Originally posted on OneHandedWriters.com (2012.06.24)
For those of you who are familiar with me, you know that in addition to writing erotic fiction, I also dabble in the other creative side of the self-publishing business–cover design.
A cover, for any kind of publication really, is a marketing tool. Its purpose isn’t just to sit there and look pretty, but to draw people’s attention to it. Different types of print publication would of course employ different styles of design that fits the needs of the publication.
I’ve seen blog posts that say a cover isn’t as essential as good writing. I beg to differ. While good writing is important for the longevity of the writer, a cover can mean the difference between a sale and not–it is, after all, a marketing device. Having an attractive cover is usually the first thing that draws a reader in, after which, the blurb and the story itself, along with the price determine whether a purchase is made. Without that cover, your book will simply drown in a sea of millions of other books.
So, what, exactly, constitutes a “good cover”? And more importantly, what are the differences between a paper cover versus a digital-only cover? I will put the emphasis on ebook covers for the sake of this post.
The basic elements of a cover consist of the following: a background image, the book’s title and the author’s name. That’s it! (What, you’re expecting more? =P)
Okay, maybe that’s simplifying it a bit too much but that is essentially what every single cover, whether it’s print book or ebooks. In traditionally published print books, there tend to be additional information, like “xxx bestselling author” or “Book x of this series”. But if you have ever read Joel Friedlander’s “The Book Designer” blog, you would know that those additional information doesn’t really do anything in the digital world.
A “good” cover, in my opinion, has a few essential traits:
1. Eye-catching. This is not to say that all eye catching covers are good. What I mean by eye-catching, is that it has a focal point; it has something that draws the eyes to it out of a sea of covers. (Try doing a search on Amazon or B&N for any topic, and see where your eyes focus on when you’re looking at an entire page of search results all at once. What looks attractive on a cover might not necessarily be the most eye-catching, and vice versa.)
Creating a central element to serve as the focal point is often the best way to achieve eye-catching-ness. Our eyes naturally seek out certain things, like people’s faces, thing being pointed at, or bright colors. Direct the eyes towards a focal point, you are that much more likely to hold someone’s attention long enough to create interest.
2. Simple. I read a quote by Coco Chanel just recently. She said, and I paraphrase, that when you are done putting your outfit together, take one good look in the mirror before you head out, and take off one accessory. Cover design run into the same problem as fashion styling. People tend to over accessorize. They think that because I have 5 things in my story that is important, all 5 MUST make it onto the cover. NO! That is not always the case!
While what goes on the cover tend to be different from genre to genre (for example, an artist rendered scene from the book is popular in Sci Fi, and very complicated artistic drawings are also popular in Romance), the rule of thumb is simplicity. Take a look at the covers of 50 Shades, Twilight and Game of Thrones. Their covers are very simple, and yet they create a focal point that draws your eyes in, achieving the previous criteria of eye-catching-ness.
3. Gets The Point Across (also known as, Not Confusing). I periodically submit my covers to Joel’s cover art contest, and when he does comment, his comments are fun to read (with lots of important lessons to learn from). Some covers, they’re just confusing. Either they have too many things going on so one can never be sure what is the important message here, or it’s too abstract and it left the reader going ????? in their minds when looking at the book. Am I likely to pick up a book that when I see a cover I go “huh?” The answer is no. When I pick up “The Life of Pi”, I know that the story is about a boy with a tiger on a boat. How do I know that? Because that’s what the cover illustration tells me.
Of course, there are other smaller details (photoshop magic, font choices, layout placements, etc.) that goes into making a great cover, but these big rules of thumbs will at least help you get their quicker.
As a final plug, I recently made a cover for Sara Fawkes’s third installment of the “Anything He Wants” series. I am making a post later today on my own blog about the creative process that went into her cover. If you are curious about the actual process, stop on by and take a look.