Would you rather read a great book with a lousy cover, or a lousy book with an incredible cover? This is not a choice that buyers face. Readers have tens of millions of books to choose from. Your thumbnail is one of dozens, on many pages of search results. If nobody notices your book, the content in it won’t matter because, to them, it doesn’t even exist. This is why your cover plays a vital role; to visually sell your story to potential buyers. Much like a storefront, your cover should, of course, be enticing to future buyers, yet un-compromising to the integrity of the product(s) inside. People buy books based on either, referrals, advertising, or simply the look of a cover. You’ve spent hours writing an amazing story, now it’s time to match it with an equally amazing cover, because the role of your cover is your book’s success.
Here are some of the techniques I use to create book covers, and some tips I’ve learned along the way.
- Find a Creative Space and a Photographer.
Hiring a space is a great way to experiment with photography, lighting, and fun props. There are websites online that offer creative locations for hire. It’s a good idea to consider buying your own equipment, but some locations also offer equipment for hire. Equally, hiring a photographer can help shape your image. Any professional photographer should take direction from you, as well as make suggestions based on their experience and know-how. Whether you provide a written creative brief or discuss your requirements over the phone, when considering who to hire, be sure they take your ideas and suggestions seriously. While they’re the design experts and will likely have other ideas in mind, you are most familiar with the content of your book. I prefer taking my own images, but collaborating and brainstorming can sometimes be an invaluable step towards creating a great cover.
- Hire an artist.
People also love art for art’s sake. People buy prints of artwork or photos simply because it speaks to them personally. If your cover art is appealing, the cover has its own merit. Coffee table books are decorative and make for conversation pieces, a great cover serves a similar purpose when people are reading your book in public. This is a very good option if you’re looking to stand out and it may also increase your audience exposure if the artist tags you on social media.
- Use a quality program.
Customers believe that a book is more likely to be professional inside when the cover looks professional. Great products need quality tools for production. I strongly recommend using Adobe Photoshop or GIMP to edit your cover, and for good reason. The program can adjust and crop images, remove and re-organize objects and backgrounds in an image, amalgamate two or more images to create a scene, provide various templates that will help with your cover, include creative and artistic filters like blurs, use advanced brushes to paint smooth curves and lines, and create 3D artworks for print. Adobe Photoshop is a tool that is being used by everyone, even those who know nothing about it! For professional photographers, it’s about creating stunning images with subtle alterations. This tool has enabled artists and writers to stretch the inherent limitations of photography and to expand their horizons. Learning how to use this tool can be an invaluable asset. Customers often don’t realize that books are self-published when the cover looks amazing. Even if you use an imprint, if the cover doesn’t look professional, customers will suspect that it was self-published.
Other points to consider;
- Judgment. People shouldn’t judge books by their covers, but they do. An excellent cover is a sample of what to expect inside. It’s a small demonstration of what effort the author is capable of expending.
- Review potential. Bloggers and reviewers are more likely to show interest in reviewing your book, interviewing you, or announcing promotions or events, if the book looks professional. A stand out cover can entice a reviewer, which in turn will entice readers and, ultimately, sales.
- Recommendations. People are more likely to recommend your book to others, by word of mouth or otherwise, if the cover looks splendid. If the cover is awesome, they might just say, “Check out this incredible cover.”
- Visual reminder. Once people buy your book, it might just sit on a table, shelf, or Kindle for a while. Every time they see your book, a great cover helps to renew their interest in reading it. This improves the chances that it will get read. The more people who read your book, the better the prospects for reviews, referrals, and sales.
- Branding. The image of your book is a vital part of your branding. If the cover features a clear image and clearly signifies the genre and content, this helps people recall the image, so they recognize your book from your previous marketing efforts the next time they see it.
- Correct packaging. Your cover should look like it belongs in the correct genre. Otherwise, the people attracted to the cover aren’t buying the book, which means no sales. This is one of the most common sales deterrents among self-published books.
- The fashion aspect. The reader wants a book that they can see themselves holding in their hands. Does your cover appeal to your target audience? People don’t wear shirts that don’t appeal to them, and they also tend not to buy books that don’t appeal to their sense of style.
Here are some examples of before and after images.
Misuse. The story is about a woman who sacrifices her loved one by pushing him from a window, for potential fame (a dance career). In the forefront of the image you see her sitting on the floor with closed fists and blood on her leg and arm, indicating her frustration and that she may have done something sinister. It was important to me that when people read the story, they could flip back to the cover to see a woman who seems to have lost as much as she is gaining. And that it’s never quite enough to be happy. This image began as a single photograph. I added the image of the window in and faded it into the background, then added blood to her skin. I also wanted the title to be partly emerging and partly lost behind her head, subtly supporting her personality type.
The Day it Rained Forever. A mermaid is laying on the floor with a golden sequin tail, curled in a fetal position. Immediately you know something is not right. The story is about a woman who was raped and filmed, and years later meets a perpetrator who needs to find resolve. This cover was created with a photograph and heavily edited in Photoshop, which was tedious because of color and light around her hair. The image was not as sharp as I would have liked in the beginning, so I enhanced all the sequence to ensure that all edges were sharp. I wanted this image to striking with a clear title, and a mindful focus on simplicity.
I’ll Always Love You No Matter What. For this cover, I hired an artist to paint a portrait of my son, Jaxon. Jaxon is ten years old, autistic, and mostly non-verbal. The story is about him asking questions that I imagine he might be wanting to ask, but cannot yet verbalize. The idea to have his portrait painted came from the notion that with Autism, one of the therapy techniques we use, is to play back images on an iPad, or print pictures of the child doing something, so that they can visualize their own behavior and see what they are doing from a different perspective. The illustrator captured my son perfectly, and it is a really nice way of being able to show him, with this cover, that the book was written for and about him.
Finally, your cover isn’t just to help sales and fit the reader. It’s also about you. You need to be happy with your cover. It’s your book, so you should love your own cover. Put a great cover on the book for you. It has to suit your style. The cover, including how professional it looks, reflects on the author.