When I wrote the first book in The Conjurors Series, I held what turned out to be a naive belief that it would succeed or fail based on the merits of my writing. Now older and (hopefully) wiser, I’m ready to admit that a strong, eye-catching cover is crucial to selling any book – but especially one that you’re self-publishing. If you’re a self-publishing pro, this post is not for you. But if you’re a relative newbie to this world, please learn from my mistakes. Perhaps you’ll save yourself hundreds of strands of hair that you would otherwise pull out your head in frustration.
Unless you’re a gifted artist as well as a writer, don’t create your own cover art.
Even a random person on the street could have done a better job with the cover of my book than I did with my original cover. In my infinite wisdom, I opened ClipArt in PowerPoint, chose an image, and called it a day. To my untrained eye it looked simple and elegant. But friends and family assured me it looked boring and amateurish. When readers agreed, I had to admit that they were right.
Don’t hire someone from O-Desk, Freelancer, etc. unless you have a strong artistic sensibility and know exactly what you want on your cover.
Alas, in my case, my creativity with the written word does not extend to the visual arts. I knew enough to realize that my own cover art wasn’t getting the job done, but figured that surely someone who could draw reasonably well could easily create a dynamite cover. However, without any distinctive guidance from me, or even an understanding if what I was seeing was good, this effort didn’t save me any cash – it was a money sinkhole.
Avoid random web searches for cover artists unless you have the patience of a saint.
After scouring dozens of websites and flipping through hundreds of cover samples, I felt more overwhelmed and less confident about how to fix my cover than ever. I had no idea if the artists whose work I was viewing had been successful in selling books. I was terrified of throwing away more money on an artist who needed guidance from me that I couldn’t provide.
Don’t let your number one consideration when choosing a cover artist be price.
Like a lot of newbies in the self-publishing industry, I’m on a micro budget when it comes to promoting my books. But people more experienced and successful than myself all agree that your cover is the last thing you should cheap out on. I’m not saying you need Dan Brown’s cover artist working for you, but finding someone who can give you a cover that is professional and pleasing can be the difference between success and failure when readers only your see your title and a thumbnail image of your cover before deciding if they want to find out more.
With that being said, there were a few things that did work for me. First was seeing who the pros were using. Some self-published authors thank their cover artists in their acknowledgments or post who their cover artists and editors are on their websites. (And may karma reward them for that!) Another good source was a Goodreads list of recommended cover artists (they have multiple threads on this topic). This was nice because there were a variety of price points. My last tip is to reach out to any friends you have who are artists or at least have a good sense for the visual arts to look at the portfolio of the cover artist you’re planning to go with before you spend any cash. Worst case scenario, at least you have someone other than yourself to blame if your cover doesn’t come out quite right.
Brand new covers of the first two novels in The Conjurors Series will be posted on my site in October. I hope you come check them out and let me know if I finally got it right!