If you think people don’t judge a book by its cover, you’re crazy. Sometimes it’s the only reason a reader will even consider picking up a book. It’s the first thing they see drawing them in. Readers have a visceral reaction to a book’s cover and if it isn’t appealing there’s a good chance they won’t even bother to consider the gist of the story. I think a great cover is every bit as important to an independent author as it is to a traditionally published author, possibly even more so – there should be no difference in the quality of the cover, especially if you want to maintain that the quality of the writing on the inside is exceptional.
When it comes to genre, there’s a lot to be said for a cover in terms of its branding. As a young adult author I take into consideration what many of the covers in my genre look like. Thanks to series like Twilight and Beautiful Creatures, there was a shift to black covers for any young adult book with a touch of paranormal. I chose to stick with that theme for my Sevens Prophecy Series, which is in fact young adult paranormal, but gravitated in the opposite direction for The Clay Lion series because I wanted to delineate it from that subgenre.
The genesis of The Clay Lion’s cover obviously stemmed from the title, but the decision to use a pencil sketch was an attempt to pay homage to the main character’s brother who was an avid drawer. I tried to imagine what his vision of the actual clay lion which makes several appearances throughout the story. When Tin Men was published, I wanted to continue the same sketch design while conveying the feeling associated with someone having a mechanical heart. When A Straw Man is released next year, its cover will have a similar design. I chose the sepia contrast to differentiate it from the darker young adult covers since as a coming-of-age time travel series, it exists in a completely different subgenre.
The role of the cover is to draw readers into the story in a way that makes them curious but doesn’t necessarily give too much away. It’s about establishing a feeling more than specifically telling a story. Again, think about Twilight, with its easily recognizable hands holding an apple. There were no vampires, no blood, no specific indication about what the book is about, but there was obvious symbolism with respect to forbidden fruit and the color red. With The Clay Lion series, I wanted the covers to be eye catching but also invoke a sense of wonder. The lion sketch is based off an ancient cave drawing which I wanted to serve as an indication of the time travel. With Tin Men’s steam punk inspired heart, again I was attempting to incorporate a feeling of another space and time.
As far as difficulties are concerned, except for being time consuming, I really enjoy the creation process. It’s another outlet for my creative juices and I love the satisfaction of constructing a quality end result.
If you're thinking about creating your own covers, I suggest spending a considerable amount of time online and in bookstores looking at traditionally published novels in your genre. Pick out what you are immediately drawn to and examine the individual elements closely. Where is the title? What color is it? What is the font like? What is the overall feeling you get from the cover picture? See what the professionals are doing right and incorporate those styles into your own designs. You don’t need any fancy programs either. All of my covers were produced in Microsoft Word. You must be willing to spend the time and effort to learn how to construct the different elements but a beautiful cover is well within your reach.
This is were you get to read about what's going on inside my head. I apologize in advance - the place is a wreck.