As the old clichéd saying goes: You can’t judge a book by its cover. However, if you’re an indie author, it’s vitally important that your book’s cover is what you want and how you want your work represented either as an eBook or a published work. As a writer who has gone through the cover art process twice, I wanted to give you some advice you can use to make sure your book’s cover delivers what you need it to.

Do Your Homework

There are a wide range of cover artists that do book covers for indie authors. You can do a Google search, find them on social media, or even ask an author whose cover you liked. Depending on what you’re looking for and your budget, you can find a cover artist to meet your needs.  

Maybe you’re looking for a cover with actual costumed people, or perhaps a humorous drawing of your characters. Maybe you want something simple, or something more involved. Whatever your needs, you can find someone who can do it for you.

Along with this, you also want to keep pricing in mind as you begin your search. Some artists have separate pricing for eBook and print covers, and some offer a package deal for both. If the prices aren’t listed on their site, don’t hesitate to contact them and ask.

It’s also important to find out the average turnaround time from when you send your ideas to when you get a version of the final product. If you’re in a time crunch and the turnaround is three months, you may want to look for someone who can meet your schedule constraints and still deliver what you want.

Be Specific in What You Want

Once you find the cover artist you like, nail down the pricing, and have a basic timeline set, it’s time to figure out what you want on your cover. At this point, you should have some basic ideas of what you want the cover to look like, especially as you were working on the manuscript. As you think about the cover, what images or moments from your book would capture and convey the book’s essence and genre?  

Think of your cover as a simplified movie poster. You have the title of the book, your name, and now an image that draws potential readers in to hopefully purchase and read your book.

Once you’ve narrowed it down, decide on one that really feels like a great representation of the story. Now, write down what you want the image to look like. If the artist states you can send reference images, find images that will help get your vision across to them.

Much like with your story, you are creating a picture with words translated into an image by the artist.

Quick example:

– A lake illuminated by moonlight.

– It’s a clear night; stars are in the sky.

– In the background, we can see the shoreline; pine trees line the shore.

– A rowboat sits in the center of the cover in the calm lake.

– A body floats near the rowboat. 

– On the top of the cover is the title: The Laketown Murders

– On the bottom is the author’s name: Bob Smithenwesson.

The key is to give the artist detailed info to work with, but not to overwhelm them. And if they need more information or detail, they’ll ask.

Allow for Adjustments and Modifications

Have you ever read a book then seen the movie version and said, “That’s not what I had pictured at all.” Sometimes this can happen during the first go-around of designing your cover. And it’s okay.  

Now you have a version of the cover that the cover artist interpreted based on what you supplied. Not what you were looking for? No problem. Ask for adjustments and modifications. Again, be specific about these.  

This is the fun part since now you have a visual representation of your book’s cover right in front of you. It’s definitely an adrenaline rush to see your name and title on a book cover!  

Continue to work with and communicate with the artist until the cover is exactly what you’re looking for. This goes for the back cover of the print version as well (we’ll talk a little about that next week).  

If you are happy with your collaboration, make sure you tell the cover artist you are satisfied with their work (you may return to them in the future for another cover). Don’t just right, “Yeah, that works,” say, “Yes! That’s perfect! Thanks so much!” A little appreciation can go a long way.

Once you are satisfied, they will email you an invoice for their services. PAY THEM IMMEDIATELY. They are a part of your indie book team now, and you want to make sure that you treat all members like you would want to be paid…on time.

Remember, Your Name is on the Cover

This cover represents you. While you should thank the cover artist and include their website in your acknowledgments, it is your name that people will see on the cover. Ensure that it represents you and your story in a way that you are proud of and confident in marketing and promoting.

Once it’s published, it becomes a product. You and the book are the faces of the product, and the cover is the packaging that entices readers to buy and see what amazing goodies are inside.

Do your research, be specific in what you want, make changes when necessary, and you’ll have a great book cover to be proud of!

Start Early

If you have a draft or two done of your manuscript and have an idea for your cover, take the leap and start the design process early. It’s a fun way to create a sense of immediacy and give your manuscript a professional face. Then you can have it as the wallpaper on your computer as a reminder of what you’re working toward: a published book!

Next week, we’ll talk about the back of your printed book and a few other pre-publishing tips. See you next week.

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One Comment

  1. Oh yeah, getting a designer is pretty damn important. If we’re not going to study typography, design, and the skills needed to handle the various softwares, then I think we should fork out some money to have professionals do it for us. Thanks for this, Ian!

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