Covers, Covers, and more Covers…

Well, I started this post to talk about doing your own covers, but now I’m going to talk about that, and about a story I saw over on NPR . The article laments that “the days when an artist named Chip Kidd could make us reach for a book may be gone”. First, let me start out by saying that I was a book buyer and reader long before I ever was a writer. And I honestly can’t tell you the name of a single book cover artist. I don’t know anyone else that does either. It’s not like comic book art, where not only is the whole book art, but you might pick one up because Todd Mcfarlane drew it, or Marc Sylvestri, or Michael Turner. As far as I know, nobody goes out and browses books and says, “Chip Kidd did this book, I’m totally buying it”. Feel free to correct me if I’m off base on this.

I don’t buy books for their cover, like everyone else its a combination of cover, subject matter, and review. I might occasionally overlook cover completely, but only if it’s an author I know. Cover matters more if the reader doesn’t know who you are. That’s the first thing they see, and if the cover doesn’t grab them, they might not take a look. If the cover grabs me, then I’ll take a look and see what it’s about.  From there, its subject matter and reviews, or in the case of amazon, the “look inside” feature. If the writing sucks, I won’t buy it either.

That cover though, is the first hook. I think now, more than ever, books, and ebooks, require a good cover. If not, you are gonna miss out on a lot of people who might otherwise pass over it because of a crappy book cover.

On to other things.

I’m a big do-it-yourself er. In my world, money doesn’t grow on trees, and I refuse to pay someone for work I can do myself. Part of that is the satisfaction I get from completing a job, or task, or whatever it may be. It’s like writing “the end” when the novel gets done. (Even though with the novel, that just means your work is getting started)

In my world, covers are an expense I can’t afford. I know, if I want to be in a business like this I can’t afford to cut corners, can I? Well, my personal opinion is that you can, in some things. I don’t cut on editing, but being artistic means I get to stretch my creative wings now and again. Which for me, is a good thing. And before you ask, when I say cut corners, I just mean in dollars, not quality. Of course, if all depends on what you feel is within your realm of doing. If you don’t think you can churn out a good enough cover, feel free to pay someone  else with the skills to do it. Using Gimp or Photoshop or whatever your preferred program is isn’t hard, just might take a little time. I like to experiment, and I like my covers to be slightly artsy, but still convey a sense of the book. With that in mind, here’s a sketch of the cover for my current WIP.

Mind you, it’s not finished, but this is a little bit of what can be done without a photo of any kind. It pops, and hopefully, grabs your attention. What about you? Any thought on covers, how important they are? feel free to let me know in the comments.

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5 thoughts on “Covers, Covers, and more Covers…

  1. I have two things to say. First, its awesome that you can do this and I think you’re covers are fine, especially considering the type of books you seem to write (based on my glimpse into The Brotherhood); and second of all, I don’t think I could do what you do.

    I have maybe the tenacity to do so, but in fantasy novels the covers often portray the protagonist and one or two other characters…I can’t draw people. I know my limitations and that just wouldn’t work. And I know, George R.R. Marting’s books don’t usually follow that trope, but I think it is that, a trope.

    My choice would be certainly to go mainstream publish or hire an artist, but again, yours look fine especially for what you write.

    Oh, and you’re also right about covers no mattering much except in the way of a new author. I think that’s pretty true.

    1. Fantasy is certainly another animal all together. The first writing I ever did was fantasy, and I have a half finished work that I will be knocking out towards the end of the year that’s fantasy with some elements of steampunk/science fiction. I don’t currently have cover ideas for it yet. George R.R. has a huge following and makes a ton from his books, so I would expect him to have covers that are movie poster quality 🙂 Then there’s the paintings of the Wheel of Time series. I must say, as far as recognizable work goes, that artist has now done a ton of work for a ton of different books. If you’ve ever seen some of Stephen Lawhead’s books, a lot of his covers were basic, and did not include pictures or paintings of protagonists. I think the whole point of covers is to A.Grab your attention, and B.give you a sense of what the book is about.
      On a different subject; as far as mainstream goes, I’m definitely not against getting published the normal way. I just don’t want to wait eighteen months for my first book to come out, and that of course depends on how long I had to wait to find a publisher to begin with. But there’s a lot of self pubbers now who are getting contracts from publishers based on their self pubbed work. To me that’s fantastic. Go where the money is, a motto to live by in the publishing world.

  2. I agree with all this. I have no idea who cover artists are. The cover grabs my attention, then I thumb through it, then I figure out if I want it. I haven’t published yet, though I have a finished book. I need to get an editor, but alas I am too poor to hire one. Having come from the video game industry, I know some artists who could do a cover for me, so that’s nice to have in my pocket.

    1. If you have some friends that are heavy readers, that can take the place of a good editor (especially if they’re nitpicky/grammar snobs and know good stories inside and out. From what I’ve heard, (according to JA Konrath and some others) when your book even gets to an editor, most likely you’ll get someone who’s never edited before (50 shades of gray, anyone?) and your book will either not be edited well, or they will request a bunch of rewrites that for the most part, they only want done because it’s how THEY would have written the book. This is just conjecture, of course. But something to think about.

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