I’ve been talking about my indie publishing experience so far, and last week I talked about a cover I had made in 2015. But that takes me into 2016, wherein I published 6 ebooks. SIX.
Publishing books costs money, and publishing six of them costs…more money.
As an indie publisher, I had to plan for that. I knew that much of 2016 would happen at a loss because I was paying artists for covers and an editor/formatter for their services.
Today I’m going to talk a bit about the other cover designs I had custom made. The covers I purchased ran the gamut from inexpensive to pricey. In each case, I had specific reasons for that choice. So let me talk briefly about each one:
CUSTOM DESIGN COVERS:
I had previously published the three novellas here separately, but wanted to package them together and create a print edition. So I removed the old versions from sale, did an editing pass, and handed it off to my editing/format guy (EQP Books) while I was arranging for a cover.
For this book, finding stock photos was problematic. My main character has white hair, and that’s actually an important part of the story, so unlike other covers where I changed small things in the story to match the cover, I wanted the cover to match the story instead. And since Iron Shoes had been my most financially successful tale, I decided to go with Holly Heisey on this one.
Their covers are more expensive, but worth it since I was going for something very specific. Holly sent me an extensive questionnaire, and I sent it back to them. They sent me back suggested pictures based on that, and I picked one out and sent it back to them. Then the magic started.
Holly changed clothing color, hair color, and added -magical- touches that did a good job of conveying that this was a fantasy story (but also a romance). They also created a paperback cover for me (which ups the charge for any cover package.) All in all, I got what I wanted for this book.
After the War was created by Rachel A. Marks. Once again, I wanted to somewhat-match the style of the Golden City novels, since this is a related novella. Rachel worked with me on this one much the same way as the previous cover (The Seer’s Choice) we did together.
Because I was working with her far in advance of the publication (I hadn’t even finished the novella when I contacted her) I was able to work in the opposite direction from the above experience. For example…when I first started the novella, Serafina had short hair. It was easy to change that, though. In addition, since Rachel and I had decided on a model for the cover, I could write that costume into the first scene….
(I did that on the last book with her, too.)
Rachel’s prices were not exorbitant (you can click over to her website to look at her cover designs) and I’ve really liked the work I’ve gotten from her.
Now the cover of Oathbreaker is different, in that I was looking for a different ‘feel’ than any of my previous books. I have to admit, I may have referred to the CW network at some point during the quest for these covers.
Since I’d been in the habit of surfing photo sites for a while by then, I went to the artist–Kate Marshall–with some pictures already in hand. I had seen Kate’s designs for Rhiannon Held’s work, and thought that would fit this series of novels well, so I actually booked Kate to produce the covers for -all three- novels in this series.
That makes it a lot easier, by the way, if you’re trying for cohesiveness in your covers.
I gave Kate my pictures and my answers to her questions, and she got back to me with several proposed designs. She gave me a set of covers without people (mood covers, basically), a set with the setting that I suggested behind the characters, and a set with a different backdrop.
As it turned out, the setting that I suggested…did not work. It was way too busy and distracted from the character on the cover and from the title and wording as well.
What did work was the setting backdrop that she picked out. It captured the mood of the stories…and it turned out that it was no problem to tweak the writing to fit it in!. So I went with what she picked and am far happier with her results. She made changes to the clothing and characters to make them work better with the story.
So the next handful of covers that you’ll see for novels will be from Kate. (She’s penciled me in to do the Dreaming Death sequels, too.)
Some final points about engaging a cover designer:
- Have some idea what you want before you go to them. It never hurts to look through websites of cover designers to know what kinds of covers will match your books. Provide links for your designer to look at.
- Be open-minded about what the designer suggests. Even though I thought I knew what I wanted on the Oathbreaker cover, it turned out that my pick looked awful, and what my designer suggested looked far far better.
- Remember that you can change small details in your story. That’s always worked well for me to make the cover match better.
- If the cover isn’t coming out the way you want it to, try to figure out where you’re not communicating properly. When working on the Iron Shoes cover, I told Holly that the character had white hair. What I failed to communicate was that I meant WHITE…like magically white. Holly and I went back and forth several times on hair color until I finally realized I could send them a picture of what I wanted…and they got it right away. So make sure you’re communicating with your cover artist.
- Don’t be a jerk. Your cover artist has other commitments. Book your covers with plenty of time in advance to tweak them. It’s like the saying, You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.
NEXT WEEK: PRE-MADE Covers and the writers who love them…