What every author should know about cover art
by Elizabeth Sharp
I am a total and complete cover junkie. I browse Amazon searching for images I just gotta have. I have bought books without reading the blurbs because I loved the covers so much. And you know what? Some of them were just simply awesome. At the same time, I don’t care how good your blurb is or how many rave reviews you have, if the cover is awful, I’ll pass. As a cover artist as well as an author, I’m keenly aware of the trends in cover art. I’m very opinionated about it and I don’t apologize for that. There are some basic rules in cover art you should keep in mind, or you’ll lose a lot of other readers who are like me.
1) Make it look professional
If you’re going to do your own cover, that’s great. But if you don’t have the skills to make something anyone would consider art, maybe you should scrape together the cash. There are many affordable options out there.
2) Avoid clutter
Any cover that has too much going on is a total turn off. Just because your story features fifteen unique characters, you don’t have to picture each one. If you have several images you love and want to use, write a series.
3) Make it relevant
If you’re going to have a cover with a unicorn on it, your book should have something to do with unicorns. Even covers like Twilight, with its simplistic imagery, pull themes from the story itself, according to author Stephanie Meyer (even though the only one that makes sense to me is Breaking Dawn).
4) Make sure its self-explanatory
If you have to explain your cover, it’s not doing its job. A cover should be a clear and concise representation of your work, whether symbolic or just recreating a scene on the cover. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Never is that more true than referring to cover art.
5) It needs to be eye catching
There are hundreds of thousands of titles on the market and you need to stand out. One of the easiest ways is with an amazing cover. Bright color, shocking imagery and clear conveyance of ideas go a long way and doing this. It doesn’t matter what type of cover you want, you need to make it stand out. Don’t be afraid to go afraid to try something new. One of the best traits of indie publishing is the ability to quickly change what doesn’t work.
6) Don’t change your art too frequently
For someone like me, who is all about the cover, someone who changes theirs once a month is frustrating and turns me off of their work. Some people believe that changing covers often drums up sales. But I personally believe that it makes a book recognizable. Right now, think of the cover of your favorite book as a child. Mine is The Monster at the End of this Book). Now go look it up on Amazon (here’s mine). If the cover is the same as the one you imagined (like mine), you just got a blast of nostalgia, imagining your parents reading to you, or curling up under the covers with a flashlight. But if it’s different, you feel let down. I’m not saying you have to keep the same cover, but people are looking for something to picture when they think of you and your work, so give them a stable image.
There is so much to choosing and creating the perfect cover, it’s hard not to feel attacked when people complain about your cover. But remember, your cover is first and foremost a marketing tool. And if a tool isn’t doing it’s job, you replace it. These ideas might not be the industry standard, but this is a revolution. You need to worry about standing out, not fitting in.