Face First

Making a Cover

It’s good to start the cover process early. I learned this when making Ceres.

It was no fault of my artist’s. He delivered exactly what I wanted. I just got him to start way later than I should’ve. Ceres was edited and formatted, and the release was delayed because the cover wasn’t done.

If you’re a writer, keep this in mind. Have a vision for the face of your book and get it started near the beginning. It’s the most important part of the thing. Why? Because it determines whether someone even stops to read the synopsis on the back.

The reality is: there are thousands upon thousands of books–especially in the self-published market. Yours needs a nice face of makeup and maybe a good plastic surgeon; it has to look better than everyone else’s.

Outsourcing Art

My book for 2023 is called In River Cardinal–a psychological horror/thriller novel that draws from an eclectic mix of television, books, and video games for its twisty and complex storyline.

So my cover needs to reflect the tone of the story without actually speaking or explaining in words. Obviously. My chosen artist for this project is a mysterious individual from Korea. I don’t know the gender, the name, or what they look like. They just call themselves The Fall. Maybe it’s multiple people. Who knows?

Either way, who cares? They’re damn good.

This is the initial sketch I received. I wanted to showcase both Dewey Becker and Roxanne Robbins–the protagonist and deuteragonist–similarly to my Ceres cover, done by Ilya Kapitelman. I have a habit of writing two leads. It always gives me a headache when I have to represent both later on.

Book covers are a funny thing for writers. There are a couple different types. The cheapest is typically a stock image or even the rejected cover from a totally different book that has nothing to do with the one its being slapped on. Publishers do this all the time. It’s cheaper if they can choose from their backlog of random generic images–one of the many reasons I prefer to self-publish.

Up from that is a cobbled-together cover made using stitched stock elements. It can look good if done by someone that knows what they’re doing, but it’ll never feature a custom image of your main character, for example, or a setting or scene from your story.

The best–and most expensive–option is a custom cover. This is either a photoshoot cover, or a painted/illustrated cover. I’ll only ever go for this option, despite what it can usually cost. No other book on the market will have the face of mine, and I can design it however I like in conjunction with the styling of the artist.

If you pay for nothing else, pay for a cover. Don’t make it yourself.

I generally visit Artstation.com and browse through the thousands of artists willing to work freelance gigs. Some charge exorbitant amounts, so I try to avoid those–others won’t accept the job. Eventually, you’ll come across one willing to bargain a little.

I’m excited to see how this cover will come out. Having it early is not only smart for release scheduling, but it can inform the mental image you see while writing. It might even bring you out of a motivation slump.

I have a laugh at some covers I see in the store. You know the ones I mean. Don’t make one of those. A book is a piece of art that will outlast you.

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