A good book cover is like the smell of coffee, heady, seductive, intoxicating. So, now that I've moved to self-publishing, choosing my own book covers is probably the thing I love the most. It's not an easy process, though, so I'm going to share a little bit of what went on behind the cover of Jessamine (on the carousel to the right) and my tips on what I've learned so your own process can be a bit easier.
Several months before my publication date for Jessamine, I started looking around for book cover designers. First, I googled book cover artists and then I checked out the blogs of some self-published authors like J. A. Konrath who have posted links to their designers. Smashwords also provides a list of cover designers and their prices. After looking over the portfolio of one designer, I got in touch with them and asked if they'd be interested in coming up with something for Jessamine. She said 'yes' so I sent her the information. I told her Jessamine was set in the Caribbean, that one of the main women in it was a ghost, that most of it took place in a Great House, etc. and then I sat back and waited, all excited.
A few weeks later, she sent me the cover (it's in PDF and isn't allowing me to cut and paste so I can't show it to you). It was nice. It had a lovely gold tone and I liked the title font and how my name and the title were set off from the picture. Problem was the picture was basically of palm trees overlooking the roofs of a small town. I thought the palm trees were a bit cliched and, as scenic as the cover was, it didn't really reveal anything about what the book is about.
I went browsing through Dreamstime and other photo sites, found a picture of a wooden staircase and foyer I liked, sent her the link and asked her to try again. The staircase and the foyer definitely gave off the Great House vibe but when the cover came back, it was nice but, like something you might see in Architectural Digest - it didn't hint at the story inside. .
We parted ways amicably and I turned to another designer. I sent the new designer basically the same information but this time I spent more hours on the photo site, looking up ghosts and I sent her the links to those as well. Jessamine isn't a traditional ghost story, but there is a ghost and she is important and I wanted the cover to reflect that. The first cover she sent was the one I eventually went with but before that happened I had a thought - perhaps we could make a visual allusion to the flower Jessamine in the cover -
So the above is what the designer sent. Now I felt the cover was too busy and I went back to the original design which had what I thought were the important elements - the ghost and the old house. A few people have said they expected a scary ghost story given the cover (Caspar notwithstanding, it's hard to find a friendly, or at least not scary-looking ghost) and I may order a new cover at some point but, for right now, I'm happy.
What did I learn:-
1. Every single element cannot make it on the cover - keep it simple.
2. Browse Amazon for book covers you like and try to analyze what it is precisely that you like - the font, the images, the feel, etc.
3. Send your designer links to covers of books similar to yours which you like.
4. If you don't like a cover, don't be afraid to reject it.
5. There are a lot of cover designers out there - do your research, make sure they offer covers in the formats you need them in and that they do spine and back covers if you're planning to offer print editions.
6. Be clear about how many times you can go over the cover with the designer. Will your designer work with you until you're satisfied? Will they charge more if they have to do four drafts? Be clear on the parameters.
7. You can get good designs for anywhere from $50 to about $150. I don't see any need to pay more than that unless you just really want to.