Polish Before You Publish – Cover Design

Today we’re going to talk about the last step you need to take before you hit the publish button. Cover Design is an important part of the publishing process, and can make or break your book. It’s your elevator pitch when you’re not around, the face of your story. Your cover does all the talking for you; if it’s lackluster, no one is going to listen.

Cover design is not for amateurs
Let’s just get this out of the way now; if you’re not an artist or graphic designer, you shouldn’t be making your own book covers. Ever. I know, this sounds incredibly harsh; but it’s true. Artists and designers spend years learning how to do their craft properly; and let’s face it, they’ve got a natural talent for it. We can’t all be fabulous artists. If your god-given gift is crafting stories that readers love, but you can’t draw a lick, be happy about that! You still have a great talent that a lot of people (like myself) don’t. “But Dawn, I know I can do this! I took Art in-“. No. Stop right there. Be honest about your abilities. Look at the covers of the Top 100 books in your genre, then ask yourself if you can pull off something like that. A large amount of you are going to have to admit that you can’t do it (once again, don’t feel bad about this). There are loads of self-designed covers out there that prove my point; just take a look at lousybookcovers.com, or any of the “Bad Book Cover” lists on Goodreads. They’re everywhere. Don’t let your book fall into this pit; it’s not fair to you, or to your story.

Cover Generators – Blessing, or Evil in Disguise?
Yes, Amazon will give you access to a Cover Creator, but that doesn’t mean you should ever use it. Covers designed this way are easy to pick out; an unrelated-to-the-story stock photo on the top or bottom half of the cover, and an ugly band of color with the most uninspired font in the world on the other half. Boring! As I said earlier: your cover is talking for you, so don’t let it put potential buyers to sleep. They’ll move on and buy something else. Text-only covers are another option that you should avoid unless you know a little something about design and typography.

How to find a great cover artist
Now that you’ve (hopefully) realized that you need to hire someone to work on your cover, how do you find them? This depends on what you’re looking for. Do you have a vision of what the cover should look like in your head, or do you need someone to design it for you? Do you want an illustrated cover, or would you prefer models and a skilled photoshopper? Perhaps you’d like a text heavy cover, with a striking design. Knowing what you’re looking for ahead of time will help you spend less time googling things like “book cover designers”, or looking at irrelevant art.

If an illustrated or photoshopped cover is what your story calls for, then you need to find an artist or photographer. You can look for someone locally by visiting your city’s art council, or going to an art fair or gallery. If these options aren’t available, or if you just haven’t found the perfect artist yet, the internet is there to guide you. Two great places to start your search are Behance and DeviantArt. You’ll find a ton of artists in either community; be prepared to witness a lot of artwork, both good and bad. Artists and photographers that are available for cover work will generally say so in their bios, although if never hurts to ask someone who doesn’t; just be aware that you may need to find a graphic designer to add the text to your cover. No matter which way you go, know that the price for art or photo commissions will vary wildly: depending on the size and scope of your project and the artist’s/photographer’s skill level, you could be looking at anywhere from $50 to $50,000. Some will give you rough examples of their rates, but most will not even talk to you about a price until they know what they’re getting themselves into. There are a lot of incredible artists and photographers out there that are just getting their start and need to beef up their portfolio; you can often get a pretty amazing cover for less than $200, if you’re willing to spend a little time looking for those hidden gems.

Text heavy covers should be handled by a book or graphic designer. Finding someone that is local is always a good idea, but once again, if you don’t have the resources in your community, Google it (or contact us). There are lots of designers out there who can put together something amazing when the focus is on the words. You want to look for someone who understands typography and has good design practices. Look at examples of their work; is it pleasing to the eye, does it help you understand what the story is about? As with artists and illustrators, pricing will vary, depending on the designer’s skill level and the time it takes to complete the project.

Are premade covers a good option for the budget minded author?
There are many websites dedicated to premade covers, most of which sell for a hundred dollars or less. Premade covers can be a godsend to the budget-minded author that wants to see models on their cover, especially those in the Romance and Young Adult genres. The downside to these covers is that they often contain stock images, and there is a chance that your cover could end up looking like several others. Additionally, many premade sites will sell a cover more than once; keep this in mind when looking at any of these sites; and make sure to buy covers that are guaranteed not to be resold.

The wrap-up
I hope that this blog series has given you a better understanding of the steps you need to take before you send your cherished story out into the world to fend for itself. Be professional about releasing your book, make sure it’s the best book it can possibly be, and you’ll give it a better chance of attracting attention. And that, my author friend, is how you start the path to becoming The Next Greatest Living Author Ever. I wish you the best of luck.

Dawn Marshall is obviously not a writer. She is, however, the resident Book & Graphics Designer at Sudden Insight Publishing, and a big fan of indie authors. You can find her design work and read her smarmy tweets at dear23.com.

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