Home > Self Help, Writing > Cover Art for the Win

Cover Art for the Win

I read a lot, it’s a prerequisite for being a writer. Sadly these days most of my reading involves the business angle of writing rather than reading for pleasure and self-improvement. Okay, the business stuff could be argued as self-improvement, but that’s not the point.

The point is that I read somewhere a person has less than a second to make a first impression. When I consider my own actions when browsing / shopping I don’t doubt this at all. What do most people focus on? Images, 99% of the time. I’d like to think I’m part of that 1% (occasionally) when I tell myself to focus on scanning the text in a listing of items rather than the images associated with them – normally I do the image thing too. I even tease my wife about how she’s been known to pick out a movie – she looks at the cover and if it catches her eye she’ll rent / buy it without knowing a thing about it!

So after the first impression is made (visually), then the item has a few more seconds of potential interest to convert most people into digging deeper and wanting to know more / convert into a sale. I forget the exact time that was determined, but it’s not much. I can understand that as well – if I start to read a product description or blurb and I’m turned off or disinterested with the first few words / sentence then it’s time to click the ‘back’ button.

My own ongoing research shows that a great cover generates sales. A great blurb can help and sometimes even overcome an average or bad cover, but that accounts for the outliers on a statistical bell curve. Blurbs, unfortunately, are somewhat subjective. I may think I’ve written a three short paragraph masterpiece whereas a potential buyer may think my blurb was as interesting an algebraic math formula. That’s where honest friends come in handy, both those within the target market and outside it.

Now I bring this back around to my stuff in an open-faced marketing tactic. I just released New Beginnings (Vitalis series, book 1) at the beginning of September. My sales have been less than I expected – especially when I consider the cover art I personally created for it. I thought it was great…but admittedly the font for the title needed some work and the girl on the cover didn’t quite fit in.

So I shipped it off to a cover artist with an open question – could he make it better? He liked the elements and the idea, then asked for the raw images I had for it to see if he could blend it together better. Oh, he also pointed out my text sucked (he said it far more politically). Naturally I complied. He got back with me a little later and said that the images weren’t working, but he had some other ones he could use. Once again I gave him a thumbs up – I’m great at theory and direction, but not so good when it comes to execution of such things. That’s why I’m in management. 🙂

A few hours later an example image popped up in my inbox. My jaw dropped. My wife, who happened to be sitting beside me, said something to the effect of, “Wow, I really like that! Yours really sucks.” Again, I’m paraphrasing but less so than usual (I appreciate and expect the candid dialogue my wife gives me). The checks in the mail, so to speak, and hopefully by tomorrow I’ll have the full size finished image ready to replace the existing cover of Vitalis. When this happens I’ll be able to assemble another data point for my ongoing research into cover art.

At this point though let me caution my fellow writers – go the extra distance to create a good cover. If that means dropping some cash than you just need to figure out how much you’re willing to spend. Ideally a single days sales will recoup the investment, but let’s be honest – there aren’t that many of us able to bring in volume like that in a single day. I know a few, but I know a lot more of us who have to wait a month or so to offset the costs of cover art. As long as you’ve got a primary source of income, I say go for it. After all, the more sales and books you have out there, the more it should escalate and improve over time.

Writing isn’t something we do for fame and fortune, we do it because we enjoy it. If we happen to make enough money to live off of it then we win. We’re taught that winning isn’t everything, but how many of us stop wanting to win? So why deny yourself every opportunity and tool to do so by having a lousy cover?

The cover artist in question? Willsin Rowe. He also does covers for my friend J.E. Taylor and a fellow writer, Selena Kitt. Check out what Willsin’s working on at: Willsin’s World.

Categories: Self Help, Writing
  1. September 6, 2011 at 11:03

    I’m going through something similar with one of my books, Two Feet Off the Ground. Sales are less than stellar for this book, compared to my other two novels. I’m thinking it’s my cover art. I just sort of went with it… Reading your article was helpful, and has reignited the idea that I need to rethink my cover design. I’ll check out Willsin Rowe.

    thanks, Suzie Carr

    • September 6, 2011 at 11:47

      Worst part about designing our own stuff is the attachment we establish with it. Or at least that’s my issue. I know I need to distance myself from my creations at time to make sure I don’t view it from an unfairly biased perspective. Not saying I’d trade my children for ones that behave differently, but as a writer I know I have to balance my “art” with the bottom line if I want it to be something I can do exclusively some day.

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