You’ve done it!
You’ve gone through the writing, got the editing done, all type-setted and clean and wonderful, and finally, after so much struggle, your book is at last completed.
Now it’s only a matter of showing to prospective readers just how good it is, and why they should read it. Seems like a simple enough task, doesn’t it? After all, isn’t a good book all you need to get people’s attention?
Well, sadly, no.
Finishing a good novel is just the beginning of the perilous, thorny voyage that is publishing. Authors nowadays can’t count on the quality of their books alone to get them ahead. While it’s true that there are many dreadful titles circulating the industry due to the new liberties of self-publishing, there are just as many great pieces your book will have to compete with once it goes out in the market. A solid marketing campaign is crucial, and a well designed promotion plan will go a long way in helping you achieve success.
The first step of every book promotion campaign is probably the most critical one: the cover.
Regardless of what you might have heard from your parents, friends, girlfriend, classmates, dog… COVERS DO MATTER! They are the first contact between your book and your reader, and they can either become an open door, or a 10-feet concrete retaining wall for whatever content lies within. However, not everyone can be a designer or illustrator, and in most cases, authors have very little tools to work with when it comes to creating a successful, aesthetically pleasing cover.
This Let’s get you Covered! Series is intended to help authors familiarize with the concept of cover design and how to make the most out of it. As a designer myself, I’ve worked with my share of authors, and as an indie writer, I’ve seen some pretty major flaws when it comes to cover design. Hopefully, this series of posts will help ease the concerns many authors have when it comes to their covers that they don’t know how to address.
For today, we take on the easiest, most recommended, and also most expensive approach: hiring a pro.
1- Why a Cover is important?
In a publishing world that delivers thousands of new titles every day, you need to stand out in order to get the reader’s attention. A good cover can do that. It can highlight your book out from the bunch and make it visible, which is a big part of it all. Once your cover has caught the reader’s attention, you can wow them with your excelled prose and intricate plotline.
However, that will never happen if your book is not visually appealing, or if it doesn’t get the reader’s eye.
Contrary to how the saying goes, we do judge books by their covers first, so an eye-catching concept that stands out can be the difference between a book being noticed or not. If you as an author are not confident you can achieve this, then hiring professional help it’s probably the smartest choice. It may cost you a little more, but in the long run, it will be for the best and it will give your book more opportunities.
2- What do you need to know?
When it comes to hiring help there are several things that come into play. There are legal issues involved, and many details that you need to consider in order to save time and MONEY.
Let’s take a look at some things to keep in mind before making a decision:
- Have a clear mental picture of your cover: Nobody knows your book like you do. Don’t expect the designer to come up with all the ideas, because this will probably cost you more than pocket change. The whole process it’s easier (and cheaper) if you have a clear enough image of what you want. Sit down with a piece of paper and pencil, and brainstorm. Think about:
- What colors would you like? Bright, dark, cold, hot…
- What it’s the theme you want to showcase?
- What objects or symbols do you want to include?
- What kind of font do you want? Cursive, bold, straight, thin…
- Do you want an elegant classic cover or an industrial modern cover?
- What is the cover norm for your specific genre?
The greater the details, the easier and faster will be to come up with something you are satisfied with. You can also draw an example of your cover as a storyboard guide, playing with where you want the author’s name, the title, etc… It doesn’t have to be pretty, just make sure you like the layout.
- Make sure you know what kind of artist you need: For book covers, there are two types of artists: the designer and the illustrator. While an artist can do both (and many do), you have to make sure you know what you are looking for.
- A designer will normally take a stock image or portfolio image and adapt it to your needs through photo-manipulation. He’ll change colors, size, lighting, opacity, etc., and then add the text boxes of title, author’s name and catchphrase. In most of the cases, he will not create an image from scratch, but rather work with content that it’s already available.
- An illustrator can create an original image/illustration that it’s exclusive to your book. In most cases, he’ll do the same the designer does in adding text boxes, but the image will be unique. They can also work in developing character profiles, concept art and maps that are individual to your book.
Example of designer covers include:
Designers work for almost every type of book and they normally do a good job regardless of your genre. However, keep in mind the kind of cover you are shooting for.
Example of illustrator covers include:
Illustrators focus normally in covers for Fantasy, Sci-fi and Paranormal books, as well as books that require specific images not found in day to day life. While a designer can manage simple things like logos and silhouettes, you are going to need an illustrator for any fantasy heavy duty stuff.
- DO NOT settle with the first artist you find on the Internet! Artists normally have their own style and work specifics, so make sure to thoroughly research before choosing. Learn about working ethics, turnaround times and all the things that can affect your cost and the completion of your projects. Browse art sites and look at portfolios. I always recommend authors to check out deviantart.com. This is an absolutely awesome page where artists post their work and you can find many professional illustrators and designers here. Take a look and take your pick!
- Expect frequent contact and BE AVAILABLE! Your cover is not going to be a one-time thing. Rather, is a long term affair. There are going to be revisions, color changes, light changes, etc., depending on what your purchased package includes. Make sure to be available and attentive. A designer will not chase after you to get your approval on a cover, nor will you be his only project in development. Make sure to keep in touch and updated (without getting in the poor guy’s nerves.)
That’s all for #1. In #2 we’ll discuss what authors in a budget, or those who don’t want to hire a pro, can do to make sure their covers look good and make an impact.