Cover Me, I’m Going in

Yes, I’m going to resume my series of posts on covers.

No, today’s is not going to be incredibly detailed.  First I’m going to give you a list of links to the previous posts. Then I’m going to do sort of a Q&A on covers, with things I keep answering over and over again (till I’m blue in the face.)

And then I’m going to let you ask for what you’d like to see that’s not already been … er…covered.To explain the hiatuses in this: in the last three months I’ve traveled more than I normally do in a year.  Also, husband traveled alone for half of July, which should have been okay, but it turns out I can’t sleep when he’s not here.

So, I’m now recovering from the virus he brought home. And younger son is moving back in probably just for a month, but still requiring moving furniture around and rearranging our lives.

To explain the “let you ask for what you want”: it occurred to me I was proceeding with autistic enthusiasm to give you details on genres you were less and less interested in and how to cover same.  So.  You drive.

The series up to now:

It’s a Cover Up I

Covering Genre

Resources for Covers

You’ve Got To Give A Little

Cozy Covers

Cozy Up

Covering History

Covering the Historical Mystery

Mystery and History

Covering Alternate History

Question: but Sarah, wouldn’t we be better off hiring a cover artist?

Answer: Yeah. Probably. Except a decent one starts at around $200 and can go up to 2k. Depending on how much of a following you have, this can take you years to recoup.

Also, if you don’t know what “decent” is you can end up paying a lot for something that you could frankly trick out in your backroom with Pixabay images.  Heck, one of my trad published covers looks like that!

So, knowing what should be going on and what a good cover looks like is a protection for you as an art director.

Q- But why do some covers that aren’t pretty or attractive get described as “good” covers?

A – Because a selling cover has zero to do with “beautiful.”

Oh, I have nothing against beautiful. Your cover should be beautiful, breathtaking in fact, if it absolutely can.  But it’s not the primary quality or the most important one.  Most writers think of the cover as wrapping paper. We want it to be PRETTY or perhaps gorgeous.

But covers are an advertisement. Their job is to fit the product’s desired consumers and SELL it.

How many billboards are horrible but eye-catching? How many commercials do you remember enough to buy the product, because they were shocking or worrisome?

Your cover first must signal genre, second be intriguing enough to get you to pick the book up/click on it.  The rest is gravy. Sure, if it can be BEAUTIFUL, great. If it can’t but still sells? Go for it.

Q I’ve been trying and trying and sometimes my covers are great, sometimes they suck. How can I make my work more consistent?
A practice, practice, practice. Same as with short stories. Or novels. The more you do it, the less random it is, and the higher your “low performance” is.  At some point your lowest performance will be “middling” and your best performance “great.”  And then higher.  But there’s no way out but through.  You got to practice.

Now, your turn. Tell me where if anywhere you want this series to go.




  1. I’ve no idea what genre the thing I’m plotting will be.

    Any cover suggestions for Technothriller, Cyberpunk or Sweet Romance?

    1. technothriller: guy or girl with gun in pose, moderate setting ish background

      cyberpunk: digital cityscapes. stuff that looks like people’s memories of what cyberpunk stuff was going to look like… (ironically, stuff like Second Life surpassed most of that a decade ago)

  2. I’m almost exclusively fantasy. Nothing UF (yet), but pulp, epic, and high fantasy all in progress.

    Note I said almost. Historical was also useful for me (hopefully will still be relevant when I finish the thing…).

    1. Well, the passionate consensus on readers’ discussions I’ve been in is that you want art, not photos, on high fantasy. (Though if they can’t tell, you can probably get away with it.)

  3. I’m working on a fantasy with a romantic twist. Not sure if its YA yet but I’d love to read your take on that genre.

  4. I’m doing my cover for Unfair Advantage right now. I finally got my copy of Rhino 6, and I’m conquering the fricking Alpine learning curve for that, Blender and Gimp. Maybe some Daz3D too, because I need a sexy girl on the cover. Or I may be able to steal one somewhere and do a trace-over. Truth in advertising, half the book is sexy girls flirting. The other half is sexy girls blowing shit up, so there’s a strong unifying theme. ~:D

    I’m tempted to put one of those over the shoulder poses that make the SJWs froth at the mouth, but I’m unsure if that’s even worth doing.

    What is Your Majesty’s opinion on oil-painting filters for SF? Sale, or no-sale? I’m taking a landscape photo and dropping a sexy girl and a 1/3 of the page giant tank onto it, then doing a paint-over to hide all the cutting/pasting kludges. Oil painting filter will save a lot of me learning how to paint.

    1. rhino isnt great to model in, only for blocking out organic shapes for a body. No one builds complex models in NURBS for rendering. You’re better of just modelling in Blender, i guess.

      1. Turns out there are a million complex machines, buildings and models already done out there, free to use in the Rhino community. You can pose them, render them and export to Gimp/Blender super easy.

        By doing a paint-over you also avoid all that nassssty legal business. Paint-overs are original work AFAIK (I am not a lawyer).

        It also avoids that Uncanny Valley effect you get with Daz where the people look really wrong. Too realistic, but not realistic enough.

        I guess we’ll see how it all turns out, eh? ~:D

          1. Drop a burner email account in the comments of one of my older soapbox posts. I’ll send my address to it. Older comments don’t display without approval, keeps the clamps out.

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