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June 22, 2015

Working with a Cover Artist



Book covers are extremely important. It’s the first thing a reader sees, and it’s true that people judge books by their covers. Most readers are more inclined to pick up a book with a cover they think is attractive. Of course, what one reader finds attractive in a book cover can turn other readers off.

When you consider your book cover, first think about the genre. You wouldn’t want a bare-chested stud on the cover of your sci-fi novel. Or would you?

But don’t feel restricted by your book’s genre and the cookie-cutter covers you see. If you write erotica, but don’t like the nude bodies twisted into suggestive positions on the covers of nearly every erotica book, you don’t have to do that. Think about 50 Shades of Grey for a moment. Those books were widely successful and yet a tie is pictured on the first book, a masquerade mask is on the second, and handcuffs are on the third. Your cover could also be a picture of a prop.

TIP #1: Take a trip to a bookstore and examine the covers in your niche. Find a bunch that catch your eye and write down what you like about them. Is it the colors? The font? The images?


Try answering these questions to figure out what you like and dislike:

1. Do you like covers with people or faces on it?

2. Do you like covers with scenery?

3. Do you like objects/props?

TIP #2: While writing/editing your book, think about the most important scenes and how they could be translated into a cover.

TIP #3: If a scene doesn’t work, figure out what elements are present throughout your story. For example: If your book is heavy on crime, maybe you’d want a crime scene depicted on the cover.


When it’s time for you to work with a cover artist tell him or her everything you possibly can, as most probably won’t read your book. Giving him/her the blurb to read to get a feel for your story is often a good idea.

A list of things to tell your cover artist: 
1. Time and Setting 
(Especially important for historical genres or books set in foreign places.)
2. Tone and Mood. 
(Example: dark, romantic.) 
3. Important Elements 
(If your book is heavy with magic, your cover should reflect that.)
4. What does your hero and heroine look like? 
(Include age, ethnicity, hair/eye color, and their physique.)

5. Do you have ideas about what the cover could look like? 
(This is where you can give great detail about a scene or scenery as well as font color and type.)


Not every writer has the chance to work closely with their cover artist. With my small press, I never get the chance to talk one on one with the cover artist. I only have one chance to convey what I want for my covers by filling out a form. If you have the opportunity to give input and see samples throughout the process then you are lucky!

One more thing...not everyone has the same experience working with their cover artist. You may end up with a cover you love or one you hate. The good thing is, you usually get the chance to decline a cover.


Personal Story: For my novella, 30 Seconds, the head of marketing sent me an email to tell me the cover artist went in a different direction with my cover and I was allowed to see it to approve or reject it. Well, it was all wrong. The cover would’ve been great for a crime novel, but not a romantic-suspense. The only thing that the cover artist did that I suggested was the title designed to look like a countdown. When I rejected it, I hand-picked the picture of a police car and a red-headed woman, which are now featured on my cover. See above.



SHARE: Do you have a horror cover art story?



QUESTIONS: What kinds of book covers do you like the best? Do you fantasize about the covers for your WIPs? Do you have a go-to cover artist?


100 comments:

Rhonda Albom said...

I am bookmarking this. One day I am pretty sure I will finish my book and need a cover.

TBM said...

Oh they are indeed important. I'm re-doing some of mine. It's a fun and exciting process.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

The cover is vitally important. I know many YA books have body parts on the cover, which I've never liked, so I didn't want that for my own books.

Unknown said...

I just got to fill out a cover questionairre for my publisher and I was so nervous/ excited. you never know what you want until it's happening i guess! I prefer no people, or glimpses of people, and bright colors. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Awesome, Rhonda! And I know you'll finish your book one day and will need a cover. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I'll never get over the excitement. :)

Chrys Fey said...

It is a little weird that body parts are on the cover for YA books. I understand a face, but not arms or legs.

Chrys Fey said...

What one author likes is as different as what one reader likes. No one will have the same ideas or preferences, so the options are limitless. I personally like faces on mine...glimpses of my characters. :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Nice tips, especially about going into bookstores and examining the covers that appeal to you. (Usually, I'm looking for favorite authors, not covers, so I'll try that.) For my own part, I'm usually attracted to soft colors and subtle effects. The ones that are too bright and busy just don't grab me. But every reader is different, I know.

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Elizabeth! I like to browse the shelves and pick up books that catch my eyes. Yes, some of my covers are bright but those are eBook covers. For a print book, I may tone down the brightness.

Carrie-Anne said...

I think it's really important, whether your cover is hand-drawn or graphically designed, to not have your mental image of your characters set in stone. Even if you draw it yourself or have a very similar cover model, they're never going to look exactly like the image in your mind.

I far prefer hand-illustrated covers, particularly when no human figures are featured. So many covers look all alike these days, and many even use the exact same stock image. My least-favorite is the headless bare chest. It's particularly cringeworthy for a historical romance, since the average man of the past wouldn't have removed his chest hair. I'd actually give a cover artist a few points for originality if the headless bare chest had hair!

Chrys Fey said...

That's true. My publisher actually makes that clear that the image the cover artist finds won't be exactly like your character, but they do find models who have the same hair color, build, ethnicity, etc.)

I hate it when so many eBooks use the same stock images. I've seen several like that and would hope my cover artist wouldn't do that to my covers.

Sarah Foster said...

I have no idea what I would want for my book cover. I don't think I would want people on it, though. One of my pet peeves with covers is when the person on it looks nothing like the character the author describes. I can understand that they can't get it perfect, but when it's not even close it bugs me.

Pat Hatt said...

Covers sure can say a lot, I get a pic in my head of what I want and find one to do it.

Rachel Pattinson said...

I love book covers that have symbols or that are a bit abstract. Great tips btw - I'm definitely going to be doing those things the next time I have to think about a cover! I constantly think about how my book covers will look, it's how I procrastinate ;).

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I really enjoyed working with the artist who designed my collection's cover (he will do/did the second collection as well.) I loved the back and forth of what I was thinking, what he was thinking, what he came up with, etc. Such an interesting process!

Chrys Fey said...

When it's not even close, that's when the author should speak up.

Chrys Fey said...

That's good! I've never had to find my own cover artist before, but I can select one that works with my publisher. I used to use one, but went with a different one for Witch/Ghost of Death.

Chrys Fey said...

lol I used to hand draw my covers...talk about procrastination. :P

Chrys Fey said...

It's a wonderful thing when you get to communicate directly with the cover artist and when you click.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

For one publisher I don't choose the illustrator, but the same one usually wants to do the covers of my books, which is great. We communicate online with things like ages of the characters, time period, etc.
I fill out a form for another publisher of my ideas and we go from there. The other publishers usually ask my thoughts and I see the cover to approve or not. Sometimes it's hard for me to know exactly what I want. :)

Cherie Reich said...

Wonderful tips! I love looking at popular covers in various genres and picking what I like and don't like about them. It's a really good idea to do so. I've liked the covers I've had for the most part with publishers, although I do like having the control of a cover by self-publishing.

Sherry Ellis said...

Good tips for working with a cover artist! As a picture book writer, it's always fun to see how the illustrator designs the cover.

Lisa Thomson said...

Thanks Chrys for these tips. I'm trying to figure out a good cover for my short story collection so I will take these tips into account. For my published book, I bought an image from Dreamstime. I love the image and after perusing for days and even trying to create my own cover, I finally found the right one. It was intuitively obvious to be the right cover. The hard part was choosing font. I know that sounds weird but the options are endless. So, I haven't worked with a cover artist yet. Maybe for the next one. I've got really great feedback on my book cover and you're right; people do judge by the cover. BTW, I love your 30 Seconds cover!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've been fortunate with my covers. My publisher's illustrator has captured each book well.

Dixie@dcrelief said...

I've often wondered what goes into making the cover. This is good to know. The only one I have I drew... for my children's story. Still haven't published it. You've given me lots to think about.

Anonymous said...

I love book covers, so having the right one is important to me. With my Path of Angels series, I was lucky to find a cover artist who was awesome to work with. We slogged through book one, but once we had that template, the rest of the covers fell into place.

Donna Smith said...

I do not have a cover horror story...but I'd LOVE to have one! That would mean I had a book deal!

Cherdo said...

This was very informative for someone who just takes the cover for granted (like me!). The book store suggestion was perfect - there are definitely some that draw me in just by having interesting art on the cover.

Nilanjana Bose said...

Interesting and useful tips, all. Wonder if the publishers ever do a quick focus group/ some sort of research on cover designs...

diedre Knight said...

I fully agree the cover is important and should reflect something about the book (characters, storyline) itself. Lisa brought up another good point regarding covers for collections - that could be a tough decision! When working with an illustrator it is imperative he/she knows your work well in order to bring it to life :-)

Christine Rains said...

Excellent tips. I do fantasize about my book covers, especially after my cover artist did the one for Of Blood and Sorrow which is so perfect. Working with her was fabulous. As for working with the cover artist with my publisher, I didn't get too much say in it, but the covers work. I do like people on covers as I'm a character driven writer and reader, but sometimes there isn't a person that fits what the books represents.

Chrys Fey said...

With my publisher, we can request one of the cover artists, which is how I got the cover artist who did Witch/Ghost of Death.

Chrys Fey said...

I would love to have full control over a cover and see what happens. :)

Chrys Fey said...

That would be fun! :D

Chrys Fey said...

It's fun being able to pick out an image for a cover. I don't usually get to do that but I did for 30 Seconds. And thank you. I'm glad you like the cover. I was insecure about it because of the trouble I had.

nashvillecats2 said...

Good tips on covers. I'm thinking of doing my fourth book later in the year.
Yvonne.

Chrys Fey said...

I think so too. :)

Chrys Fey said...

I've drawn covers for my unpublished series. I probably won't get to use them but I could pass them onto my publisher and the cover artist for ideas. Good luck, Dixie!

Chrys Fey said...

The covers for your Path of Angels series are fabulous, Patricia! I love them!

Chrys Fey said...

One day you will Donna...have a contract that is...hopefully not a cover horror story.

Chrys Fey said...

I'm a sucker for art and can't help but pick up books that have interesting covers.

Chrys Fey said...

I don't know if they do or not. It would be smart if they did, though.

Chrys Fey said...

A collection would be tough to find a good cover for. Do you illustrate one story in the collection? Or try to create a cover that matches the theme for all?

Chrys Fey said...

The cover for Of Blood and Sorrow is amazing! I can picture it now. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you, Yvonne! And I sure hope you do. :)

Kelly Hashway said...

I've worked with publishers who let me have a say and others who didn't. I didn't like not getting to give feedback. I think the author should have a say in the cover.

Liz A. said...

No, I haven't thought about a cover. I'm spending time working on the book. I wouldn't even know what a cover for this story would be. Glad you got the cover that was right for you.

Yolanda Renée said...

You did an excellent job! Covers are hard to create and even harder to decide on, at least for me.

Birgit said...

This was a great read on what to look for when wanting a book cover. I love a more classic look where it feels like leather. I am attracted to something that looks moody or dream like

Anonymous said...

I agree a book's cover is incredibly important. I had a great experience of working on my first cover with a designer, although she had a tough job because I wanted to have a character on the cover, but with her back to us. Quite hard to find that kind of photo as it turns out, especially since she's young, with dark skin and dreadlocks! All worked out in the end though :)

Denise Covey said...

When shopping on Amazon, the cover is the thing!! Can't believe how many poor covers there are. I heard that blue and yellow are the most popular with buyers--real chick lit stuff.

When I'm shopping for a cover, I'll definitely come back here Chrys.

Denise :-)

Anonymous said...

For me, I do judge books by their covers. If it doesn't look at least somewhat professional, I usually won't pick it up (and if I do I already have started off on a bad foot and it has to work wonders to win me over).
Honestly, I've never thought about covers for my own work. In my naive head I always felt I'd get traditionally published and they'd pick out the cover for me. But since that route is seeming further and further for me (especially for my full-length novels and series) I do need to start thing about this!
I really don't like people on the cover, especially if they're in a state of undress. That immediately turns me off :/

betty said...

I definitely am one that looks at what a cover looks like before considering picking it up to check it out. That and titles of books. Good info you shared here Chrys.

betty

Shannon Lawrence said...

I always have an image in my head of what I'd like the cover to look like. That's probably a bad thing, but at least I can give some feedback and hope they'll listen. Great pointers, thank you!

Nicola said...

Great post, Chrys. I must admit, even as a writer and an avid reader, I always look at a cover. It is the image that draws you into reading the blurb before buying. I totally agree with you on that score. Fantastic job on the cover of your book. Wishing you lots of success!!

emaginette said...

You can always include a mock-up of what you'd like to see :-)

Anna from Elements of Writing

Chrys Fey said...

I think so too.

Chrys Fey said...

I can't help but think about a cover when I finish one of my WIPs.

Chrys Fey said...

Thanks, Yolanda. I am always nervous when I have to tell the cover artist what I envision via a form. Waiting to see the final outcome is nerve-whacking.

Chrys Fey said...

Moody or dreamlike is good.

Chrys Fey said...

That's great! I'm glad it worked out. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Blue is most popular? No wonder why so many like the cover for my Witch of Death. ;)

Thanks, Denise!

Chrys Fey said...

Professional covers are key. I can't say how many bad ones I've seen where it looks like a child or real amateur did it.

Really? With my series that I am STILL looking for an agent to rep I drew my covers because I wanted some say in it (publishers usually do listen to the author but still can do their own thing), so I can show them what I first envisioned.

Ha! I have people/faces on the covers of all of my eBooks. But they will never be in a state of undress. I hate that!

Chrys Fey said...

It can't be said enough how important a cover and title are.

Chrys Fey said...

I think it's a good thing. It shows you know what you want. And knowing what you want is important when you work with a cover artist.

Chrys Fey said...

I am the same way, Nicola. Thank you! :)

Chrys Fey said...

If one know how to create a mock-up. I've drawn covers before, though.

Slamdunk said...

Useful advice, Chrys. Like Pat said, I think it is helpful to get the idea in your head and be sure to explain to the artist what you do not want to see.

Chrys Fey said...

Absolutely! Especially telling them what you don't want/like.

Lidy said...

Sorry for double posting Chrys. Ended up replying to another post instead of as a new comment. Anyways....Great tips about book covers and working with cover artists. Used an illustration from Shutter Stock for my poetry chapbook. But thinking about going on a Fivvr and getting a gig to create a new one for eBook and paperback. Haven't given much thought to the cover of the ya wip but do know I want an image of fire. As for my epic fantasy wip on hiatus, I want images of the characters on the cover. Weapons in hand and or posed as if in mid battle.

Philip Verghese 'Ariel' said...

Hi Chrys,
Nice to be here again.
Thank you so much for the kind mention
Thanks a lot for finding your valuable time to be a guest at my page,
Thanks again for the valuable information given on this wonderful subject. Yes, I am also bookmarking this for my further reference
May you have a wonderful week ahead.
Best Regards
~ Philip V Ariel

Chrys Fey said...

Thanks okay! I deleted that other comment for you. :)

I love pictures of characters with weapons in hand. It's exciting!

Chrys Fey said...

And thank you so much for having me on your blog and for sharing the post. I appreciate it!

J.H. Moncrieff said...

This is a great post, and one that I'll definitely bookmark. Thanks! If I venture into self-publishing, which I'm hoping to, this will come in handy.

My first cover for The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave was terrible. Imagine a teddy bear with a horribly Photoshopped grizzly bear face superimposed on it. I felt bad about rejecting it, but was so glad I did. My current cover, while not perfect, is so much better.

Chrys Fey said...

I can imagine that and I'm glad you rejected it!

Kimberly said...

My cover artist was awesome to work with. It was hard to convey the look I was going for at first and the first covers leaned more toward a 'horror' type look which I didn't want. So I spent a couple of days thinking more about it and then wha-la, came up with the compass and it went from there - I love my cover designer and the work she does. Fabulous post!

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I like your cover! It looks really good! I agree that cover art is definitely important; often, when I'm browsing in a store, the cover of a book is what motivates me to pick it up (so I guess you could say that I at least partly judge books by their cover).

Tammy Theriault said...

loving your cover and all the tips. I always envision before I write a story what the cover would be.

Chrys Fey said...

The covers for your books are stunning. I'm glad you got a chance to thinking more about the concept you wanted for the cover.

Chrys Fey said...

Thank you! :D

A good cover prompts me to pick up a book and read the blurb as well.

Chrys Fey said...

Before you write a story? Wow. I like that. :)

Philip Verghese 'Ariel' said...

Thanks Chrys for the kind mention about the Guest post in this post. It means a lot to me. Have a good and godly day. :-)
~ Philip

Chrys Fey said...

You're welcome. :)

Yanting Gueh said...

We have excellent timing, Chrys. I'm blogging about cover art this week, too (though it's more for myself than tips for others). I love your cover of 30 Seconds and am happy for you that you got to say No when you wanted to. Interestingly, I recently read a survey on YA book readers (most of them are students) and so many of them said they hated faces on covers. This is just for the YA group, of course. I just did research on middle-grade book covers and most of them feature faces (illustrative style). Genre matters, too. For thrillers or mysteries, there are usually objects rather than faces.

Jeffrey Scott said...

I guess this is one comment I'm NOT early for.
I have no ideas at all about cover art. But yes, I have often thought about what sort of cover art would be used on the series I'm trying to write.
Essentially it's a group of High School kids, so I would imagine a High school and/or main characters would be featured.

Chrys Fey said...

Greta minds think alike. ;)

Thank you, Claudine!

That's interesting because I thought faces on YA covers was the trend.

Chrys Fey said...

Haha. Nope. This is my Monday post...and the reason why I said that the guys were late for it. :P

As you continue to work on your series, you'll get more ideas of objects, places, or people that can be on the cover. With YA/NA books, it can just about be anything.

Jeffrey Scott said...

I may have mentioned this before, but I actually have seven rough drafts already finished. So for the most part, I know what's already in the story.

Chrys Fey said...

I think you did mention that. Seven rough drafts. Wow. Have you decided on which one you like more?

Jeffrey Scott said...

Yes, of course. I do have my favourites. But each story is slightly different. I think a new cover would be required for each story. Also, the genre changes slightly as the series goes on. But in the first two episodes I only hint at the direction it's going.

Chrys Fey said...

Oh, silly me. I thought you meant seven rough drafts for the first book in your series. Not seven rough drafts for seven books. Doh!

Jeffrey Scott said...

Well, to be fair. I probably have about seven rough drafts for the very first episode. But the one currently online is the one I'm going with. Originally, episodes I and II were one story. But it was slow moving and I cut a LOT of unnecessary things out. Then I cut out more. So much so, that episode II is now almost a completely new story. Odd how that worked out. But there were bits of episode II that were originally in episode I.

Have I bored you yet? LOL

Chrys Fey said...

Bored? No. Confused? A little. lol

I've been there with cutting out so much. I rewrote my unpublished series into a completely different series. Then I rewrote the first book several times. There were a lot of thing that I kept and changed. It was almost like I was quilting random scenes together, but I got it all to work out beautifully in the end. After many years. :P

Jeffrey Scott said...

Okay, cliff notes version.
(And I hope you don't mind me blathering on).
The original first draft of my story was written about myself and a friend in high school. I was in High School when I wrote it, circa 1987. We bummed around town looking for something to do. We briefly met our girlfriends Jenni and Celene, and wound up in the hospital three times. Everything that happened was very unrealistic and our actions were guided by THE AUTHOR.

My friends all loved the zany adventure but I felt there was no plot. And truly there wasn't. So I decided to write a sequel and tone things down a bit. This time my girlfriend Jenni was upset with me and did what she could to humiliate me. Ultimately, I got my revenge but it was never revealed what it was. That led to the next two episodes.

Eventually, other characters were added, I had to cut some extra characters out, I renamed everyone so no one was truly based on any real actual people. That was about when I started to cut out almost all of the very first episode. Very little remained. So actually, my new version of Episode one is the one which is pretty much a new story. The character of Jenni has never had a name change but she went from being my girlfriend in episode one, to an ex-girlfriend. Vicki was a new character added.

And if you may have noticed if you read any of the chapters I published online, the whole concept of THE AUTHOR was abandoned, as was their ability to break the "Fourth Wall" as they occasionally did in the original story. I loved the concept of the characters breaking the fourth wall and interacting with the AUTHOR of the story, but I felt it added nothing to the story but stop the action for (mostly) arguments. It was one of my "darlings" I just had to kill. One scene in the original draft had Jeff and Kevin stop and visit a man who was selling story plots. As I said, it was crazy nuts.

So confused now? Yea, I know. Probably even more so.
Ultimately, I like how the story has evolved and I feel the more controlled story makes more sense and will be easier to understand to those who are not my friends, as there were a lot of "in jokes" in the first draft too.

Chrys Fey said...

In the hospital 3 times? Yikes!

I haven't read any of your stuff online. Is it on your blog? When I have time I'll have to check it out. It is interesting thinking of characters interacting with the author. Maybe you could do an all new different story (different characters even) with that concept.

It's always fun to see how a story evolves. :)

Jeffrey Scott said...

Yes, I've little by little started to post the story online. At the top of my blog there is a link for "Writers Block" That's the story.
The first entire episode is posted, the second episode is two chapters shy, but I'm trying to get them published online this weekend and next.
Then I will start working on Episode III.
If you get a chance to check it out, I'd love to hear what you think.

Chrys Fey said...

Okay, thanks, I'll have to check that out some time.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Cover Lust on Facebook has great affordable covers. Even better a lot of them are original photographs which means no one else can have that cover. Awesome sauce. Plus they look professional, no half ass poorly made or ugly covers.

Which brings me to my cover horror story. I have done covers for two upcoming novellas on Fiverr. The first time turned into a complete horror story because after giving the cover artist my idea I didn't really hear back from them. I sent messages and questions for updates but got nothing. Then I dropped off for a bit. Yet I came back just in time to beat the deadline for the order to be complete and non-refundable. Which is three days after completion. This lady had the nerve to slip in the cover during that time clearly hoping I would miss it. Chrys the cover was a horror story in and of itself in the worst way. I was doing a red riding hood retelling which is supposed to have a girl standing outside a cabin or a cabin in the woods. Instead I got some shack out of a bad horror story (I called it the pedo shack) with blood coming down as rain? Needless to say I cancelled this piece of foolishness and gave that artist a good verbal (but respectful) what for. I eventually got a much better cover artist and though I ended up shelving the book for the time being (Maybe 2020 might work), the cover is still nice for me to look at.

Chrys Fey said...

I haven't heard of Cover Lust. Thanks for the tip!

Yikes! Coming up with a Little Red Riding Hood cover should be easy. I hope you publish it soon because I'd love to read a book like that!