Book covers are important.
They’re important to readers – human beings respond to beautiful things, or at least to visually interesting things.
They’re important to writers for exactly the same reason – we need you to respond to our covers so you’ll want to buy our books. Also, a cover that truly represents the content of my book is very useful to me. If I show you a girl on a horse, you know the story is a horsey one. When you start reading the story, you’ll be prepared to read about a girl and a horse. If you hate horses, hopefully you won’t read my books (although I did have someone leave a review of my book that started with “I hate horses” which led me to wonder why she bought a book with a big horse on the front cover).
I’m going to tell you a little bit about what goes into creating a cover for one of my books.
I’m using Objects in Mirror because it’s my first book, and has had the most covers.
Objects was originally traditionally published. You may not know this, but a) the author has very little input into the cover on a traditionally published book, and b) the cover designer very rarely reads the book before designing the cover.
Objects is set in a competitive hunter-jumper barn. This is the first cover I saw:
Cute horse. Nice jumping form. But definitely not hunter-jumper. Which I knew my readers would pick up on.
This is where things got delicate, because I knew, as the writer, I didn’t really get to approve or disapprove of the cover. I did, however, send a polite email to my publisher suggesting it would be better to source a different image. I sent them examples of the type of jumping the character in the book would do.
And this came back:
I wasn’t jumping out of my skin delighted, but it was fine. Overall I liked the cover, and I’d heard horror stories about authors who got horrible covers for their books, and hated even looking at their own books, so I considered myself lucky.
Fast forward a few years, and a few books. After publishing Objects, I decided to self-publish my books. This meant I got to create my own covers, and I ended up with covers I loved, as opposed to covers that just didn’t offend me.
After quite a bit of back-and-forth, I got the rights back to Objects and one of the first things I did was start work on a new cover.
This meant searching (and searching, and searching …) stock photo sites, putting in terms like “horse and mirror” and “horse and reflection” and “horse and girl in nature.” There were thousands of images, and none quite right. Some common problems included:
Riders not wearing helmets. I wear a helmet when I ride, and I feel some responsibility to endorse helmet use so it was frustrating but – I felt – necessary, to pass over some otherwise great shots where the rider wasn’t wearing a helmet.
Things not-quite-right. This ranged from the horse being the wrong colour, or breed, to something actually wrong, where you could tell the photographer / model didn’t know anything about horses – like they were leading the horse from the wrong side, or equipment was on wrong.
Occasionally disturbing pictures – horses in situations where I felt they couldn’t be happy. One series of photos depicted several undernourished horses. I reported these to the site.
I finally (finally!) found a series of images I really liked and sent them to my cover designer saying “Pick your favourite!” – I was done making decisions.
This is the one she chose:
The fun starts after the image is chosen, because it’s amazing to see how a picture can be transformed. That’s why I like to let my designer choose an image she likes – I figure what comes out of it will be really creative.
Here’s a collage of the first options she sent me:
Whoa! Talk about overwhelming. So many fonts, and filters, and placements to consider. I find, at this stage, I look really hard at each possibility, then I go away and ignore them for a while. I ask some trusted friends their opinion, and consider them carefully, and I also let my instincts work.
I finally narrowed it down to a couple of fonts, one filter, some rough placement ideas, and my designer sent me back these choices:
This step is easier, and harder. It should be easier because there are fewer differences, but it’s harder because I could probably choose any of them and be happy. Again, I asked other people, and again I tried to go with my gut.
It was a combination of the two that led me to choose this as the final cover:
I’m happy with the cover on two fronts: 1) to me it represents the feel and tone of the story, 2) It’s just nice to have a cover that’s “mine” – that I chose.
Do you have any favourite book covers? Or ones you can’t stand? Would a cover make you buy – or not buy – a book?
To buy Objects, or any of my books, please visit the Books (http://tudorrobins.ca/books/) section of my website.
Also, all the books in my Island Series are free on Kindle today. Yup – all four of them – Appaloosa Summer , Wednesday Riders , Join Up, and Faults . Click on each book’s link to find and download your copy.
by Tudor Robins