There is a common English idiom you are likely familiar with—“don’t judge a book by its cover.” Unfortunately, we readers do this all the time. I pick up a book, look at its cover and choose to either dive in or place it back on the shelf. I’m not sure why I do this—it makes no real sense, but I do. I do it with some product packaging, too, so maybe it’s engrained in me or I’ve been habituated to do it because of years of hard-core marketing campaigns by the advertising industry.
Doesn’t matter. The fact is, cover art can make or break your book. And it isn’t just me who says this—all the folks who are writing about ebook production argue that cover art can sell your ebook—and this is with the cover art being thumbnail sized.
Having realized that cover art was important, I began looking around to see what to do about it—I mean, I like art, I make “art,” but I’m no graphic artist.
- First I looked at other covers in my genre and just plain good covers in any genre at the Book Cover Archive.
- Then I brainstormed about the themes or main settings in my book. In my case, it was an old Victorian house, graves, murder, shadowy, unknown woman, African American woman, roses, gardens. These were sort of the “keywords” I would use to find art for my book cover.
- Then I started looking around for free images. I mean, free is good and if I could find something free, all the better. I looked at: The Library of Congress’s Image Collection, the American Memory Project, Public Domain Images through a Google Search, and did a Creative Commons search on Flickr.
- I found a few things, downloaded them and then started messing with them.
- Since my Photoshop and Illustrator skills are minimal (Nonexistent is really closer to the truth), I used fotoflexer to manipulate the image and add text. Fotoflexer is free and is easy to use.
Here are some of my first attempts:
- I sent these out to friends to see what they had to say. They were nice but I could tell that they wouldn’t have bought the book with these covers.
- Frantic, I contacted a couple of companies that make cover art. One guy—Carl Graves at Extended Imagery—was swamped—he was really great to talk with but he couldn’t get the art done in the time frame I was looking at. But I bookmarked him knowing I would like to work with him in the future.
- The next folks I spoke with could get it done within my time frame but I wasn’t happy with what they told me. Their pricing started at $300. That’s a lot but worth it if the cover is awesome. So I said, ok, how do we get started? Then they said that I had to locate a photo for them to use and then they would add my name and the book title to the image. They suggested that I start with istockphoto.com and see if I could find something that looked like it matched my book. WOAH!!!! You want me to pay you $300 AND find the cover art????? All you do is slap my name and the title on it???? I can do that in fotoflexer myself. I told them that what I wanted was to provide them with a description of the book and some of its themes and then I wanted THEM to come up with the cover art design. I mean, isn’t that what I was paying them to do? To make art? They said that they could do that for me—but it would cost up to $700. Wow. I took a step back. (I’ve not named these people just in case my experience with them was unique).
- So I went on IStockphoto and looked around using my keywords in their search engine. I found several possibilities and finally settled on a picture that seemed to match my themes. I was able to purchase it for a bout $10.
10. I then uploaded it into fotoflexer and played around with it for a while, adding my name and the book title to it and resizing it for different formats.
Here it is:
I don’t think that this is the best possible cover I can have and I’ve already decided that when I finish the second book in the series, I’m going to have the art done by Carl Graves and have him design a new cover for this first book. But for now, it’ll have to work.
Cover art is important, obviously, but it’s also tough to get right. I wish I’d had some readers or reviewers to send ideas to so that they could critique them. So if you’d like to form a little group and work that way, please let me know! I’d love to hear your experiences with creating cover art for your ebooks, too.