I’ve just ran through the second revision of my fantasy short story Mercury, Sulfur, and Salt and I’m near enough the publishing point that I’ve begun thinking about things like formatting and the book cover (gotta do something while I wait for my editor to get back to me). So I’ve been doing a bit of research on book covers, where to get them done, what they should have, what makes a good cover, what kind of text to use and let me tell you, there is enough to make your head spin.
One of the most surprising parts of the process has been learning just how critical a good book cover is. Every website I’ve read on the subject suggests getting the cover done professionally at a site like 99designs and I’d love to do that, but I don’t have the funds to drop 200 dollars on a book cover. I could take the financial hit and roll with it, but it just seems silly to me to pay someone 200 dollars to put together a cover for a short story I’m probably going to charge 99 cents for. This has left me with a two feasible alternatives.
The first I picked up from a friend, I live near several schools and he suggested that I go out and put up a flyer requesting the services of a budding art student. This makes sense cause I could pay the student a smaller fee while they got to build their portfolio. I’ve chosen not to go this route, for two main reasons.
1. I don’t have / want to spend the time to go out and put the flyers up and coordinate with someone on the project. (I would much rather spend the time writing and learning more about publishing)
2. I’d really rather not pay someone to make a cover for my short story. It’s a short story, not a novel, and the first thing I’m ever going to officially publish. It just seems like a bad idea to sink money into something that I’m using to test the waters.
The second is to do the cover art myself or have someone I know do it for free (obviously with a thank you in the book). This is the option I’ve decided to go with even though every piece of information I’ve read has screamed at me specifically not to do this. I’m fairly artistic, so is my girlfriend, and I feel like together she and I could tackle the issue head on and get, at the very least, an acceptable result.
After you’ve figured out what route you’re going, you need to figure out what you want the cover to be, and there is a plethora of possibilities, rules, and information to consider. What do other, successful, books in your genre have as cover art? Will your cover look good in thumbnail? (cause that’s how everyone is going to see it the first time, a thumbnail picture in a list of books). How about gray scale, does your cover still look good in gray scale? (Cause a great deal of people browse for their next book on their e-reader, which most likely sports a gray scale screen). Is it eye catching enough? (Because as the title states, we regularly do judge books by their cover, it’s the first impression a book gets to make). What about your font and text placement? Is what you want for the cover going to be the best cover?
This last question has been plaguing me, I currently have two possible covers I’m looking at using up at the top of the page. (Although the more I read the more I become convinced I need to explore more options) one of which I like a great deal more than the other, they both follow similar themes, specifically dandelions and fire, but they showcase these themes in different ways. To get a better idea of what would be a good route to go I tossed up both these pictures on my Facebook and asked my friends what they thought. The answers I got really surprised me, one picture (the one I did not expect to be popular) was the winner by a landslide. (Well really 4 votes 1). But needless to say this has me vexed. On one hand I’ve a much better idea of what is required of an e-book cover, and therefore understand the construction of one much better. I also know which cover feels like it suits the book better to me. I could easily justify my difference of opinion with everyone using this line of logic (to the best of my knowledge everyone who replied to the first round of questioning isn’t a heavy reader, nor have they published a book.) But on the other hand, a good chunk of the people I’m hoping will read the book are in the same boat as the people voting on the cover. They don’t know the contents of the book, and they are a fairly solid (if small) representation of my audience.
So what do I do? Do I ignore the experiment and the people representing my target audience? Or do I cave and go with the cover that I personally believe will be inferior? It’s a very tough decision for me, and I’d love to read your thoughts on the two cover pictures I’m considering, as well as any experience with the situation you have, below in the comments section.