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Let’s Talk Cover Art

By on July 24, 2014 . Category Column

They tell us not to judge books by their covers, but if that had any merit, the publishing industry—both traditional and independent—wouldn’t be spending millions on cover design every year.

The fact of the matter is that cover art matters.  A lot.  We’re not supposed to judge books by their covers, but we do.  I can’t tell you how many books I’ve picked up solely because, “This looks cool.”  And likewise, I’ve passed up quite a few books because they didn’t catch my eye, only to find out later from a recommendation or gifting that they were actually quite wonderful.

A bad cover will kill your book.  A good cover won’t guarantee it becomes a best-seller, but it definitely is not going to hurt your sales to have solid artwork on your book.

Many an indie-author has skimped on the book covers because they could not afford to get professional artwork done.  To this I say:  If you can’t find a way to get some truly superb and professional art for your book, wait.  It’ll be worth it.  If you have exceptional graphic design skills, then designing it yourself might be feasible, but if not, it’s best if you can take your time and get your cover handled professionally.

How can you do that?  And do so in a cost-effective manner, to boot?  Here are a few quick tips.


Decide What You Want

Book covers have to have relevance to the book.  A good tactic is to pick a notable scene and utilize that.  Avoid creating a cover that doesn’t have anything to do with your book—covers that feature a character in a flowy gown when there is no such occasion in the novel are somewhat strange, and usually leave readers a little perplexed.  Not to say that everything on your cover has to be exactly as it is in your book; a cover that conveys the emotion or tone of your novel without misrepresenting characters or situations.

You can also utilize a symbol or other iconic thing from your book.  Every novel is different, so it’s up to you to decide what imagery or artwork would best represent your story.



Go out there and find the good artists.  Do a search online, ask your writer friends, and cruise art sites like deviantART, Concept Art, or other similar resources to find artists whose work you admire.  Some of them might even be willing to take a commission.  At the very least, you might find some styles and settings that inspire you.

Also, look at the industry.  See what kinds of covers are out there—which ones call to you?  Which ones draw you in?  For example, I personally am attracted to simple but bold covers.  Like these:



This may not be your cup of tea, but for me, this is what catches my eye.  I will pick these books up.  I will click their images when surfing online.  I will read their descriptions and wonder at their contents.

Find out who’s doing cover art, whose work you like, and who you might be able to work with.  Get inspired.


Get Out There!

Talk to artists.  Get their rates.  Save up, or if you absolutely cannot afford it, see if anyone is open for a trade.  Maybe there is something you can do for them in exchange.  Professional exchanges are a great way to get work done, and have gotten me everything from free copies of books to business coaching.

If you do have a little money set aside for cover art, places like 99 Designs and Elance can be a great resource—you can post your needs and get submissions or proposals to help you.

Keep in mind that much like you are aiming to sell your books, there are artists out there hoping to get their own craft noticed and appreciated.  So reach out!  Your average artist will be absolutely thrilled to be approached about a project, and if they can’t or aren’t interested, they might be able to point you in the direction of someone who would be a better fit.

In short, the last thing you want is a stock photo with your title and name plastered on the front.  Your cover should be as carefully considered as each word in your novel was.  This is the finishing touch on your baby—the last flourish before you present it to the public.  Your book deserves a beautiful cover, so make sure you give the proper attention and energy to getting your novel dressed up right for its big debut!


What’s your favorite book cover?  Have you ever bought a book simply because the cover art was awesome?  Tell us in the comments!


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