Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cover Art, Part 1: Things No One Tells You

A good cover is imperative to a selling your book, we all know this. As much as we would like to not judge a book by its cover, all of us have seen a cover and immediately put it back on the shelf when the images on it didn’t convey what we were looking for from the title on the spine. The same is true for eBooks. But the problems arise for Self-Publishing Authors because after numerous web searches we are left floundering in an arena we have no experience in. Even if we have an artful eye, there is still the daunting task of finding artwork that you are “allowed” to use without getting sued by the content owners.

And then there is the issue of what kind of license to get. Reading all the legal jargon is important, but also exhausting.

So far the best deal I have found is Shutterstock, which has a pay-as-you-go option or monthly subscriptions. The subscription are an amazing deal but I am not financially well off and cannot afford to pay near $250 a month for art work that I am probably never going to use enough to justify the cost. But for $50 I was able to download 5 images and I have a year to download them. Not a bad deal.

I know there are sites that offer truly free artwork, but I wasn’t able to find any that had images that would suit my needs. As soon as I find some reliable sites I will post some links to them.

Now, on to the actual cover, okay, so the obvious advice to any Self-Publishing Author is: Get a professional to do your cover for you.

Great advice and I agree, except for the fact that some of us don’t have the $20-$40 per hour that some graphic artists charge, and to be honest that is low balling what Graphic Artists charge.  I did freelance artwork when I worked as a graphic artist for a design company and my going rate $40 an hour and that was just for creating logos. So don’t be surprise if the quote from a cover artist is at least that much.

So while going professional is best, if you cannot, or you think you have an eye for design and want to do it yourself some money will still be required, but with enough patients you can make a pretty damn good cover.

If you DIY your cover, make it stand out. Don’t be afraid to take risks, but also remember that you are never going to please everyone with your cover. And this goes for having a professional design your cover for you too. Someone somewhere is going to hate it, dislike it, and slam it on a blog. That comes with the territory, you’ll have to put on your thick skin and buck up. Sounds harsh, I know, but artists are emotional creatures. We don’t take criticism lightly, it’s hard for us to just brush it off, because our craft (be it writing, painting, digital design, sculpting, whatever it is) is our baby. It is parts of our soul we put out there for the world to judge, critique and award praise or slam in the arena of public opinion. And sometimes it will hurt, but this is your dream, it’s up to you to shrug off the negative people and focus on your goals.

One book I keep qued up on my kindle these days is “Quit Your Day Job” by H.P. Mallory. She gives some great advice on cover design. I won’t go into all of it but here are a couple of elements that need to be included in your cover besides the Title and Author name. If your book is part of series make sure to include what number the book is and the series name on the cover. If it’s not part of a series then it might be good to include on the cover other books you have written. Also, if you have any bragging rights, include them. Toot your own horn. It can only help.

This is Part 1 on this subject, Part 2  will come after I’ve compiled some links for you guys for free art. But these are the things no one tells you, where and how to find art. So for now, this is what I can tell anyone looking to make their own covers:

Look for deals that allow you to download a set number of pictures for a low price. Sites like Shutterstock, Getty, and iStock all have amazing art, but the prices do vary quite a bit.

The regular license should be sufficient for most needs, but read the terms. Once you’ve read them, read them again, and then if you are still unsure find someone you trust and have them read them. It is something you don’t want to take risks with. Stealing art is a still theft and the artist and copyright owners will come after you, especially if you use art that is watermarked, that is a big no-no.

Take your time, even if it means pouring through 651 pages of stock art, be patient. Don’t rush finding a design. A lot can be done to change up an existing photo into a stunning work of art, but it takes patience and persistence.

Lastly, remember the golden rule: You can’t please everyone.

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