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On the Importance of an Awesome Book Cover

Updated on February 26, 2013

The Collins Cases Cover

Cover Code

I used to go to BN with a friend and spend hours just looking at the book covers. Some were pretty, most were plain, and a few were just plain painful.

When designing a book cover, my personal code works like this:

- The author's name shouldn't be bigger than the title.

- The cover should be aesthetically pleasing. I could probably go on a long time about this one part of the code, but this includes things like color coordination and the right balance of things to look at. I like when I can look at a cover at two different times and be drawn to a different aspect of it. I ask myself: do I want to look at this cover?

- If possible, there should be a sense of symmetry.

- The font for title and author should be VERY readable. If I gotta squint to read the title, I'm immediately annoyed with the book. I think women's fiction is particularly guilty of illegible font syndrome.

- The cover should have something to do with the story. Okay, that might sound basic, but maybe what I'm getting at are those covers where all you get are the title and author name and a big, fat sea of plain color behind them. That just strikes me as lazy. Some authors can get away with it because they're rich and famous and this is book #40 in the series, but is that really an excuse for a blah cover?

Ashlynn's Dreams Kindle Cover

Advice About Designing Your Own Cover

I've gotten several compliments from complete strangers about how nice my cover art has turned out, so we must be doing something right. Aside from sticking to my basic code, here are my other random thoughts about designing a book cover.

- Know your story. Personally, I like when I can connect the cover art to the story as I read.

- Look at a lot of covers in the genre your story fits in.Get a feel for what's out there, what's been done, and decide whether you want to toe that pre-established line or branch out on your own.

Aside: Somewhere (online or a publishing book) I read that you really should pick a genre as people generally frown upon books that are general fiction/YA/middle grade/fantasy/mystery/thriller/action/planet hopping/romance novels for those who love classic literature. I happen to read and write in a lot of genres, but not every mystery reader can stand science fiction.

- A book cover is the first glimpse the reader gets into your world, so make the first impression count. In general, keep it simple, elegant, and informative, yet balance that with enough details so people can spend a few seconds or more admiring what you've created. It is art after all.

- Find your style. The publishing world is exploding with self-published works. If you're going to make your mark, make darn sure it's one that can stand up to the competition. My stories fit in Christian mystery, YA, and science fiction, yet we went with a sort of cartoony, comic book look to the cover.

- Find a cover art guy or gal who's talented and willing to work with you at a reasonable cost. Do some internet research. There are a lot of talented people out there who'd be thrilled to help you out for a fair price. If you want to work with my guy, I'm sure you can find out how to get in touch with him (or just PM me). I might have to beat ya off with a stick (or let his finacee do that :-) ... kidding. Actually, his fiancee is also a talented artist. I guess the general advice here is get to know people, check out places like deviantART and tumblr where artist hang out and post their triumphs.

Ashlynn's Dreams Full Cover

About My Cover Art Guy

I'm luckier than most people in that I have a really awesome friend who happens to know how to make professional grade cover art. His name is Timothy Sparvero and you can find him on deviant art. Click here if you'd like to see more examples of what he can do.

We started simple with a bookmark for Ashlynn's Dreams. That took us a day. Tim started with a basic sketch of Jillian/ Ashlynn and Danielle. I described a rough idea of what I was going for and he ran with it. I think I suggested they be facing each other, but the idea to draw Jillian with her eyes closed was all Tim.

When it came time to make a cover for The Collins Case, I once again turned to my friend. As I said before, it started with about 10 concept sketches to get a feel for layout. When process of elimination took us through the hour long process, we came back to the first layout. Tim drew the majority of the cover by hand, scanned it into his computer, and colored it in digitally. Then, we picked a font which took a long time.

The Ashlynn's Dreams cover took us two days and about 16 hrs. I think we only had 1 concept sketch for this, but it took us a while to get what we really wanted. This being our first full cover, we weren't sure how the edges would work and didn't want to risk any part being cut off. To solve the problem, my friend drew Jillian's hair to flow onto the back.

I often say "we" when talking about the cover designs, but I'd say the work breakdown is 2% me and 98% Tim. He gets all the credit for making the thing; I'm just there for moral support and design consulting.

Here's his professional page.

You can find me at the Facebook page for Ashlynn's Dreams. Send me a PM if you'd like to be put in contact with Tim to commission book art or character sketches.

Oops, I thought my profile picture was done by Tim, but I think it was done by Rita, another talented artist friend. It's just a rough character sketch of Ranger Reia Antellio, a character in one of my science fiction series (as yet unpublished).

Cover Critiques

The comment made me think of a fun idea for the brave and curious. Feel free to post a comment with a link to your own book covers, and I'll let you know what I think of it. Anyone who feels like commenting on your book cover can do so in comments.

Free advertising for indie authors ;-P


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    • crashcromwell profile image


      5 years ago from Florida

      As one author and hubber to another, great job!

      I have been curious about the issue of typeface size for the author's name. I have seen books with big huge print for the author's name, particularly those with a big following, but it feels unnatural to me.

      I recently redesigned the front cover of my first novel, Antiquity Calais Standing at Armageddon. In the opening scene of this book, there is a ginormous tsunami, but when I first published the book, I could not find a good picture to depict that image. So I went with a reasonably close stock image of the ocean. Then about a week ago, I was copying and pasting an image of the cover, and I found that by highlighting the cover to copy it, I received a negative image of the cover. What had been mountains along the ocean in the original image suddenly looked like huge waves in the negative image.

      I hope it is not presumptuous of me to post a link to the cover page, but I am so happy with the way the new cover looks that I just have to share it. Great hub!

      Jim Henry


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