Covers from a newb perspective – Part 1

Before a few years ago, I never really thought about book covers. There were the ones I loved, the ones I liked, and the ones I assumed were bought with spare-change from a suspicious-looking guy in a back-alley.

The COVER THAT CHANGED IT ALL (or at least the first one that made me go WTF?) was the brilliantly bizzare and pervasively iconic cover of “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyers. Even if you’ve never read the book, you’ve had that image shoved down your throat a thousand times – at the peak of the book’s popularity it might have even been a thousand times a day. So I’m not going to post it here, or even link it. Don’t pretend you don’t know what what I’m talking about, because I know for a fact that hermit caves don’t get wi-fi.

Coming from speculative fiction, where all the covers were expected to be the product of painstaking artistic effort with tiny brushes and the remote possibility of actually having read the book, a photo of two pale hands holding an apple against a black background was full of “huh?” (SEE? YOU HAVE SEEN IT! HA!)  First of all (or is the new term “firstable“?), it was something that could have been whipped up in Photoshop  in half an hour. Maybe I’d missed the boat and this was a “thing” before this book, but that seemed lackluster to me. Second of all,  like most people, I was drawn to read the book out of curiosity, then regretted it immediately afterwards. AND THERE WERE NO APPLES! The story-line wasn’t even a Snow White metaphor or anything. I still to this day have no idea why the cover works.

But it does.

Visually it’s simple and yet attractive. The book is offering the potential reader an un-bitten, unblemished apple, like a bribe to even open the book. And for millions and millions of readers, it succeeded.

Now Photoshopped, simplistic or recycled-art (aka creative commons paintings) covers are the industry standard. They have brought the cost of covers down to the realm of being affordable even to the most cash-strapped yet big-dreaming indy author.

I know two ladies, Kat Mellon and Gabrielle Prendergast, who make incredible covers from “very reasonable” to “WHAT? You’re kidding! That’s all??” prices. And like many professional cover artists who do mostly Photoshop covers, they have discount pre-made cover sections, which are like freaking candy-stores for the impoverished writer.

So, while I still drool over the Jody A. Lee covers, I’m no longer shocked by the alternative. Because it seems that artists will be artists, whether in paint or pixel.

In the second part of this series, I will talk more specifically about what I still want a cover to do, to make it work. In the third part I will talk about my own attempts to make covers, and post some resources for people interested in creating their own amateur covers for things like NaNoWriMo drafts and Wattpad.

So until then!

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5 thoughts on “Covers from a newb perspective – Part 1

  1. I honestly don’t get the Twilight cover nor do I find it that interesting. It hasn’t ever made me want to pick the book up even before I heard about how terribly it was written. However, I do agree that there are more options and variety to be found for covers, and writers seeking cover artists, out there. Those two gals you listed are talented and reasonably priced. I’ve heard of people paying exorbitant prices for book covers that weren’t half as good as those ones offered. All I could do was shake my head at the highway robbery that went on cause there’s no way I’d pay $500 each for the covers I saw when I have seen far better on the sites of the two cover artists you listed at far more affordable prices.

    I look forward to your other parts. I’ve been struggling with the overwhelming urge to make a cover at least for my current NaNo story so I can get the site badge, but I’ve been having difficulty finding good sources for public domain images. It has been discouraging.

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  2. Thanks for your interest! Unfortunately I was planning on posting blog posts on this topic every Saturday, which means part 3 won’t be published until Dec. 6th. So here’s what I’ve done. Now on the right side of the page below “Recent Comments”, there is a list of Stockphoto and Cover help links. Most of those are for free or cheap stockphotos, or how to connect with artists who might be able to help with custom art. I will be posting a TON of photos of my own to my flickr feed (link below the twitter widget), for people to sort through, but I’m a little behind on that. I do know from personal experience that there actually isn’t a badge for posting cover art on NaNoWriMo, but it does bring some inspiration. If you’re looking for a free photoshop program, I used GIMP (http://www.gimp.org/) which has a certain learning curve, but there are youtube tutorials and the basics are really all most people need for an amateur cover. Good luck, and I look forward to seeing what you create!

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    1. Oh wow. . . Thank you SO much. This is the kindest thing! These will be incredibly helpful. I have Photoshop on my computer as far as programs. I just haven’t ever tried to make a book cover. And OH there isn’t a cover badge on the NaNo site. I thought there was one, but I must’ve been misreading it. Guess that’s a further sign I’m losing my sanity? Haha thank you though for the help. I do intend to try to make a for fun cover at some point even if it’s after November. The inspiration will be invaluable. I also want to try casting my characters cause I hear that can be great fun as well. 🙂

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