The Sun Singer's Travels

Malcolm R. Campbell's World

Getting the cover right

This cover is fairly typical for fantasy, depending on the age group and genre sub-group (dark, urban, epic). You have a sense of the story when you see this.

This cover is fairly typical for fantasy, depending on the age group and genre sub-group (dark, urban, epic). You have a sense of the story when you see this.

Indie and small-press authors are often between a rock and a hard place when it comes to their book covers. Due to the costs of original art, many opt for combinations of stock photographs mixed with type. I’ve gone this route myself more than once. Unfortunately, stock art/photo covers pretty much look like what they are.

Much has been said online about the value of having your book professionally edited before uploading it to Kindle or CreateSpace. Typographical and other overt errors really mar the flow of the story. Of course, nobody knows about these errors until after they have bought the book.

What they know before they buy the book is what the cover looks like. Experts–for what this may be worth–say that a prospective reader in a bookstore decides in less than 15 seconds whether to pick up a book and thumb through it or look at the back cover. I have a feeling readers don’t spend any more time than that looking at a book cover on Amazon either–especially if the author is unknown and has no editorial reviews from major outlets.

Some authors shoot themselves in the foot with a weak cover that has no support whatsoever from the book’s description on the back cover. Personally, I want to know what the book’s about; using the back cover to talk about yourself isn’t going to sell me the book because–when it comes down to it–most readers don’t care if a person wanted to be a writer since the first grade or loves taking pictures of butterflies.

I think of all this because I have announced several times in this blog that the release of my novel “The Sun Singer” was coming soon. Now, I have to say, my publisher probably thought it could make each of the release dates they selected, but then things fell through.

The problem has been the art work. Fantasy novels have a very recognizable cover art work style. Typically, covers feature people, not as photographs or cartoons but in somewhat realistic depictions in a scene that links to the plot of the book. If a major publisher believes in a book, they can afford to spend several thousand dollars for a cover because, basically, they aren’t going to be publishing the book if they don’t think it will sell 50,000+ copies.

But a small publisher, and especially a self-publisher author, cannot afford to pay more for the cover than the book is likely to make back in royalties, especially in a world where people are buying cheap e-books. So, authors and small publishers are often on the lookout for talented young artists who are, perhaps, still in college or recently graduated who can turn out viable cover art for a fraction of the cost of a major artists’ studio.

At present, I’m more hopeful about the prospects of getting “The Sun Singers'” cover right than I have been for some months. If things pan out, I’ll show it to you here. If they don’t, well, you won’t see the book released for a while because both the publisher and I think that a stock photo cover, no matter how lovely it is, will not help sell the book.

If you’re an author and looking for cover art, you may be able to find some fresh talent at a nearby college, somebody who can do the work and is willing to give you a good price in exchange for something that looks very good on his/her resume. That beats using clip art and you’ll have something that fits your genre rather than a nice picture with a book title on it.

Malcolm

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