Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cover Talk!

Here it is! (Okay, if you've watched the trailer, you've already seen it. But still. HERE IT IS!!) Front and center like. (g)

As I go through the next few weeks, I thought I would discuss different aspects of the process. First up, covers!

There’s actually a remarkable amount of work that goes into a cover. I didn’t want to slap something together quickly and regret things when my book failed to garner any kind of attention. Like it or not, the first thing readers notice about a book is its cover. It seems fairly simplistic–you want your book to sell, you make sure it has a kickass cover. (Of course, there are a lot of other factors that need to be considered, but on a simplistic level, you need a damn good cover.) That being said, I can’t tell you the number of self-published (or traditionally published, for that matter) books that have really crap cover art.

I had a few objectives when I set out to design one.

1. I wanted it to be as inexpensive as possible. The idea of paying someone hundreds of dollars I really didn’t have did not appeal to me in the slightest. That said, I wanted it to look good so I knew I would have to spend some money to make it happen. But the cheaper, the better.

2. I wanted it to be pretty and create a mood. I think the most important thing you have to consider is your audience. You need to do your research to see what kind of covers are being used in your particular genre–what’s selling–what’s gaining attention. Then you need to try to emulate it as best you can. (Within reason. If I see a YA cover with a girl holding an orange or a banana, I might just die laughing.) I wanted a pretty cover because my target audience is young adults. Let’s face it, pretty snares attention with that group. It did for me at any rate. Heck, it still does. I like pretty. My book is about werewolves, so in addition to being pretty, I wanted it to have a certain creep factor going on. Hard balance to strike, that.

3. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I needed outside help. I’m not visual. I like to pretend I am at times, but I’m just not. I would never be able to put together a decent cover because I’m completely incapable of thinking outside of the box when it comes to repositioning the title, author name, etc. to their best advantage. I needed someone creative who could do my thinking for me. And, when necessary, tell me I’m making a very bad mistake by thinking I can put my title in Wingdings because wouldn’t it be oh so much fun if my readers had to solve a visual puzzle in order to know my title? (I still think it could work with the right title. Just sayin’.)

First thing on the agenda: I recruited one of my work peeps to help with the cover. I’ve seen other things he’s done, and I knew he could work with the various Photoshop, etc. programs. Best of all? He was willing to help with my cover if I would be willing to help with his wedding announcement. Hey, nothing says cheap like an even trade. (Though I do believe he got the tough end of the bargain.)

Next, I needed to find cover art. Again, being as I am not visual, I didn’t even attempt to photograph something myself. Instead, I started scouring the internet looking for something interesting. I didn’t want to go for the way overt (and way overdone, if you ask me) picture of a moon. Yeah, I get it…werewolves. There should probably be a moon involved. But no, I didn’t want to go with the standard. I wanted subtle and the all-important PRETTY.

I looked at a ton of pictures at various sites, finally settling on one from Yes, you do have to pay for the photos. Downloading the photos is actually rather cheap, but I went for the extended comprehensive license, which gives me rights to both digital and print publications. There are free pictures out there, though. For me, however, this was the best option. In the end, the photo cost me one hundred duckets. Not exactly a small chunk o’ change, but not likely to break the bank either. I was willing to spend the money for this picture.

If, however, cash is an issue, you could try taking some pictures on your own… or you might try, a site photographers post various photos they aren't using. You can download them for free, use them for free, etc. It’s a great alternative if you’re a little tight on money.

Next came fonts. Oh, the hell that is deciding on a font. I can’t tell you the number of sites I went through. There are A LOT of fonts out there, and it’s hard to know what will work with your picture. Something that looks great in a word doc may get washed out when you apply it to your cover art. BIG IMPORTANT TIP FROM JEN: DO NOT, and I mean DO NOT, purchase a font without testing it against your cover art first. I would hate to see someone pay fifty dollars for a really awesome font only to find out that it gets sucked up by his/her cover art. My designer bud was able to clip fonts from their testing pages and overlay them onto my picture before we made a final decision. Trust me, you WANT to do this. I was completely set on one particular font only to find out it wouldn’t work. I ended up using a font from Yes, FREE. Free is a glorious thing. ANOTHER IMPORTANT TIP FROM JEN: Do not be afraid to mix fonts. I ended up using the capital letters from one font, and the lowercase letters from another. I never would’ve thought of it myself (hence the need for a designer).

So… once I had a picture, a font, and (thank the heavens) a designer, I was ready to roll.

The actual design of the cover went a lot smoother than I anticipated. Turns out my eye isn’t quite as whacked out as I thought. My picture turned out to look fantastic, and after a few misfires on the font, we actually settled on one of the very first ones I found (a freebie that was already in my Word library of fonts). Combined with the one I found on the internet, we were ready to roll.

My designer did a great job. We sat down for about three hours and knocked it out. I’ve had some small tweaks after the fact, and thankfully my friend has shown a lot of patience with me. He even managed to do a name swap (I originally planned to use a pen name) at the 11th hour. He's a wonder. :)

What else?

Oh, remember when I said ‘know your audience?’ Well, before I even moved forward with the cover, I did a rough (believe me, it was VERY rough) mock up of the cover and showed it around to people in my target age range. I knew I was on to something when one young friend actually squealed and said, “That is bad ass! I would totally buy that!” This without knowing what the book was about. (grin) Hey, I’ll take it.

And that, folks, is how you go about designing a cover. All in all, I spent a hundred dollars..and a few hours of my time (along with Designer Extraordinaire).

How'd I do?

More on the trailer later... boy was that an adventure. (g)


Carol A. Spradling said...

Hi Jen,

The cover is perfect. You did a great job.

Jennifer Hendren said...

Thanks, Carol! Eeeeeeee....getting excited. :)

Deniz Bevan said...

I think you did an amazing job, Jen, and thanks for taking us through the process! I knew about images and design (have to, I suck at that sort of thing and would definitely need help) but I had no idea there'd be font-purchasing involved. Neat!

J.L. Murphey said...

As someone who designs their own covers, does the artworks, fonts, and everything else for myself and other authors, I have to say your cover is fabulous!

Jennifer Hendren said...


Yes. Fonts. UGH. The thought of them still give me a headache. That was by far the most time consuming, frustrating step in the process. The picture was nothing compared to that...the designing was nothing compared to that. It was all about the fonts. LOL.

Good times. :)

Jennifer Hendren said...

Thank you very much, Jo!!! :)