Judge Books by their Covers?

Think about one of your favorite books. For me, it might be The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I wouldn't care if that one had the worst cover imaginable. I'd still enjoy reading it.

But if I'd never heard of the book before, would I give it a shot if it had a crappy cover? Probably not. And I'm even less likely to try a book by an unknown author if the cover design is subpar. In my experience, a lousy book cover usually accompanies a rushed-to-the-presses, poorly edited, self-published disaster.

Not all self-published covers are bad, of course. Many "indie" writers pay talented artists for their work. Competing with traditionally published authors requires cover art to be up to par, and it can be an expense. But as a staunch supporter of the idea that money should always flow to the writer, I refuse to pay a cent.

After the rights to my stories revert and I re-publish them on Amazon, I design the covers myself using free commercial-use fonts and graphics. I lay them out in PowerPoint, then size them up in MS Paint. Very low-tech, I know, but I think I'm getting better at it. When I work with Musa Publishing, their cover designers basically do the same thing: take graphics available to them and add text. There's an art to it, of course, but the art has already been created by someone elsethe photographer or painter.

Last week, Every Day Publishing assigned a cover artist to my novel Captain Bartholomew Quasar and the Space-Time Displacement Conundrum. He won't be modifying graphics created by someone else; he'll be designing the artwork from scratch. This is a first for me, and it's been a blast brainstorming ideas with him for the overall design. He's already sketched the characters based on my descriptions, and they're looking good. His style is perfect for my comic space adventure.

What about you? Design your own? What apps or software do you use? Or does your publisher take care of it? Ever had an artist sketch one of your characters? It's been crazy seeing Captain Quasar and Hank come to life, and I'm looking forward to the final product. I'll be sure to share it as soon as I can.

In other news, this month's Subscriber Exclusive will be a weekly raffle of my short thriller "Doppelgänger Mine" (now available from Amazon). Enter to win here.

25 comments:

  1. I don't do any art myself. But I always find it exciting when an artist is assigned to produce something for one of my stories. I saw the art work for my upcoming story in The Mad Scientist Journal and it just blew me away.

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  2. You'll enjoy working with the artist designing your covers. I've been very pleased with the ones my publisher's illustrator has created for my series.

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  3. Leonora Roy is the genius behind my covers, and I am very lucky to be associated with her!

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    1. I love your covers, Roland. They are awesome.

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  4. I know I'd be tempted, but a professional would have more options. We will wait to see the results, Milo. Good luck!

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  5. A lousy cover does affect my opinion of the book. I make my own covers, and I use images I buy. I try to keep it simple too. My Photoshop skills got a work out last year! Good luck with your new cover. :)

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  6. I really enjoyed working with the artist on the cover for my collection. No way I could have pulled that off myself. :)

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  7. What I've been seeing is that self-designers are putting up several covers and ask their visitors for input. This is a great way to see things you might has missed.

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  8. Bad cover art is inexcusable.

    It's wild seeing the characters that have lived only in your head come alive on the cover.

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  9. I've done both. I design my own covers for my short stories, because the low cost means i won't make a profit if I pay someone else. I've also hired artists to do some covers with admittedly mixed results. However I've come to realize that artists have an eye for layout and design I'll never have. On my last project, I hired an artist to design a cover around a stock photo I selected, and then send me the file. That way I can modify it as needed for the rest of the series. But my dream would be to hire an artist from scratch. You're living the dream. Congratulations!

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  10. Oh, and I use GIMP to design my covers

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  11. For my short stories and novellas, I use GIMP and a combination of public domain art and free photographs. If you haven't tried GIMP, you should check it out. It's free. Once you learn how to use layers and masks, you'll never go back. For a novel or a series, it might be worth it to commission some custom art.

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  12. I haven't heard of GIMP, so will be checking that out. I just use Corel Paintshop Pro. I do think good covers are important, but at the same time, I've read some books that don't have the best covers, yet the work inside is outstanding.

    I'm a little nervous about what my bookcover will be like for my novella with Damnation Books - they have both really good ones, and not so good ones, and another story of mine, soon to be released, is actually getting a professional picture put along side it, sketched from scratch!, so I'm super excited about that.

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  13. I'm no artist, so for my book The Compass Master I hired an artist friend of my sister, and for a couple hundred he came up with a unique work I really liked. Then CreateSpace added a great title and name font/design that caught the spirit of my book surprisingly well. If I self-publish my Charity MacCay novels, I've already found a book cover artist I really like and could use. He won't be cheap, but I consider my stories to have professional standards, so their covers should be professional-looking.

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  14. I work with Derek Murphy for my covers since I have basic computer skills: turn computer on, open word, type, shut down computer. I'm with you, bad covers scream "rush job" and I don't feel the need to read them.

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  15. I enjoyed playing around in Photoshop and used to make covers for my sims 2 stories, which was waaay back. (For example: http://i228.photobucket.com/albums/ee2/wickedwicka/sims2%20stories/ISTYMDcovercopy.jpg)

    Took a few art classes, so I have a decent eye for layout and design, and I'm not a bad hand at art.

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  16. Hi Milo - one of the talents I'd love to have is to be able to draw and paint - but there are options now whereby I could perhaps be creative ... I'll have to see when the time comes ..

    Good luck - and very clever you've been able to produce your own up to now - also there's some great advice here from your friends .. cheers Hilary

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  17. I've created my own, though many times, I've really considered paying a professional. It's tough to make something that looks good, while taking into account graphics and typography. I would really love to work with a professional artist and see my characters come to life. Someday, when I have money, I'm going to do that.

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  18. I LOVE The Princess Bridge, but the cover on the paperback was pretty ugly. I got it as a Christmas present from my wife back in the 90s since I loved the movie so much.
    Me personally, I'm not a big fan of authors using stock photos on their covers. I often see the same models over and over again. So I have my covers custom designed by an artist. It really is amazing to see your characters get brought to life by a professional.

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  19. I would never buy/read a novel with a lousy cover. I figure if they can't do that right, there's little chance what's inside is going to be good enough for me to bother reading. I've only published one book and the publisher designed and made the cover. But I enjoy making banners and badges and things. I use GIMP for the jpg's and GifApp for animations. I enjoy it so much that when I get fed up with writing, I just go and make a cool jpg! lol

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  20. If I can find the right image, then I'll purchase it for use and create my own cover using Paint.net and sometimes GIMP. But if I want something more complex, then I have no problem hiring an artist.

    That's awesome they hired a cover artist to work on your cover! It's quite an experience and exciting to see how it all comes together.

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  21. I sincerely hope I never end up doing my own covers... cuz they would be truly terrible!! I agree with you - money should flow to the writer - but my computer design skills are...um...non-existent!

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  22. Amazon cover creator does have some awesome covers. But we need that eye to detail to succeed.

    Nas

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  23. I pay for covers. My talent in that area is somewhere between non-existent and barely there. I like your Doppleganger Mine cover.

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  24. I design quite a few of my own - but I know my limitations and buy in expertise where it's needed. Overlaying some text on a nice stock image is pretty easy, but blending multiple images seamlessly is rather beyond me. So far...

    As an aside, since I started doing this I've taken to studying the covers in book shops etc. to see what they're like and how they work. And it's noticeable how poor some of the covers from big publishers are. I see a lot I wouldn't be happy with.

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