Coming up with a good cover for your book is not easy. There are so many considerations, and they can vary greatly depending on genre. Once you actually have an idea, finding the right artist can also be tricky and expensive. Having just recently gone through this process myself, I thought I’d offer up a few tips based on what I’ve learned. Note that many of these tips may be broadly applicable, but my focus was on fantasy and sci-fi.
What should the book cover do?
- Convey the genre of your book at a glance
- Engage your intended audience
- Remain consistent with the feeling of your story
- Clearly present the Title and Author names (not too busy)
- Look good as a thumbnail (relevant to eBooks only)
- Remain consistent with other books in the series
Steps for creating a cover for your book
1. Look at relevant examples
Head over to the kindle website and search for best selling books in your genre. Save the images of the ones you like and keep them in a folder for reference. Remember, you’re going for a “feeling” here. You don’t want to copy the exact format of another book, or yours won’t stand out.
2. Get something down on paper
So maybe you have some ideas of what your cover may consist of, but like me, you have very little skill as an illustrator. Even if your best artwork consists of stick figures, crooked lines and uneven shapes, do your best to get your ideas down. Don’t take too much time here, just something. Here’s a rather embarrassing example of my early efforts.
3. Shopping for an artist
This can be an incredibly time consuming process…but it can also be lots of fun! Here are some resources for finding an artist for the cover of your book:
A fantastic website for finding illustrators. Just search for what you’re looking for (i.e. desert fantasy illustration). Once you find artwork you like, send the artist a message and ask them if they do commissions. I’ve contacted many, and found the range to be anywhere from $200 – $1,000. Make sure you ask about typography as well, as some require you to do this yourself or have someone else do it.
This resource can be hit or miss. You will definitely find cheaper artists, but you get what you pay for. There are lots of talented artists, but be prepared to hit language barriers, deal with the occasional fraudulent seller, and sift through a lot of not so great stuff. The most important thing for this site is to LOOK AT THE ARTIST REVIEWS. Don’t hire anyone without reviews.
Sometimes it’s easiest to just go with an artist who focuses specifically on book covers. If you’re lucky, you may find a pre-designed book cover that fits your story.
4. Working with the artist
Now that you’ve finally found your DaVinci, it’s time to share with them your vision. Some artists like a lot of direction, some prefer to take the ball and run with it. Either way, make sure you are as clear as possible on your ideas. This includes explaining what parts you’re flexible on, and what elements must be included.
If the artist is experienced, I’d recommend giving them the leeway they need to bring your vision to life. If you have a disagreement, remember, they are the professional illustrator, and probably know more about things like composition, light, colour, etc. than you or I do.
If the artist is green, they may require more direction. Some will ask you to be as explicit as possible.
Important: Make sure you are involved throughout the process! Ask them to provide a rough sketch (or multiple for you to choose from), give feedback and make changes in this early stage. It will save you and the artist a lot of time/trouble.
Ultimately, your success is the artist’s success. Remember, these people work for money – don’t expect them to make huge changes late in the game, or start over from scratch without charging to do so.
5. Give credit
This may not seem like a big deal, but I can assure you artists really appreciate it when you credit them for their work in your book. It’s also incentive for them to do a good job – would you want to put your name on something you’re not proud of? Didn’t think so!
I’m in the final stages of cover design for Recreance. Here are some rough sketch ideas for the project so far. The artist I’ve been working with is Rob Joseph (found on deviant art). Below are some concept sketches he came up with. Check back soon to see the final cover design!