5 Mistakes Series

Cover Art – Every Picture Tells a Story

mistakes 1

The 5 Mistakes I Made with my First Novel (Part 4 of 5)

I knew from the start that I wanted a great cover for my book. I even had the idea penciled in my less than artistic hand. The old saying “Don’t judge a book by a cover” may be true, but it doesn’t mean the same thing when you’re talking about attracting a reader’s attention. A book cover can make or break your opportunity to get a reader’s interest. We can pretend we don’t live in an aesthetic driven world, but until they stop using models to sell perfume, cars and hamburgers I won’t believe it.

Cover art needs to be unique but familiar. Genres require certain “looks” that fit into the reader’s expectations. The cover depiction can be specific to your story or it can be a vague representation. What matters is that it fits the general expectations of the genre. The romance novelists and people at Harlequin have understood this for years.  Even if nothing on your cover is a depiction of the actual content you’re in a good place if you’ve matched your genre. Think of your cover as a marketing campaign. Marketing is about the “sizzle not the steak.” A great example are those detective magazines from the 30’s through 60’s. They always followed a successful formula – half-naked damsels in distress and enticing scenes of potential naughtiness that never actually appeared in any of the stories. Or think about the original cover to Stephen King’s The Stand – Not certain who the two creatures having a sword fight were – but they weren’t in theSpicy_Detective_Stories_February_1935 story. Doesn’t matter, readers don’t expect the cover scene to be in the book – anymore than you expect to have dinner with Kate Upton at Carl’s Junior.

I’m a marketing professional and yet I forgot my own advice when I first published You and Me against the World. My cover artist Jessie is a skilled and talented professional – if you’ve ever purchased or seen one of those “Fat Head” wall posters there is a good chance Jessie was involved in the design. So the “mistakes” were not hers, they were mine. You see Jessie isn’t a zombie or a horror fan. She did book one mostly as a favor for me and worked on a tight deadline with little direction. In book two, with better direction, a better time line – and oh yeah, real compensation – she did a great job delivering what my zombie series needed – A genre appropriate cover.

I should point out that I love my first cover for book one. It has special meaning because at the time I was just enjoying the book process. I wasn’t thinking about book sales, marketing or most of the other important things an Indie author needs to consider. My wife loved it too. She believed that “a less than zombie-like book cover would attract a larger audience.” She was not completely incorrect – I have some fans who are in their 70’s and 80’s who might not have picked up the book if the cover was too graphic. But true or not – it was a mistake.

My reader and my market are those who love horror and those who love the sub-genre of apocalyptic zombie-infected-dystopia-survival horror. Okay I may have grouped a few together there, but you get the point. It was and is an absolute mistake if your cover misses your target audience. There is no point in shooting for the masses without first attracting your core readership. My original cover just didn’t have the detail to grab the zombie-fan attention. It was easy to miss THUMBNAIL_IMAGEon Amazon. A few reviewers included their cover art concerns in their reviews. There just wasn’t enough there to make you sit up and notice. Maybe I just got caught up in seeing my name and title on the book. Interestingly it wasn’t a mistake I made with the erotica I published under a pen name. You can bet I choose the correct graphics for those naughty little tales – and it’s also not a surprise that my erotica outsells the stuff I’m willing to put my real name on. So it’s either the cover art, or people are just more depraved than I believe LOL.

Of course there is almost no problem in life that more money can’t correct. So I decided on a fresh start. I found an excellent illustrator who works in my genre. Ricky is a genius with amazing talent. You will be floored at the quality he delivers at the price he delivers it. In the coming weeks, although I hate to share my secret, I’ll be posting an interview with Ricky along with links to his work.

When considering your own existing or upcoming cover art, here are a few suggestions:

1. Know your genre and make your cover fit

2. Review books on similar plots and see what they used

3. Decide on an whether to use an illustrator or just digital artwork

4. Keep it familiar to the genre but find something unique in the artwork

5. Make sure it looks good as an eBook or Printed book cover

CREEPERS ebook copy

So I finally followed my own advice the third time out with my cover – yeah I’m a slow learner, but you don’t have to be. I think this cover will get more attention and at least get potential readers to consider the story inside. I’ll let you know, especially since I was able to correct my last mistake which was…

5th Segment: Price Matters

If you missed the rest of my series Five Mistakes I Made with My First Novel – Start Here

Also check out my other series Right That Novel

1 reply »

  1. When I created the cover for The Quiet Game, I worked from a Photoshopped pic I took one cold winter night. I wanted the cover to based on the titular short story, and I wanted it to be an iconic scene, namely the writing in the sky. Made a damn good cover.
    With Reborn City, I wanted to focus on the Hydra symbol, and although not exactly what I wanted, the photo was good and the design was damn awesome.
    I already know what I’m going to do with Snake when I want to do the cover: it’s going to be based on Lilith by John Collier. Goes with the story in so many ways. I just hope there’s some way to censor the artwork.

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