Thursday, September 22, 2011

When a Cover Misrepresents

Readers DO judge a book by its cover. Covers and titles are the absolute first impression made upon a prospective book buyer. That is, unless the book is written by a high-price author, and then it's all in the six-inch name across the cover, and the picture doesn't matter.

But for the grand majority of writers, and the rest of us, covers matter. Even with e-books. I fall in love with great covers. Some love romance covers, using fantastic models with bodies like I've never seen except in People Magazine and underwear ads, airbrushed and Photoshopped. Others love watercolor landscapes and soothing settings for mainstream, contemporary or women's fiction. Long legs, upscale handbags and stilettos tend to adorn chick-lit. Of course, dark and ominous describes mysteries and thrillers.

But what if your cover is bad? Sales are less. I'd bet a month's income on it.

If you self-publish, it's all on you. One hundred percent on your shoulders. What are your options? How do you find a cover design that works for you when all you know how to do is write?

  • Hire a graphic designer. Yes, can be pricey, depending on the experience. Archer Graphics, for example, has some marvelous covers on its website. Prices start at $600. At 1106 Design, e-book covers start at $300 and print books $500. High end of $1595. 
  • Hold a competition. Do it on your own, maybe via Facebook, Twitter or blog notice, but a new cool concept for having a book cover contest is 99 Designs. For $195, you can post your specifications and desires, and artists compete for the gig. You pay for the one you like. I know a writer who did this, and received a beautiful design.
  • Use the service at the company publishing your book. That means NOT using a template that comes for free, or for an extra $90 or so. It means asking for their personalized services. You can provide your own photo. Take it yourself (hi resolution photo, please - at least 300 dpi). Or purchase pictures from or and ask the designer to use them. For the cover of my book, The Shy Writer , we set up special lighting and tried to capture the feel of a shy person. I gave the photo to the designer of my self-publishing company, and they added title, name, ISBN, etc
But what if you are contracted with a traditional press, and they make the final call on the cover, and you hate it? It happens. The content is great, but the cover isn't up to your expectations.

Novelist Polly Courtney waltzed up to the release party for her book It's a Man's World, and dropped Harper Collins as her publisher - over the covers of her books. She considered them mainstream, and Harper Collins painted them almost chick-lit.

A friend of mine wrote the South Carolina version of the Myths and Mysteries Series published by Globe Pequot. She's not keen about the cover, but the book is one of a series to include many other states, so the cover is not negotiable. The design is uniform to help readers find this line of books.

I'm holding my breath about my cover, but I've seen some dandy covers come out of Bell Bridge Books, so I cautiously optimistic. They've asked my advice, which is good.

Covers matter. Just because you are trying to publish on the cheap as a self-publisher, or because you've hired a self-publishing company to take care of matters, or because you landed a traditional press who ought to know better, doesn't give you any reason to short-cut the details of your cover. When you submit that manuscript, have ideas and designs in your head. Know what you do...and don't...want on your cover, and let your voice be known. Be nice, but be professionally firm. Covers are what beckons a reader to give your book a second look.

1 comment:

BECKY said...

I agree 100%! If I'm browsing in a book store and I don't like the cover and/or title, I may not even pick it up. I've noticed that most of the self-published books I've seen, have less than professional and/or desirable covers. I certainly won't let that happen to mine! Thanks for the great advice and links, Hope!