Cover Art

Sorry about missing my last blog entry, I had a particularly nasty bug and spent the last two weeks fighting it in valiant battle. Fortunately, it has been vanquished, so I’m back and in your computer again, delivering my bi-weekly advice!

This week’s installment is about cover art and its importance. While most of us have dreams of covers that rival Kristan Britain’s Green Rider. That said – most of us don’t have the deep pockets that Tor publishing has (much to our sorrow). Artists of that caliber usually expect about $1,000 for a cover of that detail (no joke). If not more. I wish I was joking.

There are plenty of other, cheaper options – one of which being a photomanip ( is a great resource for that), though you have to be careful of those. There are a lot of really, really bad photomanip covers. Particularly from small presses (I can’t account for that, Divertir does pretty good ones, I think).

Cover art is extremely important. While the saying is not to judge a book by its cover – we do. All of us do. The first thing most people do is look at the book cover, then they’ll read the back. If they like both, they’ll probably look at the first few pages. Then, based on those decisions, they’ll buy it or not.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s something that an author should think about when they’re pitching their book or working with a publisher. Many publishers don’t give authors a say in the cover (technically, according to contract, we don’t have to either), but I know Divertir does its best to make sure that the author is pleased with their cover.

Part of the reason that I bring this up is that cover art can take a long time and be very costly. For an upcoming work I’m actually painting the cover myself, which is a great deal of time and isn’t easy. (Yes, I’m an artist.) I’m not the best artist in the world, I’ll say that up front. But I’m pretty damn decent, too. And cover art… there’s a reason that artists charge a lot for it. It also takes a long time to do and I’ve run into trouble before where I spent a great deal of time on some cover art that the author, ultimately, rejected.

I bring this up not because it’s something I’m all upset about it. I’m actually more asking authors to try and have a clear vision of what they want in their mind. The better we know what you want, the less likely we are to waste our time (and yours) with cover designs that you won’t like. Keep in mind that our ultimate desire is to both have something marketable and something that the author (you!) really likes. If it’s something that you’re really excited about, then we’re happy. If you hate it… we’re not so happy.

It boils down to the fact that cover art is actually a very, very important marketing tool. Which brings me to the next comment: avoid nonexclusive covers. Phatpuppy, while a good artist, licenses covers (for a price that could buy you good, original art) in a nonexclusive way unless you pay an exorbitant fee. I’ve got nothing bad to say about the quality of their artwork, they’re very good at photomanips, but a nonexclusive cover means that someone else might have the same cover you do. Which is a problem when the art on the cover is something that can be iconic to your book (there are several book covers I’d recognize anywhere – and several pieces of art that I can recognize from a set cover).

All in all – covers are something that you, as an author, should think about. You might not be able to have a huge impact on what cover your book has (depending on the publisher and your agreement with them), but it’s something you should have in the back of your mind. Just also be aware that cover art isn’t cheap and that not all of us can afford Adele Sessler (check her out if you don’t know who she is – Even if we can’t, however, the more information and the more forthright you are with us regarding what you want as far as the composition of the cover (what characters do you want on the cover? Is there a specific scene? What sort of mood should it be?) the more likely you are to get something that’s at least in the ballpark.


4 thoughts on “Cover Art

  1. This is, I think, good advice. Most of my complete (if sadly yet unpublished) work is short stories, but it is going to come up when I finish one (and then all) of my longer works. It’ll be an interesting thing to think about.

    And cover art really can set the tone very well for a book. Some of the better ones I’ve seen for this purpose are American Gods, where it looks very bleak and threatening and vast which fits the “supernatural road trip” idea and one of the covers for Lindsey Davis’ Three Hands in the Fountain, which was downright creepy and fit a serial killer-thriller perfectly.

  2. Thanks for giving us non-artists a peek into the challenges of superb cover art. Adele’s work is breathtaking. I could only imagine what effort she and other cover artists invest in their work. 🙂

    1. Adele’s work is indeed fantastic and she’s a wonderfully sweet woman. But yes, her work is quite costly (understandably so, when you see her artwork!). Most artists invest a lot in their art and it’s understandable that they want to be compensated for it. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s