I am in an odd position. Someone said something about my cover, in a negative way, claiming they said it as ‘tough love.’ As a ‘friend.’ It hurt – because I am very proud of that cover. To have someone suggest, literally, that ‘I still think you’re shooting yourself in the foot with that cover. I’m pretty sure that a mediocre but professional looking cover will outsell a far more evocative but still obviously home-made effort every time.’
For the record, I disagree.
I had to think about it. To figure out why the response was so visceral to something meant kindly.
Bad covers are UBIQUITOUS
I knew, when I created them, that my two placeholder covers were ‘bad.’ Definitely amateur. But I hadn’t yet done ANY studying about design or cover elements or what a cover telegraphs to a potential reader. I knew those were not going to be published, because I also knew I was going to spend the time to learn how to do covers properly.
As I have taught myself to write properly.
But the comment was about the actual cover I published, and for which I spent an entire summer studying graphics and design and covers, and reading books and blog posts. After accumulating at least a year of studying the CONCEPT of ‘cover’ and of looking over the sites of many ‘professional’ cover producers – not one of which I liked. There were plenty of covers in that sample – thousands that I looked at. I added new sites every time a blogger I respect suggested a cover designer.
I’m not even going to mention bad traditional covers; that is shooting guppies in a teacup.
CAN an indie learn cover design?
In the same way I found ONE photo of a woman out of the thousands that I looked at which would do. At ALL. Because of nuance I would never be able to explain (to anyone except a professional photographer I then wouldn’t be able to afford).
The cover I compared to every set of covers I could find on the books I believe are my ‘comps,’ the ones I want to sell with, and whose audience I believe will like my work. And compared to every set of covers I did NOT want (from too literary to too Romance to definitely genres like SF, fantasy, mysteries, and thrillers). Because if you signal ‘Romance’ to a reader, you had better be providing a proper Romance between the covers, or you’ve already lost the marketing war.
WHO’S ON FIRST?
More and more I’m believing that the choices in the indie world are UP TO THE AUTHOR. And they REPRESENT the author. That the whole thing, beginning to end, is an exercise in learning what choices to make, in making those choices, and in standing by those choices because you ARE the Author. The artist. The creative. The creator.
If you choose to use a commercial editor – with all that entails, from finding one to paying one to accepting the edits – it is your choice, it was hard enough to make, and no one has the right to second-guess you.
If you choose a cover, you yourself will decide exactly what you want, even if that means you want to abdicate the responsibility for the cover to someone else. Or you want to learn Pixelmator and do it all YOUR way. Or you want to paint an image from the book. Or you want pale blue letters on a black background, or yellow on green, or WHATEVER.
The COVER is part and parcel with the BOOK now.
I’m starting to believe that when the author gives someone else responsibility for or authority over a part of the production, whether or not money is involved, it is the author’s choice to do so, and the author’s right to revoke that when and if the AUTHOR decides that is necessary. And it is a precious gift.
Whether or not the results SELL is not the validation. It is how the author FEELS about whether the product represents the best the author can do (assuming that’s the goal) that validates.
Now, more than ever before, when you buy an author’s product, you are getting the PURE author, warts and all, artistic judgment and artistic sensibility and esthetic sense all rolled up into a big ball of product. The consumer may like or dislike it, occasionally even returning the product for a refund; the consumer may give the product a bad review – reviews are up to the consumer.
This product has always had the writer’s name right there front and center.
[Whether the writer was a pseudonym or a ghostwriter has never mattered to READERS. And few people even notice the publisher’s name or logo.]
But other people don’t have the right to judge the product – the book – per se. They only have the right to say, “I liked it.” Or, “I didn’t like it.” They will never have the right to say, “It’s wrong.”
How do you feel about the covers you see, if you’re a reader; or have on your own books if you’re a writer, too – whether or not you design them yourself?