Of Covers and Sales

I was just talking to a friend about the Indie Sales Slump which to an extent is still going on (let’s say it’s recovering very slowly.)

Mine has taken a very weird shape, because the novels and longer short stories I put up recently are selling. Not spectacularly but selling. It’s the older stuff that’s not moving at all.  Well, that and the collections, but those have truly bad blurbs, because I wasn’t feeling up to writing them by the time I’d done everything else to the books (I know, I know, I need to go in and fix them).

Then I realized the Shakespeare books are selling way better since I changed their covers.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the covers.  Part of this is a training of the eye.  I’m simply better, now, at looking at what’s there, rather than what I think should be there.  I’m also better at balancing the text illmetbymoonlightnewcoverand the picture.

However, there are things I can tell you about how to make covers that I always knew intuitively, but which I did not apply on the page until very recently (like the last two months.)  And frankly I’m going to, because here’s the thing: if you’d started in indie publishing two years ago, you could do what you very well pleased (more or less) to the cover and be okay.  This is because we were all so new that we were trying to figure out how to do covers (and mostly failing) and as long as you had a picture and a title on it and the aspect wasn’t 2 inches by fifty five, so that you had to page off the computer to get all the cover, yay, you go.

BUT now everyone else has upped their game (except the traditional houses, but that’s fine) so you have to also, or you stick out like a sore thumb.

So here are some hard and fast rules:

1 – the aspect of your cover should be 2500 pixels by 1563.

2- Fonts…  There are cheap fonts out there.  Okay, reasonable.  Just don’t do your font in Times New Roman or Ariel or something like that. Those are fine for inside the book, but they look odd on the cover.

3- You don’t want to stretch the fonts, so if you’re writing a title of more than a syllable, you want a condensed font.  Tall enough to be seen in thumbnail, but not sprawling.  (Or you can change all your titles to Zut and Paff.)

4- Go to Amazon and look at what is being put on the covers of the PRINT bestsellers in your genre or subgenre.  It will almost for sure surprise you. This is because a lot of us are locked into the design of our youth.  The idea we have of what should be on the cover, and what should actually be on the cover are actually completely different.  For instance, when considering the release of Death of A Musketeer, I thought I’d have to have a representational cover, and spent weeks trying to do one.  And then I went and looked.  Most of the historical mysteries these days have either something iconic or a dislocated figure on the cover, that suggests the time frame.  That’s it.  No “scene of the book” covers.  (Or at least there weren’t a month ago.)  This of course made my life much easier, because I can cut figures of musketeers out of classical paintings.  (Yes, it’s okay, the painters died centuries ago.)  This is how the cover of Death of a Musketeer ended up with a dead Musketeer from The End Of The Game Of Cards by Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier.  (Btw, I had to bring out the Wacom to clean up the “around the figure” bits.  I’m still not happy with it, as I have a simple texture for the background, and what I’d like to have is an evocative texture, but it sort of does. It’s no worse than what is being put out by the houses.)

final cover DOAM

5- And this brings us to the next one.  Forget what IS in your book.  Consider instead how to sell the book.  No, seriously.  Take the cover to Darkship Thieves.  There is no scene in the entire book in which Athena walks out naked amid the powertrees, because vacuum.  Space.

Darkship Thieveshighres

If you try to do it as a “Scene from the book” what would you do?  Perhaps when she tries to strangle Kit?  How about one of her patented ballet moves, in a broomer suit?

But neither of them will be as effective as the cover. They will look either cartoonish or just like mil sf, which the book isn’t.

Okay, the cover might over promise slightly, in that people willing to view it that way might decide that really, really, really, this is an erotic romance.  But this would take an effort of imagination, because the pose is dignified.  What the cover advertises is a coming of age novel.  Also, by its evoking of Heinlein’s To Sail Beyond The Sunset, it will capture Heinlein readers, which is good because most of them will like this book.

Here’s the thing – if you have read Death of A Musketeer, you’ll know why the figure in the cover is subtly wrong.  OTOH what does it cue?  It cues “historical, mystery, about musketeers.” And it is (should be at least) visually interesting, which makes people wish to see more.  And then when they see more… you have a chance to grab them.

The important things the book should be cueing are genre and “feel.”  I don’t really care if your characters first do it in a stable, if you have a horse and a girl on the cover, you’re giving off a completely different type of “romance.”

Various little things to consider: SF and fantasy covers are rarely pictures.  If you search the photo sites with “photo” off or select FOR illustration, you’ll get drawings, and those are usually better.  If all you have is a photo, make it look like a picture.

Romance covers are usually pictures.

If you take a whole old painting (as if I’d taken all of Meissonier’s above) you end up with a feeling of a “scholarly” book, which I wanted to avoid.

Is my understanding of covers perfect?  Oh, heck no.  But the recent covers seem to be selling better, which must mean something.

Which is why I’m going to redo my old short stories, and then I’ll let you know the result of THAT experiment.

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers.

For the record, as I said above, I wasn’t satisfied with the background of DOAM cover and — thanks to ‘Nother Mike’s idea — have now given the background a more… uh… complete texture.

final cover DOAMwithtexture1

104 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

104 responses to “Of Covers and Sales

  1. ABE

    Absolutely perfect: I never thought of ransacking classical paintings – and that’s exactly the feel I want for a cover I’m trying to think into being.

    Why is the head so stupid until someone else points something out? Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • I stole it from a publisher’s nineteenth century mysteries. I mean, the idea, not the cover.

    • Laura M

      I’ve been planning to use a Canaletto painting as a cover for a short story, but the story is about the painting. Maybe I can insert a little satellite into the sky over the ports of old Venice, and really make it my own. I know how to do that now. 🙂

      That new cover on your Shakespeare book looks really good, Sarah, at least to my untrained eye.

  2. TXRed

    Oh good, so I can stop looking for pictures of mules for my next cover!

    On a tad more serious note, one of the “problems” with the cover of “Justice and Juniors” didn’t appear until several months after publication. When you glance at the image, it looks at first like a variation on the design used by the citadel guards in the LotR films. Which is a little confusing to prospective readers, since the Cat series is mil-sci-fi. If a little voice in the back of your mind says,”hmmm, it’s lovely but something’s odd,” look around.

    • well, I went in to fix the lettering on IMBM (HOW did my name end up run that far to the left?) and realized i’d labled book 3 book 2. Well, I know why THAT one isn’t selling. So. Going back to fix.

    • RES

      Given current style preferences you probably want to show an open toe shoe rather than a mule. If your tale is set in past times I suggest going for a sandal or other timeless style that displays toes so as to draw in the foot fetishist market who might be happy to buy the book just for the cover.

  3. I first saw that last winter, when I managed to change one of the covers of the vampire short stories I have. It still doesn’t exactly sell, but it goes noticeably better when it’s on the free promos. And all the reals sells (usually one or two per month) have happened after the cover change too.

    OT, but what makes YA YA? The novel I’m writing does have a main character who is about 19, there is no sex and no detailed scenes of violence, and it is something of a coming of age story, so I suppose it should be labelled as YA?

  4. Christopher M. Chupik

    You know, I never noticed Athena being naked in space on account of her being . . . naked.

  5. Eamon

    You talked about ‘scene from the book’ covers, which I’m sorta partial to, with a caveat: Well done dynamic moment scene covers work as a grand hook on me…so long as they’re accurate. It jars me from a story to get to the depicted scene and the artwork has flubbed the narrative! Ack! Dissonance! Expletives! In those cases I find myself wishing for mood or concept covers like DST above.

    I’ve always been a big fan of Michael Whelan’s covers. They can evoke the mood and characters without depicting any specific incident. So, how to accomplish the same things as an award winning artist…….

  6. Vanth

    Actually the paintings are out of copyright, but the photography of them isn’t always. Got to be careful on that, as it can lead to some cease and desist letters. This has lead to problems in the past. Now, you go take picture of painting, or get it from a open source site, all is good. Or tweak by a certain percentage to make it new artwork is also viable, so I’m not quite sure using them like cutouts counts as new work or not. *cough* Lichenstein did this, and was thourghly loathed by the artists he ripped off. *cough*

  7. Disclaimer – I like the cover of DST. I also like the cover of TSBTS.

    That said, you ask, “If you try to do it as a “Scene from the book” what would you do?”, so I will answer: I can think of a few scenes that would be fine.

    1) Athena diving into the Powertrees (you did say those lifeboats had transparent hulls, right?), and the Darkship looming just ahead, but somewhat indistinct, because dark.
    2) The Darkship on approach to Eden (though this one is not as good for modern readers).
    3) Athena and Kit surrounded by the hushers (yeah, I just reread it, or I would not have remembered that name), possibly with Kit taking his clothes off in front of the leader, to be checked for electronic bugs.
    4) Possibly Athena breaking out of the regen ward after being radiation burned and regenerated. Lots of fire and some explosions to pick from there.

    • JSchuler

      Isn’t #2 the cover for DSR?

      Anyway, not a fan of most covers I come across, so I pretty much ignore them. I do like the covers for the Hunger Games series, though: simple, distinctive, consistent. But all I’m really looking for is a cover that tells me effort went into the book’s production. The covers for the Hunger Games and Dark Ship Thieves tell me that. Honestly, the above cover for Death of a Musketeer does not (photoshopping figures out of paintings rarely works; you’re almost always better off cropping the painting to keep the relationship intact)

      • Meh. No cover works for everyone. This is what they’re doing for historical mysteries (at least some of them.) And trust me, work went into it. The problem with the whole painting is that it immediately tells the backbrain “reprint out of Guttenberg.”

        • JSchuler

          Characters in paintings normally have dramatic lighting that make them seem out of place if they are removed from their setting. There are exceptions (The Mona Lisa is quite friendly to having her background changed), but characters within a scene are very difficult.

      • I am going to try to say this without letting my head explode. You really don’t have a clue about what goes into most covers, do you? You think there was a lot of work that went into the Hunger Games cover? It’s a frigging icon, nothing more. I frankly don’t get the whole “all I’m really looking for is a cover that tells me effort went into the book’s production” argument. That’s especially true considering so many of the legacy publishing covers are now nothing more than stock photos. The fact an author has gone out to find an image that actually matches the story is effort. I hate to break it to you but most books do not have custom covers made for them — ie artists hired to make them — any more.

        As for the rest of the implication of your comment that the quality of the cover represents the effort that went into the book’s production, I don’t know where you’re getting that either. What you ought to be concerned with the the quality of the effort that went into writing the book and then editing and proofing it. THOSE are the important parts of making a book: is it entertaining and well constructed? The rest is window dressing. If the cover is more important to you that what is in the book, I feel for you. You are missing a lot. But then, to each his own.

        • Amanda, I’ve probably been _reading_ F & SF longer than you’ve been alive. That means I can tell you a truth. Covers make sales, as Sarah points out. When I, or most other fans, choose a book to buy/read, we look for (in roughly this order): Author name; *cover design,* title, blurb, publisher. Just to make the point clearer, an unknown (to me) author had better have a good cover design, if the want me to buy the book. I may never buy another PoC by that author/publisher, but if the cover doesn’t snag me, they won’t sell the first one.

          • Walter, I never denied the importance of covers. They are the first thing readers see, especially if they are in a store looking at print books. What I have an issue with is someone saying they judge the work that has gone into a book by the cover. Worse, the implication that using an already existing painting as the cover — or part of the cover — means that there has been no effort put into the quality of the book drives me over the edge. Well, that and the raging toothache I have right now after going to the dentist.

        • JSchuler

          “You think there was a lot of work that went into the Hunger Games cover? It’s a frigging icon, nothing more.”

          And do you know what a good icon is worth? It takes a lot more design work to come up with an original icon than it does to go through a bunch of stock images and photoshop out the backgrounds. Just because something has a lot of complex elements doesn’t mean effort was put into it. Conversely, just because something looks simple it does not mean that effort is lacking.

          “That’s especially true considering so many of the legacy publishing covers are now nothing more than stock photos.”

          What does legacy publishing have to do with anything that I’ve written?

          “As for the rest of the implication of your comment that the quality of the cover represents the effort that went into the book’s production, I don’t know where you’re getting that either.”

          There are lots of books out there. I have limited time to browse through them. I choose to narrow that down by first looking at books that tell me up front the producers (whether indy or otherwise) have enough confidence in the product to put their money where their pen is. Doesn’t guarantee that I’ll pick a good book, or that I won’t pass by one, but I’ve found it greatly increases the odds that I get something enjoyable.

          • Sigh. Where is it written that an author has more confidence in their work because they commission a cover as opposed to finding a piece of art — or stock images — that not only look good but fit the spirit of the book? You don’t like books that use work from the master painters, fine. You like covers that don’t give you any indication about what the book is about. That’s fine too. But you came here and condemned carte blanche something I have to wonder if you really understand — namely the fact that indie authors not only have to design covers that fit their work but that also look like they have come from a legacy publisher. Why do they have to do this? Because there are a number of potential readers who will not even consider a book if it doesn’t look like it came from such a house. That means we, as indies, have to be aware of what sort of covers are on the shelves for our genres. Which, in Sarah’s instance with the Musketeers Mysteries means using classic artwork as the centerpiece of the cover.

            As for your claim of limited time, welcome to my world. We are all in that boat. Because of that, I’ve learned when looking for books not to just rely on the covers. I also look at the description and — gasp — use the samples that are offered. Why do I look at the samples? Because I’ve been taken in by too many covers that were interesting and that I later found had nothing to do with the actual book. But, as I said before, to each his own.

            • JSchuler

              “But you came here and condemned carte blanche something I have to wonder if you really understand — namely the fact that indie authors not only have to design covers that fit their work but that also look like they have come from a legacy publisher.”

              This is odd, considering you’re the one who brought up indie and legacy publishers. Unless you’re claiming that indie book covers, by their nature, do not show effort in their cover design, while legacy publishers do. Otherwise, how could I condemn something that I never mentioned?

              “Because of that, I’ve learned when looking for books not to just rely on the covers. I also look at the description and — gasp — use the samples that are offered.”

              Interesting. And you came to the conclusion that I do not look at the back covers and read the provided samples… how?

              • I do love how people keep moving the goal posts. I, unlike you, read Sarah’s post. I also read your comment where you at least appeared to be attacking what indie authors sometimes do with their covers. I brought up legacy publishers because they are the competition and they are who we have to keep an eye on. I also brought them up to point out the fact that they do exactly what you were condemning.

                Where in the world did I say, or even imply, that indies don’t put as much effort into cover design? In fact, I pointed out that legacy publishers use stock photos, iconography, etc. So get off your high horse and actually go back and read Sarah’s post — which is about how to cue your reader into genre by what you do with your cover.

                As for coming to the conclusion that you don’t look at anything but the covers, I used your own words. I have limited time to browse through them. I choose to narrow that down by first looking at books that tell me up front the producers (whether indy or otherwise) have enough confidence in the product to put their money where their pen is. If that isn’t a pretty strong implication that you look only — or at least mainly — at covers to decide if you want to read a book, sorry. It at least implies it. It also confirms that you feel the cover quality, as defined by you, has anything to do with how much confidence an author has in his work. It has absolutely nothing to do with “confidence” and everything to do with cuing your audience at a price that won’t frigging bankrupt you. Now go back an re-read Sarah’s post and pay attention to it this time. Then read her response to your comment. Think about them and maybe, if you do, you will realize you’ve been off-base here.

                • JSchuler

                  “I do love how people keep moving the goal posts.”

                  I moved no goal posts, but you are intent on fielding a team of strawmen.

                  “I, unlike you, read Sarah’s post. I also read your comment where you at least appeared to be attacking what indie authors sometimes do with their covers. I brought up legacy publishers because they are the competition and they are who we have to keep an eye on. I also brought them up to point out the fact that they do exactly what you were condemning.”

                  Appeared? Where? Amanda, you are full of crap.

                  “Where in the world did I say, or even imply, that indies don’t put as much effort into cover design?”

                  You implied it when you started ranting about legacy publishers after someone said that they liked covers that showed effort. That is the only way any of your response to me make the slightest sense, because I never mentioned either, and yet you somehow think that’s the central claim of what I wrote.

                  “As for coming to the conclusion that you don’t look at anything but the covers, I used your own words. I have limited time to browse through them. I choose to narrow that down by first looking at books that tell me up front the producers (whether indy or otherwise) have enough confidence in the product to put their money where their pen is.”

                  Amanda, your reading comprehension is, frankly, not worthy of a kindergartener. Do you see the word “only” there? No? Did you miss “first looking at?” Yes, you did.

                  What happened here is you glanced at a post and in your mind substituted it for something you could be outrageously outraged at. You are hallucinating. You are delusional. Dare I say, you are hysterical.

                  • I have a deadline to meet and don’t have time for this, JSchuler. So let me point out a couple of things that you seem to have overlooked or simply don’t care about. One, I am one of the bloggers here. Two, I did more than scan the blog post. In fact, I read it as Sarah snipped it at me before she posted it and then after. Three, we have few rules here at MGC but one of them is not to be a troll or a butt-head. You have now ventured into both categories. I have tried answering your questions with quotes directly from your posts but that doesn’t suit your agenda so you change the goal posts.

                    My responses to you, especially about the quality of covers, were based on what you said. I don’t have time to go back over each of your comments but you are the one who put forth the statement that you didn’t think an author using a work of art, or part of a work of art, as their cover was putting forth the necessary effort to show confidence in their product. You have ignored or overlooked my responses that, as indies, authors have to look at what legacy publishers are using as their covers. In fact, you condemned me for bringing legacy publishing into the equation. I don’t know how much time you spend studying the industry or its trends, both from the legacy standpoint as well as the small press/indie standpoint, but I do know that I spend a lot of time doing so. Everyone on MGC does. So pardon us if we tend to get passionate about an industry we work in.

                    Now, I did say your original comment gave the impression that you believe indies don’t put as much effort — or money — into cover design. I repeated that same basic qualifier when I responded to your second, more insulting comment. Instead of having a discussion, you have throughout it all decided to ignore the gist of the original blog post — which was to discuss how to cue in a reader through your cover image. You are the one who said that the use of masterpieces, in whole or part, or other non-original art on your cover means you don’t have “confidence” in your work. In my previous comments, I have tried to discuss the issue with you but have also said to each his own. I was willing to let the topic drop as one of those, “let’s agree to disagree” moments. You are the one to keep coming back and, in your last comment to me as well as to Sarah, you became personally insulting. That is reason enough for the ban hammer to fall. Whether it does or not will depend on how you act from now on on this blog.

                    • JSchuler

                      “You are the one who said that the use of masterpieces, in whole or part, or other non-original art on your cover means you don’t have “confidence” in your work.”

                      Amanda, I will repeat here, as your post, particularly this, proves:

                      “What happened here is you glanced at a post and in your mind substituted it for something you could be outrageously outraged at.”

                      The reason I’m not responding to your arguments is because you are arguing with a post that never existed except in your head. This thing you said? Untrue. Flat out false. Bearing false witness. You even put the word “confidence” in quotes as if I said it (the word “confidence” has not appeared in any post I have written to date). How is it possible to have a discussion with someone that insists not only on talking for herself, but talking for the other side?

                      There is someone trolling here. It isn’t me.

                    • Dan Lane

                      While I did not read what you originally wrote verbatim as an attack, the character and tone of your responses here stand witness to behavior that will likely get you banned. If I may give some unasked for advice, take a breath and contemplate less stressful things for a bit. This’ll wait.

                      Back? Okay.

                      JSchuler, some facts here. The Mad Geniuses here are Amanda Green, Kate Paulk, Sarah Hoyt, Dave Freer, Cedar Sanderson, and Chris McMahon. Every one of them is a published author. They’ve all been working in indie publishing for varying amounts of time- Sarah longest?- and know many of the ins and outs of writing and getting published. Some are also published by larger houses- I know Sarah has some work going on with Baen, a house dear to many of us for the quality it puts out. But mostly it’s about indie writing.

                      That’s what a lot of MGC is.

                      Talk about writing, editing, reviewing, getting published, cover art, flogging the material to make sales… They know. They’d probably say they are all still learning, but so are we all. These folks have my respect because of their experience and talent, as well as their character.

                      Yes, I know you got attacked. Here’s why.

                      Yesterday’s post concerned covers, but mostly in relation to indie. While you may not have intended any such thing, viewed *in the context* of what we all talk about here and yesterday’s post in particular, it very well could appear critical of what those who write and publish outside the traditional establishment. That is how I perceive it. I speak for no one but myself, but I think you might find agreement among others who read what you wrote.

                      Specifically, the quality of indie covers runs the gamut from cringeworthy awfulness to quite amazing. But most indie work is low-budget, and the authors put a cover on it now so they can get paid for it. That often means, yes, a cover less sublimely amazing than they’d like. Thus when you look at the cover for Death of a Musketeer and proclaim it does not tell you effort went into its production, it becomes remarkably easy to come to the conclusion that “effort did not go into production” = lower quality, and from there an opinion about the book itself. This appears to be “judging a book by its cover.” I rather doubt that is what you intended. But communication isn’t just talking, it’s listening, too. What we intend is not always what others hear.

                      We play pretty rough here sometimes. That’s fine, as long as we’re all adults about it. You trod into a hot button issue right from the get go here. That happens. Your subsequent defense is in remarkably poor character, however. We are all readers here, even those who do not write for publication. It’s no great trick to use context to inform one’s understanding. I, for one, am not impressed by your protestations. In other words, what you *didn’t* say is not at issue with me. What you *did* say, and how, matters.

                      Prove to us that you can be mature enough to reason out where you went wrong, and I will respect that. I believe I understand where you are coming from. But do *you* get what we are saying? So far, your responses do not indicate that you do.

                      MGC is normally quite fun and informative. I’d like to see it stay that way, and I know the rest of us do too. A little perspective can go a long way.

                  • Wow, troll much?

                    You’re welcome to disagree with Sarah’s post. I don’t always agree with her. (mostly, but not always) But you have leveled personal attacks against the blog owners.

                    You accuse Amanda of hallucinating, being delusional and hysterical (as an aside, this is a particularly sexist remark as this was leveled at women for decades and only at women. To accuse a man of being hysterical was essentially to call him homosexual.) Sir, you are a nitwit, nay, a halfwit.

                    First they have responded directly to what you have said, you simply didn’t like the response. Second when three different people have responded in more-or-less the same fashion to what you said, it’s entirely possible that you actually said what they think you said, not what YOU think you said.

                    In other words, sirrah, you said something idiotic and got called on your stupidity. This is not the end of the world, as recognizing our own stupidity is the key to growing in wisdom, although I do not hold out much hope in this case as the dumb appears to be terminal.

                    • JSchuler

                      “First they have responded directly to what you have said, you simply didn’t like the response.”

                      Amanda’s response was to invent things I did not say, and try to beat me over the head with her fabrications. So yes, I did not like the response. Would you?

                      ” Second when three different people have responded in more-or-less the same fashion to what you said, it’s entirely possible that you actually said what they think you said, not what YOU think you said.”

                      First, I only count two: Amanda and, later, Sarah, and it’s entirely possible Amanda’s post influenced Sarah’s, as Sarah’s is even more disconnected from anything I wrote. Kate, below, is a related post in response to me, but you’ll note she’s not talking about how I insulted indies or anything like that, instead she’s disagreeing with my preferences and my interpretation of what qualifies as “effort.” You will note that I have not shown any offense at her post. I don’t have much of a response, because we’re mainly talking opinion.

                      But, if it’s as you say, then you need only do a simple thing to prove it. If Amanda is correct, then provide an quote where a said anything, negative, positive, or merely descriptive, about indie or legacy publishers. If Sarah is correct, then provide a quote where I said any one of Sarah’s books were indie or legacy. This is real simple. Do that, and I will apologize.

                    • You don’t think you need to apologize for calling someone delusional? For a sexist insult? For your condescension and disdain to people who have done far more than you have in terms of writing and publishing?

                      The rights and wrongs of the arguments about covers I could care less about. I don’t understand covers well enough to have an opinion. What irritates me, nay pisses me off, is your insulting behavior toward people I flatter myself are friends.

                      You sir, have come into someone else’s house and shat upon their carpet. You then point at the dog and try to pretend others did not see you dropping traou in the middle of the room.

                    • JSchuler

                      “You don’t think you need to apologize for calling someone delusional? For a sexist insult?”

                      Quite frankly, lying is a more grievous offense. The sexist nature of the insult is your interpretation, and you may apologize to yourself for giving yourself offense.

                      “For your condescension and disdain to people who have done far more than you have in terms of writing and publishing?”

                      My “condescension” and “disdain” has nothing to do with their writing or their publishing.

                      “What irritates me, nay pisses me off, is your insulting behavior toward people I flatter myself are friends.”

                      I return like with like. I would think that writers would see the hijacking, twisting, and falsification of their own words by others with intent to harm them would be more insulting.

                      “You sir, have come into someone else’s house and shat upon their carpet. You then point at the dog and try to pretend others did not see you dropping traou in the middle of the room.”

                      Sir, I was only following the example of the hostess.

                    • It is not, in fact, my interpretation that to call someone “hysterical” is sexist, but rather the interpretation of history. Please do feel free to look it up and be enlightened.

                      Having read back through your comments you are indeed correct that you did not use the word “confidence” in your posts. You, however most certainly did imply that indy authors who do not come up with covers which meet your rather arbitrary standards of what a proper cover should look like, are not worth your time.

                      Given that what you feel makes a good cover (and I have yet to see any sort of credential from you which should give me reason to prefer your opinion over mine) is likely to differ wildly from mine I see no reason to give yours any more consideration than the steaming pile of excrement you left sitting in the middle of the room a few minutes ago.

                    • It is just pointed out to me that I was incorrect in my last comment.

                      Mr. Schuler did indeed use the word “confidence” in his first comment, and I quote:

                      “There are lots of books out there. I have limited time to browse through them. I choose to narrow that down by first looking at books that tell me up front the producers (whether indy or otherwise) have enough confidence in the product to put their money where their pen is.”

                      Sir, the ladies are indeed owed an apology, not just for your boorishness but, in fact, for your asinine comments following on. That comment in fact implies that those who do not pay for covers (which must apparently meet the Schuler Test) do not care enough about their work to warrant your time.

                      I suggest you back down now sir, while you still may.

                    • JSchuler

                      “You, however most certainly did imply that indy authors who do not come up with covers which meet your rather arbitrary standards of what a proper cover should look like, are not worth your time.”

                      This is somewhat fair, but one-sided and overstated. One-sided, as it can be rephrased “legacy publishers/authors who do not come up with covers…” and be equally true. Overstated, as I did not say that I would reject, outright, a book that had a bad cover. If I get a recommendation or hear good things about a book, it doesn’t matter what the cover is. But, if I’m starting a point of ignorance, such as browsing through a list of Amazon’s recommendations, I’ll use the covers to tell me which ones I should take the time to preview.

                      “Given that what you feel makes a good cover (and I have yet to see any sort of credential from you which should give me reason to prefer your opinion over mine) is likely to differ wildly from mine I see no reason to give yours any more consideration than the steaming pile of excrement you left sitting in the middle of the room a few minutes ago.”

                      And considering I only offered what I said as an opinion and expression of experience, that’s perfectly reasonable, and I fail to see why others feel threatened by it.

                    • JSchuler

                      “Mr. Schuler did indeed use the word “confidence” in his first comment, and I quote:”

                      Bah, you are correct. I did use the word “confidence.” I re-read the post, but not, apparently, close enough.

                      “That comment in fact implies that those who do not pay for covers (which must apparently meet the Schuler Test) do not care enough about their work to warrant your time.”

                      Oh, please. Let’s say for the sake of argument this is true: So what? Who is right to determine what is worth my time, what is not, and how it is to be determined? Is it you? Is it Amanda? Is it Sarah? Do the three of you get a vote in what is or is not worth my time? Or how I should choose which book to read?

                      I find it interesting that, under a blog post that talks about how covers influence sales, the fact that someone uses covers as a means to help figure out what to buy is anathema.

                    • Eamon

                      It is not opinion but attitude that has earned enmity.

          • Okay – deep breath – let’s discuss your Olympic level jumping to conclusions, shall we?
            Your first leap is that this is an indie book, published entirely on my own, and that therefore, the cover reflects my lack of confidence that it will “sell well” enough to justify commissioning a cover.
            FYI this book is a reprint of a book first published by Berkley 10 years ago, which was a Mystery Book Club Selection.
            Do I have confidence in it? Well, Steve Forbes thought well enough of the book to give a personal recommendation in his column – which is why there is a quote from him on the cover.
            Was it published by Berkley with a “scene” cover? Yeah, this one was, sort of. Though the “Scene” is not particularly evocative of the book. The second book has an indecipherable cover, showing what seems to be a window and a bunch of cloth (it’s a dead woman, but you need a jeweler’s loupe to see it.) The third has a scene from the book and is okay, but looks a lot like the first. Fourth and fifth have paintings featuring an apple in a prominent position. (I have no idea why.)
            Other than the first cover, I don’t think any of them were “selling” covers, and the sales showed it.
            Right now, scene paintings in historical mystery just show the book is old. They’re not doing those anymore.
            Anyway, leaving aside my confidence, I’m putting it up for 4.99 and my guess is it will be a steady, unspectacular seller simply because it has been up so long, though it will pick up when the long-delayed book six comes out and the fans remember the series. No, it’s not going to be a seller like Hunger Games, because it’s not in the same genre.
            Which brings us to your second conclusion that the “icon” type of covers are better.
            Wow. This is the 100 yard leap with no hands. Look, the “icon” type covers are what NYC is putting on ‘bestsellers’ – mostly they’re bestsellers because they’re pushed to become bestsellers by hyper publicity. They’re also a certain type of book, usually a little sex, a little YA and a ton of lefty politics (or Sparkly vampires. Or S & M.)
            They are never historical mysteries in the cozy category.
            Your third conclusion is that the covers that are aesthetically pleasing (i.e. the whole painting) sell more. This is almost the opposite of what I said in the article, and if you’d paid attention at least you’d have given an indication you were REFUTING what I said – instead of assuming I’m just stupid and never thought of it. In that case, examples would be good too.
            I can offer you examples of “beautiful paintings don’t sell”. My first two published books – Ill Met By Moonlight and All Night Awake, which came out from Berkley – had beautiful paintings for a cover. Sandys’ work. So… how did they do? They cratered. Bookstores had NO idea what to do with them or where to shelve them, and people assumed they were reprinted classics or scholarly bios.
            The third did better with an unremarkable fantasy painting of a woman with a lantern, because at least it SIGNALED fantasy.
            So, to summarize, you come in and give the example of a YA thriller written by someone who is apparently a CP USA member (it always amuses me when conservatives praise the stupid book. For someone who grew up under socialism, the tells are in your face, but whatever) as something my cover should emulate. (BTW icons as good as that are $15 at no-royalty art sites. Yeah, I think they commissioned the one for Hunger Games, but they didn’t even have to.) Then you tell me about lighting and classical paintings, critiquing the cover from an aesthetic and not a “signaling” point of view. In all of this, you assume this is purely an indie endeavor and therefore what I’m doing is due to “lack of confidence.” You also don’t read the article for my reasons to do the things I have done.
            In other words, you don’t read historical mystery, don’t follow my work, don’t pay attention to any covers beyond hyper-marketed bestsellers, don’t even read the blog post but I’m supposed to redo everything to please you and make my book look like something it’s not.
            Thank you very much. Your opinion has been noted. Next time, do try to make it an informed opinion, and if you disagree with the blog post, try to refute it, not just ignore it and assume you’re addressing children with no experience in the field.

            • JSchuler

              “Okay – deep breath – let’s discuss your Olympic level jumping to conclusions, shall we?”

              Unfortunately, your post failed to address any of my assumptions. Instead, let’s look at your own:

              “Your first leap is that this is an indie book”

              What is an indie book? DST? Hunger Games? Death of a Musketeer? Which one have I labeled indie?

              “published entirely on my own,”

              I said that? Quote?

              “and that therefore, the cover reflects my lack of confidence that it will “sell well” enough to justify commissioning a cover.”

              Where did I say that? The closest I came was that the cover should “tell me up front.” Is that cover telling me up front? Because there’s a quote from (Steve) Forbes on it?

              “Which brings us to your second conclusion that the “icon” type of covers are better.”

              This is an interesting assumption, that effort = better. Because I didn’t say “better.” Never used the word. For that matter, icon type covers are “better” than… what? And did I even say all icons are better than all x? Or was I just responding to someone who dismissed the HG covers because they were icons? Assumptions indeed.

              “Your third conclusion is that the covers that are aesthetically pleasing (i.e. the whole painting) sell more.”

              Do you have a quote for this? Because the third… ah… statement I made was regarding how I purchased books. You also talk about this “whole painting” thing, when I don’t think I ever said “whole.”

              “So, to summarize, you come in and give the example of a YA thriller written by someone who is apparently a CP USA member (it always amuses me when conservatives praise the stupid book.”

              I praised the cover. I said nothing about the content of that book.

              “In other words, you don’t read historical mystery, don’t follow my work, don’t pay attention to any covers beyond hyper-marketed bestsellers, don’t even read the blog post but I’m supposed to redo everything to please you and make my book look like something it’s not.”

              Wow. Whole lot of assumptions there, unless you’re going to claim that you have access to my Amazon account?

            • Sarah, I apologize for not having the time to carefully examine JShuler’s comment, or being able to properly contextualize your reply. That said, I found one remark of yours noteworthy: “instead of assuming I’m just stupid and never thought of it.” I’m speaking in general about a phrase taken out of context, so if my note seems ignorant, it probably is.

              I think one can not-think of something and be quite smart. There are lots of considerations that can spring from any discussion. Some on the main path, and others tangential. SMART people think fast and they are likely as not going to be aware of many things of varying interest. And thus a boring main-line consideration may be skipped over by an interesting tangential one.

              Given this reasoning, I NEVER, EVER think that someone is stupid for not considering something. Moreover, one can consider something and choose not to include it in written remarks.

              I have found your observations on cover design very helpful. Thank you for bringing us along on your exploration of the subject.

          • Synova

            Just thought I’d point out… “I choose to narrow that down by first looking at books that tell me up front the producers (whether indy or otherwise) have enough confidence in the product to put their money where their pen is. ”

            I have sympathy with your feeling that people are misreading what you wrote but you did, in fact, use the word “confidence” in just the way people are saying you used it.

      • Kate Paulk

        Okay. First off, the covers for the Hunger Games books are indeed simple, distinctive and consistent. They also do absolutely buggerall to suggest what the book is about. Possibly less than that. This tells me one of two things: either they were going to let the book sink so it didn’t matter that the cover was a glorified icon; or they were going to push the bejeezus out of it so it didn’t matter that the cover was a glorified icon.

        What it doesn’t do is show any kind of effort. These are the people who will – and do – photoshop bits out of public artworks for covers then claim they can’t pay the author any more because getting such wonderful art cost them a bomb. The same ones who will also photoshop covers they paid for to change hair color, change the direction someone is facing or something like that – and then not pay the artist even though they bought rights for one book, not the ability to chop and reuse as they please.

        Oh, yes, a great deal of care went into that.

        Give me an honest cover that at least tells me something about the book and isn’t a blatant ripoff. Sarah’s Death of a Musketeer cover art does that much. She’s honest about where she’s getting her source material, too.

        • Synova

          Did the Hunger Games have covers previous to the ones we’ve all seen? I’d heard of the books before the movies but I didn’t see them before the movies. The icon is excellent branding, but in my mind it’s a short-cut that signals a mental “call back” to visuals everyone has seen of the actress in the movie. (And clever merchandising, too, which I’m not about to condemn.) If the icon covers were original I’m tempted to think that this was because the book was marketed *scholastically* or in the “literary” YA category. And maybe they weren’t but it seemed to me that when I started hearing “buzz” it was from the “Handmaid’s Tale” crowd.

          Compare to the covers of City of Bone or Clockwork Princess.

          • No, they’re doing those now. Yes, it signals “high class” but also “high push.” They were willing to push them to the point where the cover being “high class” reinforced that. Those were books WERE hyper pushed from the beginning. Da Vinci code pushed…

      • Eh – I do think the Death of a Musketeer cover would suit my taste better if it was overlaid on some background (different from the original, preferably, as it’s too dark, visually, for a book cover) that blurred out around the edges so that it doesn’t cover the entire space, but YMMV.

        • Tried it. It just muddies it, because the “corpse” looks like it’s floating.

        • Also if it looks like an oil painting, it says “scholastic” — I know that’s weird. it just does.

          • Sol

            BTW, is there a reason we can no longer buy Death of A Musketeer Kindle edition? Amazon still has the page for it and lists a Kindle edition, but says “Pricing information not available.”

            • Yes. I finished my contract with Naked Reader Press and took it to Goldport Press, which is also bringing out the rest of the series, and — if I can get it turned in — Musketeer’s Confessor (6th book) around Christmas.
              It was just put up on Amazon, so it should be out in 2 or three days. (Amazon is slow these days.) It will be up for 4.99.

  8. CF

    Book-cover art lesson in a nutshell: Compare the original hardcover art for Peter Benchley’s _JAWS_ with the paperback edition (which used the movie-poster artwork). Which one is more likely to attract attention (and, in my case, gunfire)?

  9. Darkship…I still like the one you showed us that you drew.

  10. Maggie Hogarth, who is a respectable artist on her own, decided it was worthwhile to have some covers made for her, and they are wonderful:

    http://haikujaguar.livejournal.com/1308103.html

    A friend of mine has a book that is actually quite good, in a sort of MHI Vein:
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Hammer-Commission-ebook/dp/B00CE3FU8S

    But it’s not selling well, so he’s looking at a new cover. But the one he’s getting I hate, since it says nothing about the story at all. Although the guy doing it for him sells pretty well.

    I have that cheezy little thing I whipped up for Kiwi, but I don’t know if a short can really justify an expensive cover. On the other hand I have an artist lined up for Dr. Mauser when I finally finish it (It’s just dying for a cover with a stylistic throwback to a ’60’s James Bond movie).

    By the way, how does one center text vertically in a title page? I’m still trying to figure out the whole “Front Matter” thing.

    • Synova

      Does his new cover have a person on it? I’m starting to think that the most important thing on a cover is pictures of people (or aliens). Authors and fans always complain, though, because the people are never quite right. And then they say they want a cover with symbolic things like a flag or gun or compass because it’s classy.

      Who was it, Jobs?, who said that it wasn’t up to people to know what they wanted, it was up to him (or Apple or whatever) to give them what they didn’t know they wanted.

      Or something like that.

      • Yeah, everyone wants “the classy.” I want the “Sells.”

        • So… bikini-chicks and dinosaurs….

          • Synova

            😉

            Okay, those were really silly… but would they work with just the dinosaur? I tend to like some of the shifter romances and the characters run around in their animal forms and, uh, even do it in their animal forms once in a while, but would a cover with just a couple jaguars on it work? I don’t think so.

            My working theory is that people connect to characters inside a book… and people connect to characters on the cover. Not that there can’t be a cover that is just so bad that it really would be better to have nothing at all on it, but I suspect that it’s almost always better to have a bad cover with a person on it, than have a pretty cover without a person.

            • I don’t know, but I’ve found some art of guys with spectacular animal tattoos. I don’t write the stuff, but it strikes me as the sort of thing that would work.

              • Synova

                Paranormal romance covers seem to all have a variation of one composition. There is some combo of a person and animal interposed, suggesting the animal is the person shown. The person may or may not have a head. There may or may not be a second person on the cover. No one is in danger of picking up the book and being surprised when someone turns into a bear on page 6. (Though the degree of sex in it might not be as clear.) I like Jennifer Ashley’s shifter books. The one that doesn’t follow that cover composition shows a guy’s back the size of the book cover with an elaborate dragon tattoo. (He doesn’t turn into a dragon, though he does have a dragon tattoo in the book.)

                It’s about as set as urban fantasy female tramp stamp back shot covers.

                I figure that people who want a certain type of book need to be signaled as clearly as possible so that an author doesn’t lose their actual intended audience. But that’s a slightly different issue from my feeling that some depiction of a person, from a close up to an eye or body part to someone in the distance doing something, is more interesting and evocative to *most* people than an abstract design, logo, or inanimate object.

                • Laura M

                  I agree about the person. The person is especially necessary if I know nothing of the author or the book wasn’t recommended. Also, I read somewhere that the lone figure silhouetted against the sky is very evocative and speaks to a basic part of our brains. So I did that on mine.

                  Now, I will also pick up books with orbiting space stations on their covers, but I am aware that those images do not speak to the back brain of all humanity in quite the same way.

          • http://lama8991.wix.com/unfinishedwebsite/page-11

            There’s a bimbo on the cover of my book!
            There’s a bimbo on the cover of my book!
            She is blonde and she is sexy;
            She is nowhere in the text. She
            Is a bimbo on the cover of the book!

            There’s black leather on the bimbo in my book.
            There’s black leather on the bimbo in my book,
            While I’m sure she’s lots of fun,
            My heroine’s a nun
            Who wears black leather on the cover of my book.

            There’s a white male on the cover of the book.
            There’s a white male on the cover of the book.
            Though the hero-INE is black
            With Art that cuts no slack. So
            There’s a white male on the cover of the book.

            • Synova

              “So put that bimbo on the cover of my book.
              Put a bimbo on the cover of my book.
              I don’t care what gets drawn
              If you’ll just leave the cover on.
              (DON’T REMAINDER ME!)
              So put that bimbo, dragon, castle, rocket,
              Vampire, elf, or magic locket-
              Please put a bimbo on the cover of my book!”

              🙂

              • The goal is to sell. the. book.

                But to do so without so thoroughly alienating whoever reads the book that they do not read it.

                Then you use the text of your book that they buy the next book simply because of your name. And the cover of that book is to help sell that book to folk who haven’t read the previous one.

                So, yeah, what Sarah said in the original blog.

                • Synova

                  I just thought that the last verse was funny. 🙂

                  And the line about the nun in black leather…

                  Putting things that are blatantly wrong on the cover shouldn’t be necessary… you really don’t want people wondering when the dragon is going to show up if there isn’t a dragon or wondering when the cat-person is going to show up when there isn’t a cat-person. And there’s no *signaling* reason to have a cover picture with people that are the wrong race or gender on it, even if a spaceship on the cover might signal the type of book even if no one is ever in the vicinity of a spaceship.

                  The cover ought to be *true*, but I don’t think they’re ever quite right. I get why authors complain about a book cover that isn’t right even when they aren’t horrible. (And I do know that sometimes they really are horrible.)

  11. This is just my opinion and runs counter to conventional wisdom, so take it in that vein.

    I think the “sex sells” thing is often (read: mostly) miscast as being about boobage. Or sexual imagery.

    However, it’s possible to make a sexy image of a sandwich — as an enticing image. Such a thing is less about the actual image used and more about the quality of the production values, the colors and textures, and the like. I can deliver a sexy image that has no human figure in it, or any image or symbol relating to actual sex, but still excites the same place in the visual cortex that various flavors of pr0n might. (The frustrating part is it doesn’t always work that easily.)

    Another term I use to describe such images is “tough.” Relate it to a piece of music that has a rhythm and melody — and a presentation — that makes the hearer pump the emotional fist and yell, “Hell yeah!” (Metaphorically: the closing bars of the Ode to Joy, with the repeated power chords can excite the same reaction).

    • In SF to an extent “sex sells” if what you’re trying to do is hark back to the golden age, which is what I was doing. The other side of this is Romance has explicitly sexy images. It’s not the subtle thing at all.
      Well, for a long time in Portugal mystery was signaled by “naked body part” — not what you’d expect. Often arm, or leg. But it transmitted both “sexy” and unclean feel.
      If I did it here, people would think it was pron.
      There’s the market, the culture, and the interaction. Always. I doubt the same “Sexy” sells as did in the pulp days. We’re a different society.

      • I read a lot of romance. Maybe I’m a prude (is that unusual for someone that reads so much romance?), or maybe it’s just because I’m a bit socially shy and awkward, but I purposefully avoid buying books that have half naked people on the covers. So sex on the cover does not sell to me, personally. To me, half naked people = pron, and that’s not something I want people to know I’m buying. 🙂

        • You’re not a prude, at least not because of that. I prefer not to have my romances be in-your-face-erotica, which alas most of them are.
          So if reading romance, I avoid naked people and “sensuous” and “passion” in the descriptions.
          HOWEVER in science fiction, a naked woman — naked in the sense Athena is in DOAM — is a different “feel”. It evokes “golden age” which is perfect. (At any rate, I didn’t choose the cover, Baen Books did. But I like it.)

          • Perhaps I should have clarified, when talking about half naked people on covers I was speaking specifically to romance, as there is already an implication of sex being related to the genre. Add a naked person on the cover and it just feels skeezy to me (even if it isn’t meant that way, perception is tricky I guess).

            In regards to other genres, I guess it would depend. I don’t have a problem with nudity in a general context. I have no issue with the cover for DOAM, as it seems tastefully done (and is actually quite pretty). When done in an exploitative fashion though, it does tend to bother me.

  12. Dorothy Grant

    I suddenly have this urge to get you to visit Oleg, and it’d be even more fun to get Mark Alger there too. I’d just be a fly on the wall grinning like a fool and cooking something as y’all got on the computer to argue various cover design elements.

    Then again, given you and Oleg both saw Communism at halitosis range, it might end up being the Emphatic Expats night instead. ..

    • Meh. I’m not a pro. I just know the sales angle from the other side, because I read a lot. And I know when the big houses misfire. Most of early Pratchett covers were so bad — and they were the icon type — that I would buy the British version. Though that’s a study too. British — even serious — faces tend to look like caricatures, opposed to the painterly style here.
      And traditional always short-shrifts historical. The Japanese historicals had some beautiful paintings (I wonder/almost bet they’re out of copyright stuff) But look at the first cover of Roman Blood — it’s a stupid fountain clip art. What sold me on it was the blurb.
      Anyway, I’m taking this cover class and watching with dropped jaw what this cover designer can do. She’s one of the rare ones who “gets” all the genres. Maybe if I work very hard at it for the next ten years I’ll be half that good.

    • I’d love to meet Oleg. I really admire his facility with a camera, with light and form. I just wonder what I’d have to contribute to a conversation.

      M

      • Dorothy Grant

        An intelligent mind, a sense of humor, deep experience in your own area of design (which overlaps a little, but is rather different from Oleg’s), and ability to hold thoughtful conversation?

        Seriously, if you ever end up coming through the middle of Tenessee, give me a heads-up. If Oleg isn’t buried in his studio, it’d be quite fun to get you, him, and my Calmer Half together. I’d be the boring one of the group. 😛

  13. I’ve only been reading SF for about 45-50 years so I’m a relative new comer compared to most of you guys. I , personaly, could give a flip less about covers. I have a little list…”buy this author”. They publish it…I buy it.

    Cover is irrelevant. in fact I buy ebooks exclusively now. All I need is a link.

  14. Kate Paulk

    Breaking this out of the deep deep comments thread..
    JSchuler: you’ve been getting rather bothered about the conclusions people are drawing from your comments. You’ve even demanded to know where they get the idea that all you care about is the cover?

    Maybe, just maybe, it’s this: But all I’m really looking for is a cover that tells me effort went into the book’s production. in your first comment.

    I may not have the reading comprehension of a first grader, but that looks a hell of a lot to me like someone who does almost all their filtering on the cover’s appearance.

  15. Just a vagrant thought — I glanced at the Death of a Musketeer cover and thought “It needs a brick wall and a cobblestone street.” Run the angle of the wall behind him, so it looks as if he has slid down the wall… Now can you find such a wall and street and photoshop them together?

  16. John C.

    Whoever said, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” never worked in publishing.

  17. Pingback: Covers | In the Shadow of Ares

  18. Excellent tips. Here are a couple more. For more realism on the Musketeer cover, sketch in a few straggly hairs around the head. And add some darker contact shadows to “ground” the body where it touches the floor.

    Animated gif showing before and after:

  19. ed

    A few thoughts.
    1. IMHO What I find uncomfortable for me in the cover for DOAM is that the lighting angle and the photoshopped shadows do not match. I figure you copied the image into another layer, changed the opacity and then repositioned it as a shadow. But it doesn’t match the lighting. So it not only looks photoshopped to me, but not something that is evocative.

    2. I generally do not buy based on cover art because … it’s cover art and has nothing to do with the book inside. If I want to buy art, I buy art. I’m buying a book so we’re in a different territory. But that’s just me. Of course I’m from a generation where most SF cover art consisted of splashes of color and the title. If you were lucky.

    3. One possible resource that I am not sure is being looked at are the reenactment groups. I used to be heavy into SCA and such and quite a few people put vast amounts of time into their hobbies. Signing a waiver and having bragging rights for being on the cover of a book would be more than sufficient for most people to sit through an afternoon camera session. For the rest a couple beers would do nicely. And if you can adequately explain what kind of shot you’d like to have most people would take the photos themselves and then send it to you via email.

    Naturally if you’re trying to do hardcore mil-sf this wouldn’t work for you. But some images, a background, some filters and you’d have an original image set to your desired specifications.

    4. Major hot button for me is that when I read a book in a series that I like I then have the tendency to go back and buy all the books in the series and then start from the first. It aggravates me to no end when there isn’t a simple list of books by the author and in series order with links to their personal sales site or Amazon. If I have to work to give you money, I won’t give you money. Even something as simple as a “#1, #2, #3, etc” list that lets me know which books to get will gain more goodwill than you’d expect. And if it’s easy to give you money and find the books I like then I am far more inclined to continue the buying spree and buy copies of your whole catalog.

    5. Personally I’d ditch the shadow underneath the musketeer in DOAM and let the body lie there juxtaposed with nothing else. Consider the cover art of Terry Pratchett’s “Guards! Guards!”. A dragon. No shadow.

    6. And last, and possibly least of all, give me a clue as to what the book is about. Give me a blurb on the cover. A line of text. “Guards! Guards!” is a good example. Is it humorous? Serious? Mil-SF? Fantasy? Fantasy Mil-SF? Powered armored mages seems a bit too Warhammer 40kish but if it’s done well …

    ofc ymmv

    • There’s blurbs AND classification at Amazon. And it says “Musketeers Mysteries” right on top on DOAM.
      At any rate, what I ended up doing was putting in a background, which works better.

  20. Sorry, I posted a bad link to the image. Try this:
    Sorry, wrong link to image. Here’s the correct one:

  21. Vader

    It strikes me that there is one essential element for a cover of a book intended for a male geek audience:

    Boobs.

    Am I oversimplifying?

  22. POUNCER

    My “judge the book by the cover” criteria have little to do with the art. It’s a book. I’m a reader. I’m looking at the text.

    For just one example, I’m looking for a balance between the author’s name and the title. Unfair of me, but if the title is big but the name is small I assume the publisher has no confidence in the “name recognition” and hence skills of the author. (E.g.” An Amazing Story” by Some Nobody ) If the name is big and the title is small I assume the book is “coasting” on the fame of the author’s prior work. ( “A Grocery List of Middle-Earth” by the AWARD WINNING AUTHOR J.R.K Tolkling . I could go on for another dozen such text-based rules.

    All these rules are fading fast as the publishing industry changes, of course But to focus on the art to the exclusion of other elements of the design might be short-sighted.

  23. Bill Roper

    The Comicraft folks have a lot of wonderful display fonts. Although they’re normally moderately expensive, they have an annual New Year’s Day sale where font families cost the value of the year in pennies. Thus, if they do it again next year, fonts will be $20.14. We’ve used their fonts on the last two (and the next!) ISFiC Press books.

  24. Pingback: Locked to Freedom | Cedar Writes

  25. Pingback: From Locks to Freedom - Amazing Stories

  26. Or…. You could hire an actual artist who knows how to paint and caligraph and actually knows how to do successful book covers. My late father made a tidy living doing just that.
    Now wouldn’t THAT be novel.

    • Yes. It would be very novel. Particularly if I could find one who knows anything about my genres AND who actually can work for what I can pay. Please, take your patronizing elsewhere and READ THE POST where I lay out my difficulties.

    • Or you could, you know, actually read for comprehension instead of acting like an idiot troll. Wouldn’t THAT be novel?

    • Eamon

      Might’n you go hack your hairball in somebody else’s living room? Our host keeps a nice joint and nobody wants to step in that.

    • I’m not sure you mean to sound like a troll, but the emphasis added to your comment makes it seem that way. Hence some of the responses you’ve gotten.

      But with regard to what you’ve suggested, you missed a couple of very important points in Sarah’s post and in the comments that followed. The first is that we are talking about indie and small press books here. Even short stories. Most of us don’t have a budget to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to have a cover painted and then lettered for each of our titles, especially not for short stories or novellas.

      Then there is the fact that a lot of artists simply don’t understand the cover cues necessary for different genres. If those cues aren’t there, it doesn’t matter how wonderful the cover is It won’t bring in the sales needed to just pay for the cover.

      Add to that the fact that a number of us have tried working with artists. And failing because the artists never finish the work. As indies and small press published authors, we can’t hold back titles for months waiting for a cover to do be done. This is our livelihood. Some of us are putting out new work every month or two, much more often if it is short. Our readers know our schedules and expect the new work on time.

      So, as much as we’d love to have a custom drawn, not just designed, cover for every one of our titles, it just isn’t feasible. Frankly, if you look at what’s coming out of the big publishers these days, you’ll see that they, too, are often using stock images on their covers and even recycling covers with just different titles and image aspects being used.