By the Cover They Will Judge


Guest Post by M.S. Fowle

I don’t need to say it. We all know how it goes. And though it pains most of us to realize it, it’s true. Quite honestly, one can’t simply look at a book cover and know if it’s worth reading. But we certainly try. So authors have no choice but to have a book cover that will grab and compel a reader to give their work a chance. To an author, their book is their heart and soul, no matter the genre. I know this because I’m an author myself. I know all too well of the work that goes into our stories and characters. So I know how important it is to have cover art that not only best reflects the tales we have told, but uses visual prowess to capture potential readers as well.

Some may think that because I’m an author, I must have an advantage in book cover making. It does, but it doesn’t. I do know what it’s like to be in their shoes—the excitement of finally finishing a novel, the anxiety of publishing. But I also know what it’s like to be a cover designer working with authors stuck on a rollercoaster of emotions. In this article, I’ll offer advice to both sides, as well as a few tips for those interested in creating their own book cover art.

Buying Cover Art

Taking the indie route offers up opportunities that you wouldn’t normally have being traditionally published. Signing with a publisher means, most likely, they’ll be providing the artwork for your book cover and promotional materials. The author has little to do with the process. As an indie author, you get to decide how your book will be represented. But there are a few things you need to know about the process.

Lauren Carr's Authors in Bathrobes is a custom design by M.S. Fowle.

Lauren Carr’s Authors in Bathrobes is a custom design by M.S. Fowle.

·         Plan Ahead

I can’t even count how many times an author has ordered one of my premade e-book covers and I respond to their query only to get a reply about how they don’t have the money yet. Or how many requests I’ve gotten for custom artwork with a ridiculous deadline, like I’m surgically planted in front of my computer with no life or any desire to sleep. Try to have book cover art lined up and ready to go weeks, if not months, ahead of when you plan to publish. Anything could happen. If you wait until the last minute, you could miss your release date and disappoint a lot of readers.

·         Keep an Open Mind

 Most authors develop a vision of what their book cover will look like. It is fun to dream. But you also need to realize that sometimes dreams are just dreams, and that’s okay. What you may have envisioned as perfect, may not be the best marketing strategy. Selling books is a business. Having the right artwork is part of that. Listen to your cover artist’s suggestions. They know what sells. Remember: your vision can always be commissioned for other promotional materials or even as a personal memento for your achievement.

·         People on Covers

You know your characters better than anyone. You can see what they look like, you’ve experienced all their mannerisms, and you know all their deepest secrets. But as much you love (or hate) them, putting characters on your book cover may not be the best idea. You can describe them as much as you want in your book, but the reader is still going to form their own vision. For them, that’s part of the pleasure of reading. Why deny them the satisfaction? However, if you’re insistent enough, I don’t recommend having more than ONE depiction of a character on your cover – two at the absolute most. But I still prefer to avoid it all together.

·         All Sales are Final

It feels a bit mean to say something like that, but it’s true. You’re not buying a physical product. Everything is digital and easily replicated. Therefore, returning it for a refund is impossible. Make sure you’re truly happy with what you’re paying for.

Creating Cover Art

If you have experience or you’re really tight on funds, creating your own cover art may be your only option. Quite honestly, I’ve seen some pretty decent book covers going for as low as $20, so buying cover art should be within anyone’s budget. But if you do have some experience, there are a few things you need to remember.

·         Research

Check out other books in your genre, preferably the bestsellers. See what sort of inspiration you can conjure up in browsing the cover art of your soon-to-be competition. Make note of what you like or don’t like. And pay close attention to the fonts and sizes of the title and author names, as some styles work better for certain genres. Also make note of the fact that your author name shouldn’t be twice as big as your title, unless you’ve already sold millions of copies of your last book… in which case, you wouldn’t be making your own book cover.

·         Know Your Copyrights

The easiest way to avoid copyright issues is to use your own resources to create your artwork. Take some photographs and do it up. But if you’re not handy with the camera or looking for something specific that’s out of your element, you’ll need to seek out stock images. There are plenty of websites that offer an expansive variety of stock, but you MUST read their Terms of Use. Most will include a policy for image use on book covers, both e-book and print. Others will attach a Creative Commons License, explaining what others are allowed to do with their work. (See here: If you’re not sure about something, just contact the original artist directly to ask their permission.

·         Photo Editors

Not everyone has experience with Photoshop or any of the other editing software on the market. But there are plenty of online photo editing websites out there that are user friendly and most are free to use. Just try not to go overboard. Sometimes, less is more.

·         Avoid the Overload

You’re already dealing with editing and publishing and promotion, as well as life in general. Don’t feel overwhelmed. Experiment with a few different ideas, save each file with a different name and then, as I like to say, sit on ’em. Just walk away for a day or two and go back to have another look. Most of the time, all you need is a fresh perspective. Or find a brutally honest friend for a real-life opinion on how they look – you’re loved ones are biased.

Selling Cover Art

This next section is more for independent book cover artists, but it wouldn’t hurt the authors out there to give it a gander. It can never hurt to see things from another’s point of view.

·         The Meet & Greet

Designers provide a service, but we mustn’t forget about customer service. A quality product will get a business off the ground, but the quality of service will either make it or break it. Start off right with a friendly introduction and keep things a bit on the casual side, but not so much you come off as unprofessional. Even if they love the cover art you created, how you treat them as a person is what they’ll remember first and foremost.

·         Deposits

Pre-made cover art is usually an instant sale. But for custom artwork, I strongly advise you get half the full payment upfront. It’s a common practice and most authors should understand. There are a number of free websites that will allow you to create invoices in PDF format.

·         Have Patience

There will be times when you’re blessed with the perfect match of author and designer, where your worlds are so synched they love everything you send them. And there will also be times when you’ll make change after change and feel like it’s never going to end. Just be patient and, most of all, be nice. Politely set limits. Authors tend to get excited about their upcoming book. We’re only human, ya’ know.

I truly believe book cover art to be just as exciting as writing the book itself. Your book is your baby—you created it, you’ve nurtured it and you’re about to send it out into the world. You need it to look its best… because whether we like it or not, first impressions really are everything.


About M.S. Fowle of Melchelle Designs

Melchelle Designs offer beautiful and unique artwork to help your ebook stand out in the crowd, causing a visual appeal that will entice readers to your hard work.

What to expect from Melchelle Designs:

  • Superior customer service – We work with our customers. We’re only satisfied when you are.
  • Affordable prices – We provide reasonable price points to cater to both traditional and indie authors.
  • Beautiful artwork – Great digital art starts with great photography and we work hard to create both.

For more information visit Melchelle Designs at their website.

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One thought on “By the Cover They Will Judge

  1. Pingback: Check Out My Guest Post! | M.S. Fowle

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