A Cover Is Worth A Thousand Words

As I announced on Friday, I had a novella accepted for publication with Siren Bookstrand. Great news! However, when you have something new being published, there comes that inevitable form you have to fill out (which I’m filling out right now and as usual, biting my nails over):

The cover art request sheet.

If you haven’t been traditionally published, I’ll fill you in: MOST publishers give you some say in what you want your cover to look like. You will get a form, through which you get to explain your vision for the cover to the cover artist. This is both great and terrible. Great because, hey, you get a say. Terrible because, do you really know what you want your cover to look like? Have you really thought this through in detail? If you have, and you have a clear vision, good for you. For me, it’s some vague idea or ‘man, I just want it not to suck, okay?’ Also, how in the world do I express exactly what I want to see on the cover? Do they think I’m a writer or something?

Here’s some important tips and things to remember if you gotta fill out that sheet:

  • Your ideas are just that, ideas. You’re probably not going to get exactly what you want, especially if you’re too particular. The project is a collaboration between you and an artist (who hopefully knows a great deal more about cover art than you do) and your suggestions are merely suggestions.
  • The artist has almost probably not read your book, so you’re going to have to be explicit about what the characters look like and what the important themes of the story are.
  • If you absolutely hate the end result, most publishers and artists will work with you to tweak it. On one hand, publishers want you to be happy with the product and not hate the sight of it (they really do). On the other hand, there’s a clause in your contract that states the publisher has the final say on all cover art. The artists aren’t ruthless monsters though, they want you to like the work they do and they want to represent your work faithfully. I’ve only heard a few horror stories of authors who were absolutely repulsed by the covers they ended up with.
  • Check out the other covers your publisher produces. Find ones that are similar to the vision in your head and mention them on the cover art form. Like, “hey I really like the composition in this one, and the colors in this one…”
  • This is something I personally do: most cover art is made from stock photos. I go to stock photo sites and find pictures of people that resemble the characters I see in my head. Then I send links to the artist with notes like “this is what I envision this character to look like, sorta.” It may not be the same stock photo site they use, but it gives the artist an idea of the sort of photos to look for. Sometimes I make comparisons to celebrities as well.
  • Try not to be too terrified on that day when you get the email that has your cover proof attached and you’re going to see it for the first time. Take a deep breath and open that file. You did it!

There’s my tips. Have you ever had a cover you loved, or hated, or had a hard time (or an easy time) getting what you wanted out of it?

7 comments

  1. Hey, I didn’t know that you get a say in your cover art. I thought that was exclusively the publisher’s say. It’s nice to know 🙂

    I obsessed my cover artist over mine. I think I obsessed her probably too much…

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    1. Yep, you definitely have a say! It really depends on the publisher how much, though. And I can totally see obsessing your cover artist. If my publisher allowed it I’m sure I’d be doing that to mine!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you found it informative! Of course, every publisher has their own way of doing things. Some want a lot of input from you and some only want a few ideas. It comes down to the artist, too. The lovely Anna Spies sent me two very different versions of the cover for Her Darkest Secret and asked me which I liked better. There’s many factors involved.

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      1. I figured as much, but it’s nice to be “along for the ride” and know some of the basics, at least. (And to know that my assumptions about the process were actually right.) 🙂

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