One of the hardest parts of finishing my last book has turned out to be making the cover.
I’ve loved making covers in the past, but this time it’s hard, and a little scary. The cover is the first, and potentially the last, thing the reader will see. And yeah, we do judge books by their covers. A lot of good books may not be getting read right now because the author couldn’t afford to hire the task out, and didn’t have the requisite skills to do it alone.
Now, I’m not a graphic designer. I’m not even a graphic artist. I like Photoshop, I know a few tricks, and I look up a lot of tutorials. But there really isn’t anything out there to make creating a cover simple, or easy. There’s a reason these people spend years in school learning to do this – it’s a real skill.
There’s a lot more to making a book cover than I thought about before. When I did covers a few years back, I just sort of did whatever my mind’s eye saw. Sometimes I had great success, other times…less so. But that’s probably not going to fly this time around for several reasons.
For one thing, I’m writing a couple of series. One of the things writers need to consider when self-publishing is brand. Author branding is a science, and can’t be done haphazardly. Bad branding can torpedo a writer’s career, and doing a poor job of branding is easier than making a good one. And most writers need a great one, not a good one.
So I have to find a way to make a brand. A recognizable name would help, but I don’t have that, so having consistent looks across a series is key. And the look has to fit what the genre is moving right now. I object vehemently to the fact gatekeepers still set this standard, and we, the indie authors, are still imitating them, but my vehement objections have all the influence of a fart in a hurricane.
My two problems are the same as always: Problem one is Money, and problem two is time.
My two problems are the same as always: Problem one is Money, and problem two is time. Hiring someone to do the cover is generally expensive. I can buy a pre-made cover, and that’s fine, but when I found out I only get the final product and not the actual Photoshop files so I can make future covers, I sort of lost interest. I could, I suppose, mimic what the artist has done, but…isn’t that stealing? I mean, it’s their design, their work. They deserve to be paid for it.
The twin tightropes of branding and genre match make the choices for these things difficult. I can’t make a cover that looks like a thriller when it’s a western, and I can’t make a fantasy cover for a mystery. Just don’t work, misleads readers, and you, the writer, look dumb.
Know what else ain’t as easy as it seems? The sales blurb on the back of the book.
Yep, covers are a toughie. Know what else ain’t as easy as it seems? The blurb. The sales blurb on the back of the book. Some of mine have been fine, they look good, they seem right, but…they don’t translate to sales. I can’t tell, of course, whether the problem is the cover – which ain’t gettin’ me as many click-throughs as I’d like – or the sales blurb, which…ain’t gettin’ me as many click-throughs as I’d like.
Revamping them takes time. See problem two above. I ain’t got it. And I don’t have money to hire a copy writer either, which, in case you don’t know, are extremely expensive.
I’ve got a bunch of short fiction I could tackle. A couple still seem okay to me, and I won’t update those much. I’d like to do the branding thing, like I said, but the covers are decent. I don’t know that they need an update. But the others all will need updating, and I simply don’t know if I’m up to the task.
I guess time will show. And sales. Sales might show too.