s a similarity to many that doesn’t tell me much. I like a book cover that presents a puzzle, that makes the reader think.

 

You clearly don’t want to overdo this and confuse the reader, but you want the cover to create questions that the reader would now like to have answered. At the least, there should be something from the book on the cover. Hence why I added the cover images of other authors to this blog post.

You can buy cover images from websites and I’m not denigrating these. They’ve opened up a world of decent covers for indie authors who are not artists or who don’t know any artists or who can’t afford more expensive cover art. Just be aware that generic covers may lack what you want most from a cover, the “free” marketing potential of a cover that says “Hey, there’s something good beneath this cover. Come check it out.”

So, let me critique the covers I’m featuring here. Katharine Kerr’s Deverry Cycle had smack-awesome covers after the first two books were published. The scene from the cover actually occurs in the book, by the way. That’s Rhodry and Yren sheltering in a broken dun. More, though, if you had never read one of Kerr’s books, you might be curious about the clothes these men are wearing and what those strange ruins are behind them. They’re in intense conversation about something. What? And why the heck do the horses still carry their burdens when the men are resting by a campfire?

fantasy_coverThe Way of Kings has less detail, but it makes it really clear that there will be epic battles in this book and probably involve very challenging landscape — which the book has. And the use of color definitely catches your eye even in a thumbnail. Brandson Sanderson’s name dominates the cover, and would eclipse the title if the title weren’t in red. That’s fine … for Brandon Sanderson who is just coming off finishing the Wheel of Time series. He’s an A-list fantasy writer. As an indie author, my name has no marketing value. The title is far more important and it should take center stage.

Now, let’s use an example here. I have published two epic fantasies. Would this generic cover be appropriate for either one of them?  I would argue “no”. The cover says to me that there will be a weak female with a fencing sword being victimized in this novel and maybe it’s going to rain and … is that a campfire near her butt? None of that occurs in The Willow Branch or Mirklin Wood. So why would I elect to put this cover from The Book Cover Designer website on my book?

Willow Branch Blue White Recreation CoverI wouldn’t. This is not a complaint against The Book Cover Designer website. They have some cool covers advertised and a few I actually would buy if I needed a cover and couldn’t create one of my own. I can go out and buy my own images and put them together in a collage that will hint at what is inside the book. So why wouldn’t I do that since I actually have those skills?

My point in this article is not to discourage indie authors from using cover designers, but to point out that we don’t need to be constrained by rules when we are indies. The “authors should never design their own covers” rule should be grouped with the “self-publishing is only for bad books” thought. The point of self-publishing is to put out a quality product. If you can’t do that with the skills you have, hire the skills you need. If you can … that leaves you with more money to spend on some other facet of book publishing where you need help.

Don’t be discouraged by rules that other people put on you. It’s okay to get advice, but ultimately, remember that its your name that ends up on the front of the book.

5 responses to “Cover Design

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  1. Great thoughts on cover design. I’ve shared this in our ‘inklings’ group down here in Virginia. I think you hit the nail on the head when you encourage departure from formulas. Frankly, I don’t pick up some books because the cover tells me what it’s about to the point that I lose the curiosity factor. As a graphic designer, I find that the challenge is ever greater to try to create a “fresh portal'” as it were.

    In fact, I wonder if C. S. Lewis gives us a great clue here, in that the cover is a ‘portal,’ and it better have the same draw that that wardrobe had on Lucy. Or perhaps that little painting at the beginning of ‘The Dawn Treader’ is a better example. We should feel some tension viewing a Narnian ship that we cannot actually BE in Narnia.

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  2. I am so happy to see your thoughts on this. I have seen several books lately that have the same artwork but different titles and authors. If I already read all of your books, fine. However if you are new to me, that cover might be what makes me stop and take a look inside!

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    • Exactly. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of BAD self-made covers out there, which is a good reason for the cover mills to exist, but there are also a lot of potentially good books that are sinking themselves with a generic cover that says nothing about the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on aurorawatcherak and commented:

    I wrote this a while ago, but I think the advice still applies.

    Like

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