Cover Design Crazy(ness)

While I was doing some some odd job today I found myself wondering. . . If I did self-publish my book (not that I would because that’s just way too serious and scary a thought) but if I did, what would I want the cover to look like? I tried to remember the advice I’d read:

  • Look at other books in the genre to see what sort of thing is marketable/popular/done and do something to fit in with those.
  • Look at other books in the genre and decide what makes them good. Then do your own thing because you’re most likely not a famous author.

Like most advice, if you find one piece that sounds reasonable, you can almost certainly find another that’ll argue the opposite! What’s a completely novice writer to do?

Naturally, I took the bits I fancied, ignored the bits I didn’t, suspended reality and started imagining. What follows is my own guide to designing a front cover for your book.

  1. Look at any and all front covers. Look at differences between genres, and try to work out which ones interest you.
  2. Suss out the general style of said captivating front cover. (E.g. bold colours, a single simple image, a painting-style picture. Does it show people, objects, or a scene)
  3. Consider honestly whether or not this style could work for your own book. Because really there’s no point having a humorous looking cover if you’ve written a serious historical novel. But a streamlined modern cover might still work for a historical novel if done in the right way. If you want to avoid copying the general mode now is the time to decide it, even if it’s as basic as ‘I don’t want a murder weapon on the front of my crime novel’.
  4. Knowing at least what you don’t want, if not what you do, get researching. Use books, the internet, magazine, paint colour charts! Look for anything – images, patterns, colours – that might be vaguely suitable and mush them all together until you get an idea – or six – you like. Be aware of copyright! If you’re the artistic type, now might be the time to get out your pencils, editing software etc. and create some completely original designs.
  5. Keeping your story in mind go through the ideas and narrow them down. Decide that that one might be too detailed to look good scaled down, that one too modern. . . You get the idea.
  6. Spend some time debating: I really like that one, but this one maybe fits better, and perhaps I should go for a completely different style because. . . Remember you want something professional looking at the end of this. Or at least I assume you do.
  7. Realise you’ve spent hours playing around with ideas instead of doing actual work, and that, well, you’re not really going to use any of them anyway.

One final point that should probably be included as number 8, although it isn’t exactly a step I’d have done had I any choice in the matter. . . Despite the fact that you’re definitely never going to use any of this stuff, you know exactly where it is (because of course you’ve got it tucked away somewhere). Over the following days you’ll catch yourself agonising in idle moments, maybe even sneaking a peak at those designs: which would be best, and if I did that would it be better?

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