I'm posting this here because first if you have never heard of query tracker you need to check it out. Second, it really resonated with me. The way for me to design the BEST cover for an author is to read the back cover blurb and to have the author tell me genre and tone. My job is to create a cover that people will stop to look at. A cover that will make the person LOOK at the back cover blurb. But don't go by me...take a look at the blog from Query Tracker.
assistant cover artist
20 Feb 2013 05:21 AM PST
Have you ever designed your cover in yo
mind? I used to design covers in sidewalk chalk while my preschool-age children
drew flowers and monster faces. They were about as good as you'd expect with
sidewalk chalk, which is to say about as good as I'd be able to produce even in
a professional art studio with the entire contents of Oil Paintings And More at
my disposal. I'd splash my title across the top and my name along the bottom
and then some stick figure bit in the middle.
Then the rain would come, and the
world was thankfully spared my artistic genius, assuming anyone even recognized
that as a drawing in the first place.
You can't tell a book by its cover is
the truism, but of course we judge books by their covers all the time. It's the
face your work presents to the world. Your book cover is the introduction
you're making to a potential reader.
My first novel's cover arrived in the
mail one day. I was given no opportunity for input, but I thought it was okay
(it grew on me later). Since then, working with small presses, I've had the
opportunity to design four covers, and if this happens to you, you should know
what to do. (Because at least one of those cover artists probably put a picture
of me on a dart board.)
First, your book is a multifaceted
work filled with interlocking meanings and chained symbols overlaid over a
theme and a mood. And before you step any further, you need to know: a cover
won't capture it all. You thought a 250-word query letter was insufficient?
You're going to be longing for those 250 words.
What that means is you can't ask the
cover artist to cram every bit of meaning in the book onto the cover. I've seen
covers where the author and aritst seem to have plotted out every molecule of
space: We'll put the main character here and the love interest looking in
the opposite direction over there, and we'll superimpose that over the image of
a rose, and beneath that we'll have the images of a locked treasure chest and a
kitten, and in the background we should have an old Victorian house with birds
pulled that out of thin air, by the way. If I accidentally nailed your cover,
problem with a cover like that is while you might think your book cannot be
encapsulated without the rose and the kitten and the treasure chest, someone
else's brain can't process it all in a glance. We don't know where to look
first, and we don't know what the story is about.
So back up. The most important thing
you can keep in mind when working with your cover artist is that the cover art
is a selling tool.
an ad. It's not space graciously donated by the publisher so you can have a
pretty picture. It's an ad, and its purpose (its only purpose) is to make
someone pick up your book and read the description. While working on the cover
for The Wrong
Enemy, I told the cover artist that if she thought a
picture of a rusty can opener would sell a million copies, then a rusty can
opener was what should appear on the cover, even though one never appeared in
the cover artist chooses a scene from the book to illustrate, don't shriek with
hooror that the climactic sword battle took place in a wood shed, not a Gothic
cathedral, and the knight's sword had a silver hilt and should be just a bit
longer. Cover art is not an illustration. Repeat after me: it's a selling
Don't duplicate information on the
cover. If your novel's title is "The Dying Rose," don't ask for a dying rose on
the cover. We already know about that. Space is limited: make every pixel
count. It's not a lesson: it's a selling tool.
With that in mind, try to choose an
image that captures the book. One image. One emotion. One tone. And something
that asks a question.
keeping in mind that "selling tool" bit, when you get your artwork, make sure
the title is readable. Make sure your name is readable. Shrink it down to
thumbnail size and double-check. (And at thumbnail size, that little locket
from chapter five that you wanted in the lower left corner? No one would see it
anyhow, so leave it out.)
work with the cover artist. The
first time my publisher asked for input, I said something to the effect that
I'm not an artist. Bad author: that's not helpful. What the cover artist needs
to know is the theme and tone of the book, the genre, what audience you want to
reach, and what you think is most appealing about the book.
artist didn't tell you how to write the book, true, and you're not going to
micromanage the way the artist covers the book, but at the very least give your
opinions and thoughts. The artist will appreciate if you can explain what
you're objecting to and why (or why you like what you do.)
example, while designing the cover for The Boys Upstairs, the
cover artist saw from the description that part of it takes place in a church,
so she used an image of a cathedral. The problem? The story takes place in an
impoverished inner-city church. The cover was lovely but the wrong tone. The
artist was perfectly happy to change the image to something that better fit the
struggles of the book.
if your publisher has guidelines about how to work with the cover artist, read
and memorize them so you don't make a total pain of yourself. If you get three
tries and then the publisher picks a design without your input, don't expect a
fourth try. If there's a fee for authors who try to change the cover art after
it's finalized, pull out your checkbook if you try to change the
The cover art in conjunction with the title
is a selling tool. The purpose of the title is to get someone to pull your book
off a shelf and look at the cover. THe purpose of the cover is to get someone
to flip the book over and read the back cover copy (or to click on a thumbnail
and read the description.) The purpose of all three together is to entice
someone to give a vendor ten dollars in order to read your
keep all that in mind when you're working with an artist: focus, questions,
theme, identification. The artist and the publisher are your teammates, and
you to have a cover you're proud of, and since this is the public face of your
book, you want that too.
Jane Lebak is the author of The Wrong
Enemy. She has four kids, two cats, and one husband. She
lives in the Swamp and spends her time either writing books or ejecting stink
bugs from the house. At Seven Angels, Four
Kids, One Family, she
blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt
to raise a family. If you want to
make her rich and famous, please contact the riveting Roseanne
Wells of the Jennifer DeChiara