The Art of the Cover
Even in these days of ebooks and thumb-nail sized images browsed on mobile phones, an author’s first interaction with potential readers is often the book cover. When I published my first book, “The Sleepless Nanny,” I went with a generic auto-generated image supplied by Amazon that featured only the title and my name. Then my friend, the video game art legend Paul Steed (who sadly passed away in August) designed a cover for me, and Boom! my book had personality.
This time around, I knew from the moment I started writing that the cover was going to be a big priority. I was sure about one thing: I didn’t want my mystery novel to look like every other one out there. This screenshot of my recommended Mystery titles on Goodreads is a quick overview of the covers my book would be competing with for eyeballs.
What I didn’t want was a bunch of stock photos PhotoShopped together. I want my main character, Lexy Cooper–who needs to carry a three-book series of mysteries set in the videogame industry–to stand out as the focal point. I did have a ghost of an idea which I sketched out like this:
With this germ of an idea in hand, I went searching for an artist. I think it must have been kismet, because when I went to Deviantart.com and searched “book cover” I discovered blitzcadet aka Brett Parson. I fell in love with his work and thought his way of creating sexy, sassy women was a perfect match for Lexy Cooper. I contacted him and commissioned him to do the cover for the first Lexy Cooper mystery, “Schooled.”
I’ve worked with artists and designers for a very long time (packaging, advertising, and web), and have found that I get the best results when the direction is simple, and they have as much creative freedom as possible. The direction I gave Brett was this: “When people look at the cover I want them to come away with two ideas: 1) This book is about a sexy smart chick who probably gets into a lot of trouble. 2) It’s got to do with a video game company.” I also told him that Lexy should have brunette hair, a plaid skirt, and an epic rack.
Based on that, and a two-sentence plot summary, Brett sent me this sketch:
Well yes, let’s do that, I said, jumping up and down. Please note, I was far too embarrassed to ever share with him my horrible drawing. A week later, Brett had fleshed it out with details and color and sent me this:
I only had two pieces of feedback on this (after I wiped the drool from my chin, and assured my husband that no, humping my book cover wouldn’t count as cheating) First, Lexy’s eyes should be green and second, let’s avoid trouble and make the video game console and controller a little less Xboxy. Less than two weeks later, Brett sent the final cover, a pen and ink drawing with colors in PhotoShop.
So here’s my final cover. I would wallpaper my house with this. As soon as I posted this on my Facebook page I received several invitations to talk about my upcoming book on a bunch of podcasts and websites. Even in the days of ebooks, the cover is your most powerful marketing tool. Don’t half-ass it. Hire a professional!