Self Publishing - Book Covers

Dragonverse Origins is in the hands of my wife who will do the major work of grammar checking. Well, at least the first half of the book anyway. I'm still doing my own editing of the second half while she's working on the first. This speeds up the process allowing us to multitask. I continue to think about Peacekeeper 3 so that when it comes time to begin work on that novel I will be able to move along at a decent pace.

I also attended a book selling event at a local library on Monday. Although I had fun I did not sell any books. Neither did any of the authors around me. To prepare for the event, I purchased several more sets of books. Now I'm stuck with them especially because I don't sell many hard copies. I do like supporting the local library but I'm having my doubts that book selling events are worth the effort. It takes a lot to pack up 50 pounds of books, haul them out to the car, drive to the library, haul them inside, set up, and then sit for  two hours as people walk by, glance at your table, and keep walking. There were around 15 authors there and I believe they sold only a handful out of the entire group. Oh, and did I mention it was raining that day? I think I will limit my library support activities to appearing individually or on a panel.

Yesterday, I spent about an hour sitting down with an artist. She's the daughter of a friend we met at the local B&N. My wife loves her artwork and others have made similar comments. We asked if she would be interested in doing the book covers for the entire Dragonverse series. Yesterday, we came to an agreement of sorts and next week I think we will iron out the details. The cost, however, is much more than what I've been paying.

I've been having another friend do my covers. She's done a wonderful job and she does not charge nearly what a professional does. I've been very pleased with her work. So why change? The artist I spoke with yesterday has an extensive website with a lot of artwork for sale. Her animals are very realistic and unique. Being hand-painted, they're also very realistic looking. Her style will make the new covers stand out.

So how important are covers? In one word -- VERY. Say I'm looking for a good military science fiction novel. I fire up Amazon and enter a search and then ... I start scanning the covers. I don't have time to click on every book and read the synopsis as well as the reviews. I look for a cover that grabs my attention and I click on that one. It is the cover that gets me to drill down one level and read about the book. Covers are vital and paying a good price to have one that stands out is a must.

Let me give you an example. Here is the history of the covers for Translight - the first book of the Galactic Alliance series:
Which one would grab your attention? The first one was something I created using PowerPoint and a colorized drawing I did back in the 70's merged with some graphics I found online. Not too bad but not good either. When you blow it up, you can really see how unprofessional it is. The second cover looks okay but the title does not stand out and my name is practically invisible. The final cover has a bold title and my name is clearly visible even in the thumbnail. The artwork identifies the book as being science fiction.

So how much should a cover cost? The price is all over the map on this one. You can go to Fiver and have someone overseas create a cover for you. It might work out and you could possibly get away with paying as little as $40.00. Even though many of the people on Fiver doing this work are working for pennies, they are talented. But you can also end up with something that you don't like.

You can do what I've done and get a talented friend to make your cover. The results might be great or perhaps not. The price could be nothing or very inexpensive depending on your friend. Working with someone you know also has the advantages of being able to reject a cover and have them alter it to you exact likings without having to pay for the artist's time to make multiple corrections. If your friend is talented enough and you work well together you can end up with a very nice cover for only a small fee.

Professional book cover artists have done this before and they will listen to your ideas, ask you about the book's story line, and gather other details to give them an idea as to what you're looking for. They'll present you with a few rough drafts and then produce a final cover from the one you select. Most allow you to make a few minor changes at no additional cost. More than a few will end up costing you more because you are paying for their time and effort. In the end, you will have a very good cover that has been crafted by a professional. But, it will cost you more.

Typical cover artists charge between $200 and $1,000 for a cover. The low end would be reserved for those just starting off in the business. A simple cover from someone who's been doing it for awhile might run between $300 and $400. Complex covers will cost you more. A typical contract (and yes you should have one) allows for a specified number of changes before additional charges are added.

A contract is also a must. This will be the legal document giving you (the author) the rights to the cover art. You are hiring an artist to produce a piece of artwork for you and when she turns the end product over to you, it's yours. You own the work. There are alternatives but they're not common. You might be granted a license to use the cover art in any way you desire but the artist retains the copyright and is free to sell the base cover art in any way they choose as long as it is never again used as a book cover. This allows the artist (who wants to make money as well) to sell the work as a stand-alone work of art. In my opinion, this arrangement is best for both parties because it might allow the artist to charge less for the work because in the end she can make more by selling it outright. This also gives her the incentive to put even more effort into the work. Additionally, if the artwork becomes popular, it could help promote your book as well.

Should the artist also do the lettering? There is a give and take here as well. If you decide to publish in another language and the lettering is part of the artwork, then you're going to have to pay the artist to redo the cover. If you have both the artwork and the cover with the lettering or just the artwork alone, then you can create a new cover yourself. Having the artist put the lettering into the cover can be aesthetically pleasing as well making the entire cover appear as a seamless whole. In the end, you're the publisher and it's totally up to you.

Having a great cover can help sell books. Unfortunately, it will also mean you have to spend the money up front to have one done. It's an investment in your book's future. Covers do sell books. If you're confident your book is good enough and has been formatted using industry guidelines, then by all means spend the money to have a great cover put on it. You won't regret it.