A Cover Story
It never fails. Talk to someone about self-publishing or indie-publishing, and the very first thing they tell you is “but the cover” or variants thereof.
And right now you’re going “But the covers of most indies suck.”
Um… yes, and so do most traditional covers. Particularly as the transition to digital occurs, most publishers seem to have no clue what to do on the cover.
Of course, the funny thing about this is that what you really should be worried about should not be the cover, but the interior formatting (your book is not an html document. Okay, it is, but it shouldn’t read as one – no spacing between paragraphs!) and the editing.
But the cover – that is what obsesses everyone.
Usually the objections go as follows:
- Can’t afford art. Good art costs hundreds of dollars at a minimum
- I have the perfect scene from my novel, that I want illustrated but I’d need to stage it for a picture.
- I can’t draw
To take it in reverse: no one expects you to draw. I have more training than most, but I am a good two years away from drawing passable covers – not great, but passable.
Um… this picture you mean to take… You are writing a romance, then?
As for art, there are no royalty art sites, and they have everything from drawn art to photos – but you have to learn to look. Using excluding words, and excluding the TYPE you don’t want (no drawn/only drawn) will get you a long way towards finding the right art. Dollarphotoclub is the cheapest, every image for about $1, but Dreamstime is easier to search. And then there’s fotolia, and a dozen other sites. There are even free ones, but those tend to be all pictures.
However, before you embark on your search, here are some things you should know:
- Your cover needn’t be – and in most cases shouldn’t be – a scene from the book. Yes, it might be highly significant to you, but it is not significant to the reader. Say you have a photo of some trees, because your story takes place in a forest-world.
What will this say to the reader? Travel book. Maybe inspirational. Why? Because that’s what travel books look like. So, the first thing to do is
- Go to Amazon and browse the traditionally published books in our subgenre. Look carefully. Do they use pictures? No? then you can’t use pictures either. Now look at the type of picture they use, and what it conveys. Realize too that any small enough cover will make it impossible to see details of a scene.
So, way you want a picture of two girls fighting with a knife in front of a dragon? Too detailed, particularly for ebooks.
Think of books like The Door Into Summer. The cover I remember has a young girl, in obviously futurist attire, cuddling a cat. No man throwing switch on time machine, while impotent scientist tries to stop him. Just something that says “this is about a girl and a cat and it’s sf/futuristic.”
This is why so many “space opera titles” just have spaceships or someone with a burner.
- After that you’ll need to get more sophisticated and select art that has a space for the title, and pick a proper font for the title and all that. A good way to operate at first is to steal someone else’s cover. No, I don’t mean take the picture and the font. I mean pick a cover that you like, in your genre, then find elements that will sort of make yours evoke (not imitate) theirs. And then pick a similar font and strive for the same composition.
But whatever you do, don’t tell me that you need to spend thousands of dollars on art. You don’t. You might need it for the ideal pie-in-the-sky cover, but no one gets that, not even/particularly those going through traditional publishing.
This is partly because there is no perfect cover.
There is the cover in your head, the cover that would perfectly represent your darling.
But that cover might leave the readers/potential buyers completely cold.
Oh, sure, if they’d already read your book, they’d go “Oh, wow, yeah, that’s perfect.”
However, you’re trying to get them to PICK UP your book. A book they know nothing about.
That makes for a completely different set of priorities.
What you need is a cover that signals genre and general theme/mood.
You need a packaging, that will make people buy the book. Not an illustration that will encapsulate it.
So, go ahead, give your book a selling cover. And then use the money to commission a beautiful painting of JUST that scene.