Self Publishing - Cover Art

One of the easiest ways of categorizing people is to break them into two groups. Yes. I realize it’s not quite that simple. I’m really not sure that there is a way to realistically categorize individuals. Many people fall into multiple categories and subcategories. For example, as a rule I don’t like country music, HOWEVER, there are a few songs that I like. I don’t really like hard core romance books or movies, but one of my favorite guilty pleasures is watching Bed of Roses. So it is difficult to accurately categorize people. However, there is one skill that people either have or do not have – at least that I’ve observed. There are salesmen and there are non-salesmen.

I’m not simply talking about selling to make money. There are some people who are better at selling themselves as good and trustworthy people, or as skilled professionals. Obviously I’m going to relate this to self-publishing – you all saw that coming, right?

We all have those indie authors we follow on Twitter or Facebook that are excellent at tooting their own horn, regardless of their writing abilities/artistic abilities, etc. They have the confidence needed to convince others to give their work a chance. Then there are those of us who struggle to believe that our work is worth anyone else’s time, let alone ours. And truth be told, I don’t believe that it’s a difference in confidence verses a lack of confidence. I’ve known people who pushed their self-worth simply because they had a lack of confidence. But I’ve also known people whose self-confidence stemmed from acceptance of themselves and this quality drew others to them.

As an indie author, it’s our job to promote ourselves until we have a large enough fan base to promote for us via word of mouth. If you don’t let people know about your work and why they should read it, then how will anyone ever find out about it? We promote ourselves through social networks, blogs, forums, and other forms of marketing, but one topic that I haven’t brought up yet is fairly important. Some people choose whether or not to read a book based on this seemingly simple quality – cover art.

Your cover art is, many times, the first way that readers judge your work. Is it attractive? Is it intriguing? Does it give away anything about the work? If so, does it give away too much (cough-cough-the movie Quarantine-cough-cough)? Or does it not seem to match the title and written description?

It is my guess, as I’ve never been in this situation before, that when publishing traditionally through a publishing company, that the author may be allowed to give opinions about cover art, but ultimately, it’s probably the publishers decision as they “fully understand” marketing and popular opinion. But as indie authors, we accept 100% of the responsibilities for better or for worse. It’s up to use to decide what will best complement our written words.

While I don’t like to state firm opinions as a general rule – I’m definitely more of a “whatever works for you and makes you happy” type of person – I’d like to step out on a limb and say that the more professional looking you can make your cover, the more appealing your work is going to be to the general masses. Why? Because it makes it look like you have a team of people supporting you and that you have some taste as opposed to designing something in Microsoft Office Paint. There. I said it. And I won’t apologize this time, because I’m saying this out of love and a desire to help you sell books! Spend the money on good graphics or a good photographer. Spend the money on Photoshop or Illustrator or whatever image manipulation software you want to dive into. It will be worth it, I assure you. (Plus it’s a lot of fun to manipulate family pictures to aggravate relatives)

Should people make snap judgments based off of your cover art? Eh, that goes back into my “whatever makes you happy” frame of mind. My husband and I are notorious for choosing wine, vodka, and import beer based on packaging. We’ve found some of our favorite drinks and some of our least favorite drinks that way. We’re human. We make snap judgments. For your sake and the sake of your book/short story/poetry/etc. help readers make a positive snap judgment. Then it’s up to your wordsmith abilities to hook them for the long term. But at least they’ll think “Man, that’s a good looking cover.”

I personally love creating cover art. I’m not saying that mine is any good, but my marketing husband approves, and that’s really the only approval I seek these days. I love keeping the cover in mind as I put the finishing touches on my work. It’s a way to express how I feel about my book and how I expect readers to feel as they peruse the pages. I get to play around in Photoshop, scan through hundreds of images, design multiple versions, and ultimately pick the one that attracts me to my own work. I find the whole process thoroughly enjoyable. I realize that some of you may not. And for that, there is a lovely website called Fiverr.com.

Now, should you choose to go this route, I urge you to purchase your own images in advance. This will ensure that you are using images that you have the legal right to use. Most people on Fiverr will assure you that they are use copyright free images, but I don’t know that it would stick in a court of law. When you purchase your own images or use images that you have personally taken, you know for sure that those are your images to use and no one can accuse you of infringement.

That being said, Fiverr is a great way to get professional looking cover art. You can find people who are graphic designers by trade that are willing to design your cover art (with image provided) for $5.00. It’s quite brilliant actually. And they’ll usually let you ask for revisions if there’s any part of it that you don’t like.

So there you have it. Cover art. I’m sure that there are other bloggers who write for pages and pages in great detail over what you should and should not include in your cover art. Well, I just don’t have the time to do that, nor do I fully understand the inner workings of the human brain so as to correctly pinpoint what is and what is not attractive to the general population. But I do know that if you’re not satisfied with your cover’s quality, then other people probably won’t be either. So. . .take what you will from that. 

photo credit: markchadwickart via photopin cc