The Trouble with Book Covers

The trouble with book covers is that they’re what people see first. The identity of your masterpiece (or definitely-on-the-way-to-being-a-masterpiece) will be linked to your book cover forever – or at least until the next edition. According to which advice you encounter, it should be funny, dramatic, mysterious, eye-catching and/or subtle. Whichever way you look at (in your mind’s eye, at this stage) choosing your brilliant, ‘must-be- picked-up’ cover will be a challenge!

Of course, you needn’t take a DIY approach – in fact there are lots of dire warnings around which tell you not to, and a multitude of DFY (Done For You) options, using professionals. You could find a designer local to you, so you stand a chance of a face-to-face conversation, or go for a company offering a self-publishing service (ideally an established one with a good rep, such as Silver Crow’s partner companies, which have complete publishing packages), or just google ‘book cover design’ to see some of the alternatives out there. The marketplace sites of Reedsy and Fiverr both have a wealth of book cover artists, between them offering design services for a variety of prices to suit brown paper to gold leaf budgets.

Remember though, that it’s ultimately your decision – professional designers probably won’t have time to read your full text but will work from the information you’ve given them. Because of this, they may not grasp the intricacies – or even the essence – of your story, especially as you may not be used to writing design briefs. The important thing is not to accept the first cover suggested if it doesn’t work for you. Arriving at something that feels ‘right’ can be a painstaking process of negotiating images, colours, fonts etc. Though a compromise may well be needed, don’t settle for one which seems alien! While it’s obvious that a pastel-pink background and squirly-whirly font will be a bit of an iffy match for a dark tale of murder and revenge, there are lesser anomalies which can also induce much wincing. You may, of course, find an artist who comes up with a totally awesome image – one which slips effortlessly around your text in a magical, Cinderella’s shoe moment. But that would be fairy-tale lucky!

On the other hand, you may be one of those brave (my opinion) or foolhardy (my friends’ opinion) writers who, like me, are considering the ‘boldly going’ solution of a DIY book cover for your first book. Possibilities are currently ‘under investigation’, so I shall attempt to herd the useful bits back to this blog.

Gill Harry

Photo Credit: Gill Harry and her Photoshop skills.

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