I hate to admit it but I really do judge a book by its cover. I’ll still read any book, but it’s always the good looking ones that catch my eye first. And quite often, I get jealous because I wish my books could have covers like these… so I get into a bit of fantasising. ‘Say I get published, I hope they find an awesome artist for the cover illustration… but man, that’s ages away! I wish I could have something right now!’
Then I thought: what’s stopping me?
I reckon a little premature fantasising can be healthy for you. It’s hard to keep motivated throughout a writing project, especially for something as big as a novel. We need all the motivation we can get! Sometimes having a cover for the books we’ve spent so much time and love on is all we need to see on a bad day. It doesn’t have to be the one or even a good one. It’s just something tangible, that’s all. Something you can print out and stick over your desk, waiting for you to put some pages in it. If you’re into self-publishing, you’re probably on the lookout for a cover anyway, so why not get started early? Plus, it can be fun!
So how do we go about putting a face to our beloved books?
Well, picking up a pencil (or tablet pen) could be a start! Especially if you’re an artist or have a vivid idea of what you want to see. The best part about designing the cover yourself is that you get to call all the shots. You don’t even need to be a particularly good artist to do this. It’s just a spot of fun that may or may not be seen by anyone other than yourself. Throw yourself into it! Get abstract and make a montage of magazine clippings; make a newspaper wrap-around; dig up your childhood drawings. Tap into that other spectrum of creativity.
If you’re not into DIY, maybe you can commission an artist you admire to design the cover for you, or draw an illustration you could then format into a cover. I for one am keen on commissioning an artist to draw some portraits of my characters for reference. I’m a regular browser on deviantART, a site where artists share their works. There are heaps of people doing commission work out there. It’s up to you to find an artist whose style you like, and whose price fits in your bracket – because trust me, the range is huge! Are you looking for landscape or portraits? Symbols? Realism or photography? How much are you willing to pay? How will you describe what you want? All the research will pay off when you have a shiny new cover on your wall!
Another option I recently discovered is purchasing pre-made book covers. This means that someone has made covers of their own choosing and are selling the design for a set price. Once you buy a cover, they will edit the title, author’s name and any additional text at your request. It takes only a few days (most of the time) and voila! Instant book cover! The downside is that you’re looking through covers that are already made rather than ones you tailored yourself. You might not find one that’s perfect for your book – I know I haven’t. I’d encourage you not to be disheartened though. Don’t settle for the cover that looks okay and goes pretty well with the story, but is just missing that tiny detail you can’t put your finger on. Wait for the artist to put more covers out, or pay a bit more for them to design one just for you if they offer that option. Browse around and find a couple of cover-makers you like. Pay more attention if you are looking for a cover you can put on your book and sell to the public; good artists will use paid-for stock images that are licensed for creative use. You don’t want to pay for a cover that infringes on copyright! Also, check if the cover is made for e-books or physical printing – different resolutions give different results. I personally love Go On Write by humblenations. I flick through it whenever I’m restless and dream about one day finding the one staring back at me.
I’m still on the hunt but you guys will be the first to know if I ever find that perfect book cover. I know it’s out there somewhere!
Do you already have a cover for your book? Or would you rather wait until publication to see what you get? What kind of ideas do you have for the ideal book cover?