Now we have all been told at some point in our life to “not judge a book by its cover” but in reality, that is the first impression we as readers get from any written work. As writers it is just as important to realize that first impressions are important and a badly photoshopped werewolf over a full moon isn’t going to cut it when it comes to attracting readers. You might be thinking that your work will speak for itself and people will want to read your work because it is brilliant – or whatever but the reality is, that if you can’t peak their interest the moment they glance at your cover, chances are they aren’t going to give it a second glance.
So how do you create a masterpiece of a cover? If you are self publishing it is harder since all the work will rest on your shoulders so you might want to think about paying someone to create a beautiful design, there are lots of artists on deviantart or even on etsy that you could potentially outsource to but it is important that you have an idea in mind when contacting people. Sending them your book and telling them to make something for it is likely going to turn into something that never gets done.
Important things for your cover:
- Book Title: this is a given but it is important to think about what you are going to title your work– Stephanie Meyer had originally called her book Forks after the town in Washington she based the Twilight Series in but her editors changed the name of the book as well as the cover to attract more readers. Need feedback on your title? You could always post on the NaNoWriMo forums or even here to get an idea of the impression your title will leave.
- Important Themes: What do your characters look like and do you even want them on the cover? Unless they are an iconic superhero or you are creating a book based in social situations, you are likely going to have a faceless figure on your cover or something that represents the story greater than the characters you have created. Think how the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire has the iron throne on the cover, because the entire story revolves around that desire for power. Are your characters more important or is an object like a throne or a sword more meaningful to your story?
- Subtitle: Is there extra text you want on your book? Most of the time books don’t have that, their title speaks for themselves and they let the cover art bring life to the book. However it isn’t unheard of to add something small underneath the title that adds a little extra pzazz. But it is important to ask yourself, does it add anything to your story or does it distract? Sometimes subtitles can be useful in adding just enough information and mystery to get interest in your book, but most of the time you don’t need it and won’t want it.
- The Back: Now this can be a few things if you want, you could have testimonials from friends raving about how amazing your work is, or, what I would recommend is a small excerpt from your book. Why? Because readers will do one of two things normally, they will read the back to get a feel for your book or they will open up a random page from your story and read a few pages to see if you have the voice they enjoy. If you put an excerpt from your book on the back, they are more likely to read that then going through the hassle of flipping through pages so it’s another chance to snag the readers even before they crack open your book. You want to pick something short, maybe a little dialog or a small paragraph — or if you really want to throw things off you could always write something completely new for the back of your cover but if it doesn’t link into the story in some shape or form, you’re gonna have issues with your readers.
Now if you are trying to self-publish with as little as possible you could always try your hand with some of the photos on deviant art that are available for personal edits but those are usually specified that you can’t make a profit off of them as they are offered to you for free and it would be very, very wrong of you to try and profit off of something that was given to you for free. However you could always use the cover as a place holder so you have a well developed idea before you ask someone else to create something for you.
Just remember to think about your cover, it’s important and often the last thing anyone concerns themselves with. You want to make a good impression don’t you?