Regardless of what so many people say, a book is sold or placed back on the shelf by its cover, those first few seconds will either get the people to turn the item over and read the blurb or resign it for something that’s either slicker or shinier or fits nicely into their comfort zone from previous purchases.

Years ago, it was down to the publishers to sort the piece out based on marketing, current trends as well as budget for each author.  So if a publisher thought that a book would sell well, they may well commission an exclusive piece, however if the sales weren’t projected to do so well or average, they may have used a generic piece of art that they purchased from an artist that could and at times has, had nothing to do with the content whatsoever.  (Case in point David Gemmell’s 1986 Century Print of Legend, which has a Swordsman on the cover with a Were-beast upon the rear, which to be fair did inspire the creation of Joining’s as well as the Nadir Merged Beasts in Waylander.)

Yet in our current age, a lot of people are taking the self-published route and now have to contend with creating their own cover.  Which, is not only tricky but also potentially a minefield.  So how do you go about this?   Were it me entering the publishing arena this is how I’d recommend you start and whilst it’ll take time, it will pay dividends in the end:

1)  Look at other books that are similar to your own out there.  Look at their covers, see how they’re composed, check the fonts, size of author name, title etc.
2)  Look for the artists associated with the covers, research them, are they categorised specifically?  What is the art genre?  Research that and see who’s out there?
3)  Keep copious notes for easy reference.

So now you’ve done some basic research and have some idea’s what are you going to do next?  Well,  you have two steps you can now embark upon, firstly you can pay for a stock photo for copyright use for your cover and design it yourself or you can contact an artist that you feel will create that something special for you and fits your work well.  Both have their own advantages and failures yet for me, getting an artist on side is the best way forward for a number of reasons:

A)  They know about composition and spatial awareness.
B)  They can help work the font around their art piece.
C)  They can help assure that the artwork isn’t lost to the font or visa versa.

Yet finding the right artist is a tricky and whilst you may like someone such as Larry Rostant, it doesn’t mean that you can afford his prices, after all, big names command big bucks and whilst he’s one of the best out there at what he does, there is a more attractive alternative, contacting a similar artist that you’ve discovered on some of the art hosting sites out there such as IAMAG CG Gallery, DeviantArt, CG HUb, DrawCrowd, CGSociety,, etc.  (See I said your research would pay dividends.)

However don’t expect them to do it for free, like anything else here, you’re looking to make money selling your book, they’re looking to make some money selling their artwork.  Yes, you’re paying out, yes you’ve not made anything yet, but you have to remember that for an author, the cover is your packaging, if it looks cheap, what does that say to the reader about your work?  Will they have faith in your product?  Will they buy again?  After all, look at it as you look at other items that you purchase.  Do you buy the No Frill’s plain packet generic product or the one that has a great picture that portrays certain images to your mind.  Its all marketing at the end of the day and whilst some authors can rely on their name to sell, when you’re starting off you need something to give you an edge.  All round its up to the author however when you’ve invested so many months (and possibly even years) into honing your craft why hinder yourself.

Yes the payment at the end to the artist may have you questioning yourself, however remember a little quote from Sir Henry Royce “The quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.” And that, is the key here.  By getting something that pertains not only to your work, but of a quality to match what is already out there, your readers will pass the word on to others out there and not only help you sell your book, but could, in the long run help you get that publishing contract that you’ve been dreaming about.

To keep up with Gareth and his book reading explots please visit Falcata Times.

Below, some of the latest book cover illustrations submitted to the CG Gallery: