Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Indie Authors – Craft Your Book Cover

“Covers sell books.” Have you ever heard that expression?

Covers are supposed to catch visual attention and be interesting enough to get a potential buyer to read my title and blurb. Actual purchasing decisions follow if the reader likes my description.
Would you read the blurb?
Can a cover influence a reader's decision to buy? Of course. The old expression, “a picture says a thousand words,” suggests that if I am careful about cover design, it is possible to enhance the impact of the blurb. Cover art, though, can be a double-edged sword. It establishes expectations that must be matched by the story, or readers may feel let down.
The story on the left is a horror story. Does the cover art match the genre?
How do I approach cover design and layout? I consider six issues:

First, know my limits. I am NOT a graphic artist, so while I do know how to manipulate pictures, fonts and layout, I generally run my ideas through the pros. If I need a detail to be altered, I prefer to engage skills of the artist to achieve the change(s) even though I own Corel Draw, Corel Paint, Adobe InDesign, CoverPro and MarketingPro software...just in case I need to make changes myself.

Second, graphic artists are not writers. They will never “know” my story like I do. It is MY responsibility to communicate exactly what scene or images I want. What is the most important scene in the book? Is there a general theme to the story? Do I want character images on the cover? Remember, if I include detailed character images, then those had better match what my reader will discover inside the story.

Third, I call this element “mood.”  If I wrote a horror story, I want a dark “mood” established by the cover art. In my western-romance stories, conflict between a cowboy and cowgirl will always be represented in the cover along with suggestion of rough living in the old west. In my sci-fi book, The Last Human War, chapter five includes an epic space battle where two massive battle cruisers collide. My graphic artist developed the scene. His first concept was close but not exactly what I wanted. We worked together until it met my expectations.

What mood do you think this book cover on the right represents? This story will be about children who have been programmed to kill. It's a cross between a thriller and a mystery. Does this cover get the message across? What about the boy on the cover? If the boy in the story is a blue-eyed blond, then the cover needs to be changed to match the character descriptions.

Fourth, ownership. I do NOT use “free” or “leased” graphic art. Why? I do not want others to steal my images and use them in any way. I like to make posters, book marks, web pages and other promotional items from the images that I OWN. Also, if I own the artwork, I never have to worry about somebody demanding that I pay them for some part of an image that they own, but was included in a free image I imported.

I own this 100%
Fifth, credit. Most graphic artists get very little credit for their talent. I believe it is ethical and respectful to give credit for inspired artwork to the creator. If I help them to grow their business, they tend to bend over backwards to work with me on creating a fantastic cover.

Sixth, color. Did you know that the predominant color of a cover suggests a theme? Take a look at this interesting color chart provided to me by literary agent, Stacey Donaghy. I love this information. Thank you, Stacey!

All this talk about making a good cover doesn’t help much unless you know where you can find good graphic artists to do your bidding. Author Sass Cadeaux recently referred me to several cover art resources. I engaged the services of one of them. Thank you, Sass!

Let me introduce you to that company:

I’m quite impressed with the quality of their pre-made covers and the simple tools they offer to build cover fonts that achieve the writer’s story image. They purchase covers from a number of graphic artists and sell them at outrageously low prices. In addition, I needed major changes to one cover I bought, and the owner of the company, Rob, contacted the artists on my behalf and produced a fantastic custom cover that will be revealed in a few weeks. The best part? I OWN the final artwork 100%!

Building a quality cover in this day and age is simple. Indie authors can compete successfully with the best traditional cover art designers. Just follow the simple six guidelines above and your book will look fantastic.


  1. Interesting stuff, Dean. You're right. Covers are a marketing tool, often the thing that will get a potential reader to look closer or to move on.

    The trick these days is to get a cover that works well as full size as well as a thumbnail. Artists, graphic artists, publishers and self-publishers these days have to deal with that additional twist in the mix.

    1. Hi Terry,

      I find all the issues in today's publishing to be exciting. I don't recall any time in the past 50 years when greater opportunity presented for aspiring or new authors. These are heady times for any writers who are willing to go the extra mile in controling the sale of their books. I love it!

      Thank you for your insights...Dean.

  2. Excellent tips- your 4th comment about ownership is very important. A "free" image is more costly in the long run if another author has used the same image on their book cover. Thank you for your kind words about

    1. Hi Rob,

      Authors are faced with many issues when designing and purchasing covers for their stories. It's not just about artwork and design. The business side of publishing is just as important. Each cover MUST be designed to enhance sales and the art should be exclusive to that book. Such exclusivity derives from complete and trustworthy ownership. I hope this blog will encourage authors to look carefully at these issues.

      Thank you so much for your comments above and for the personalized assistance you provided in producing the custom cover for my book, Maker of Angels...Dean.

  3. Thanks for the link to selfpubbookcovers!

  4. Hi Liss,

    You're welcome. I am quite impressed with the quality covers on this site, the ease of operation and the level of service you get when you contact them. In addition to their pre-made covers, they will contact an author on your behalf to customize any cover in their portfolio.

    Thank you for taking a moment to comment...Dean.

  5. By the way, I own those two covers above (Master of Evil and Children of the Reckoning) and they are for sale! I can alter any of the wording on those covers and you can have them at the same price I paid...$69 each. If you think either of those covers would work for YOUR novel, contact me at to arrange for the sale. That includes both the 75dpi version for online and the 300dpi file for print copies.

  6. I see you do very well on your own Dean - thanks for contacting me re: your cover projects! maybe in the future...

    1. Hi Kristine,

      I was very impressed with your website, portfolio and, most importantly, your fabulous customer service. Your services will definitely be on my short list of graphic artists in the future. As you can see, I am proficient at cover page layout and design, but I do not have the ability to produce the actual images...only the ability to manipulate them once I have purchased the actual art. I also produce posters, bookmarks, matching business cards and merchandise like tote bags, coffee mugs and other branded items from cover art I purchase.

      For anyone who reads this blog, I suggest that you include Christine's company, The Merry Bird, on your short list of excellent graphic designers at affordable rates. She good, competitive on price and very responsive to clients.

      Thank you, Kristine, for commenting on my blog...Dean.


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