What Makes Good Cover Art?

What makes good cover art? Well, that depends a lot upon whom you ask. I’d advise against asking me: if there’s one thing I’ve learned as an Indie Publisher, it’s that I have absolutely no talent whatsoever when it comes to art. I’d show you some of the stuff I drew as a kid, only I don’t want to scare you.

So what’s a talentless, artless writer to do? Commission a cover, of course. I looked through a LOT of premade covers when I was ready to publish A Time-Traveller’s Best Friend, and was fortunate enough to come across one created by Margo Weissman that was exactly what I wanted.

Ain't it purty?

Ain’t it purty?

I wasn’t so lucky when it came to covers for my Two Monarchies Sequence. At the time, I had three books in the sequence almost ready to go: Masque, which was ready but for an edit, Wolfskin, which is in much the same boat now, and Spindle, which requires about 40 000 more words until it’s ready for revision. Oddly enough, I found the cover for Spindle first. Not even finished, and it was the only MS I could find anything suitable for. I found it on the flickr page of Joleene Naylor, a rejected custom cover that was perfect from the second I laid eyes on it. I don’t know why someone rejected it, but I can only thank their stupidity from the bottom of my heart, because it was exactly what I wanted without knowing what it was that I did want.

I mean, c'mmon- it's GORGEOUS

I mean, c’mmon- it’s GORGEOUS

After I had the cover for Spindle, I was on slightly firmer ground. Jo had agreed to do a few more covers for me (much to my relief) and it was now a matter of simply finding the right photos/artwork for her to work with. Simple, right?

Yeah, no. The hours I spent on Canstock/Istock/whatever, ladies and gentlemen. The flamin’ hours. Because, you see, if a shot has the perfect face or pose, you can guarantee that it won’t be a full body shot when you need a full body shot. Or the perfect shot will be there, within your grasp, when you learn that it will be ridiculously expensive to get your hot little hands on it. And so back to the drawing board.

And that’s all before you find out that certain covers will appeal to certain people, and that certain other covers won’t. In a word, marketability. Fortunately, I have friends. I say that both to boast (yerp, ladies and gentlemen, I am a writer who has friends) and to point out that without them to stop me when I wanted to use something that definitely didn’t fit my book, I would have ended up with some very bad covers.

So before I end up waffling for this entire post without ever making my point: what does make good cover art? I will leave you with the vastly erudite answer of It depends. It depends on what your book is about. It depends on who your readers are. In short, good cover art is a very difficult thing to attain, since what one person will love, another will absolutely hate. All I can say is, it helps to get other opinions. It helps even more if those people have read your book. There will be differences of opinion, but you can guarantee that there will be that one piece of artwork that will make them all go ‘Oooooh! That’s it!’ And that moment is worth all the work it took to get you there.

Shout out to Joleene Naylor, Margo Wiessman, and all the other awesome artists out there; because without you guys, we’d be lost.

And let me know what you think. What makes good cover art? What are some of your favourite covers?

4 thoughts on “What Makes Good Cover Art?

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