Saturday, July 7, 2012

Covers are tough



I’m an indie author, which to the uninitiated basically means I have much fewer resources at my fingertips than legacy house authors do to put a book together. For an author, the process is relatively straightforward. First, write a good story. Second, kill your babies (edit). Third, send it off to your betas (test readers) for feedback. Fourth, take the inputs that work and redo it. There’s more to it, but you get the gist.

Here’s the deal, though. As an indie author, I’m also an indie publisher. So after I take off my author’s hat, I have to put on my marketer’s hat, my graphic designer’s hat, my formatter’s hat (to make the book work on various e-reader platforms and for print), and so on, and so on. Much of the formatting stuff really isn’t that difficult, but when it comes to the blurb on the back of a book that sells it to the reader and the actual cover of the book, things get tough…and quick.

Collectively, the blurb and cover are your two most important tools to attracting readers. These are the first two things a reader will see when perusing the shelves of a bookstore, or, as is the case with me, the book pages of Amazon, B & N, or Smashwords. [NOTE: I’ll be posting The Missionary Position to the latter two in the next week or so…after I finish a test and paper for grad school.] As such, it is important to get these just right. Fail to do a good job and you risk missing readers who might actually love the story within the book, but for whatever reason were turned off of giving it a chance because there was nothing in the blurb or cover that appealed to them.

Legacy publishing houses have *teams* of folks whose fulltime jobs it is to put blurbs and cover designs together for their authors. These guys are professionals, trained in graphic arts, marketing and advertising. They’ve read studies of what gets reading consumers’ attention, and bend to make the books their selling appeal to their target demographic.

The indie author has none of this. At best, we can only guess at what a potential reader would like. For me, I wrote a blurb and produced a cover that would appeal to me if I were the one searching for a good fun read. I think the target audience for TMP is probably someone who shares a similar inclination towards historical pulp-styled adventure fiction as I do. In that vein, I felt my cover had to reflect some of the old-school cover art from similar texts sold 'back in the day'.

That said, the cover was still only designed by THIS guy (two awkward thumbs pointing in my direction), a NON-graphic artist who grew up in the days when Atari was the standard bearer for graphics. That probably makes me a bit clumsy with what I can produce for covers, but all in all I think it came out okay. After all, at the end of the day my goal is really just to create a world for my readers that is not their own where they can sit back and temporarily shut down the worry centers in their brains; a place they can disappear into, even if only for a couple hours at a time.

I would like to have readers’ opinions, however, on the cover work as this might affect future iterations of the book and others down the line. Thanks.