Sunday, December 14, 2014

Adventures in Self Publishing - Covers

I love book covers.  Up until around 1990.  You can share the love with these websites:

Too Much Horror Fiction

Pop Sensation

Women Running From Houses - Gothic art with a similar theme

Good Show Sir - a celebration of bad sci-fi art, but its still wonderful

Everything after around 1990?  I hate.  Hate, hate, hate.  Ebook covers?  Forget about it.  Worse than useless.  I've almost missed reading fantastic stuff because it had cover art someone's Mom wouldn't even magnet to the fridge.  There used to be websites for bad book covers, but that's become such a redundancy that they stop bothering.

At best, they are inoffensive.  Author, title, maybe a silhouette of something.  At worst, they look like clip art being beaten to death by fonts.  There are some decent artists, but even they just make decent graphic novel covers, which I think should be different than novels.

I am also the last person to ask about this, as my tastes are clearly different from other authors and readers.  I've seen semi-professional printing houses brag about the artwork they've commissioned, only for it too look like Lawnmower Man level computer graphics.

Read this instructive yet soul-destroyingly depressing blog post by our friend Lee Goldberg about updating his covers.  The original .357 Vigilante covers were great.  Not the best out there, but good covers, and ones that probably set the publisher back some coin.  Now look at the new covers.  Competently done, but I hate them, they aren't as good as the originals, they are bland, uninspired, look like a million other covers, and I know that they were done in around 15 minutes.  Thing is, when judged commercially, ie. how many books they sell, they are objectively better covers.  Readers liked them better and they sold more books.

If you can manage to figure out a little bit of Photoshop, GIMP, or the like, you can try your hand at doing it yourself, which I'll address another time.  I'm not the best person to address commissioning cover work, as I've never done it myself, but here's where you can start.

Do you want an original piece of art?  If not, you don't need an artist, just a graphics person, which is a different skill set.  There are a lot of places that will put together a cover at various levels of  cost and competency.  I don't know how they operate, but I can guess - they have a few dozen set ups of stock images and backgrounds, and they literally just change the cover text for your name and title.  Probably takes them all of thirty seconds once the basic design is sorted, which itself probably took two minutes.  I haven't used any myself and can't vouch for anyone, but you could start with fiverr and work your way up.

If you want some original art, there are a few routes to go.  If you find modern covers you like, find the cover artist and check out their website.  I did this with the Hard Case Crimes artists and it looks like they started at $3000, so that's as far as I got going that route.

Someone suggested that I look for someone on Deviant Art and contact them, but I didn't find anybody I liked.  Be warned that no matter what you search for, you'll end up with pictures of Transformers banging My Little Ponies or some such.

You can also look around for a professional or semi-professional artist, but they can run a good four figures.  If you're one of those internet social types you might be able to network your way into a cheaper deal, or find someone just starting out.  Honestly, you can find high school kids from third world countries who will probably do a fine job.  People throw together these stupid meme things for free and this doesn't take that much more work.

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