Although for some this might seem obvious, I found that many friends and colleagues that I shared the entire design process with were shocked to see the draft concept designs that lead to the finished design. There was definitely a disconnect somewhere along the way, which is why I thought this series of blog posts discussing the entire process would be helpful for writers designing their cover art.
The most important first step in beginning this process is to know what you want your design to be. There is no way for you to communicate your own idea if you do not have a solid concept of what you want designed. Without a solid idea you’re just going to cause confusion between you and the artist you have chosen to create your design.
The next important step is finding an artist that you know currently creates digital designs of the style that you want to have depicting your books cover. Not every artist is going to have a compatible art style. If you’re looking for anime characters, find an artist who has good examples of their current works. Make sure they are of the quality you want for your cover. Don’t be upset if you go to an anime designer and they can’t do the picture perfect realistic movie shot that you want. I had several friends and family members point me to artists they thought did great work, but up seeing examples of their art work I realized they didn’t fit the level of detail and style that I wanted. So, knowing the style you want for book cover work is extremely important to the successful completion of the entire project.
Another important addition to this step is making sure that you have a solid idea of the current cover designs out there that popular artists in your category are using. You need to know the market of your own genre. As a reader, you know what attracts your eye to a book. Use this critical eye in your own design. You want to make sure your finished product looks professional and will stand out in the sea of book covers.
As an indie writer, there are many areas that we are behind the curve ball, so to speak, when going up against professional writers with the support of a traditional book publisher, but this is one of the few areas we can possible excel over the traditional publisher. Authors working through traditional publishers do not have control over their full design process for their cover art. Instead, some executive in an office gets a brief summary of the story and has one of their people do three quick design concepts and sends it to the author for them to choose which they want to go with. We as indie writers have the ability to actually design our own cover to represent what we think best fits our story.
Unfortunately many indie writers do not use this opening to the best of their ability. It’s understandable. In a way, indie writers are betting against themselves, putting money into a project that they’ve already spent a year or two working on with no promise of getting compensation or guarantee that they will make their money back on their investment. That’s not saying that many of us do not do this for the love of writing, but there is a financial consideration to consider.
Although I cannot post original image I was using as a concept idea for my own cover, I will try to find the artwork on Diviantart.com and post it in the next blog post. Now remember, this first image is just the concept that will be used for the finished design. It's supposed to look crappy like this.