I’m a firm believer in having a good cover for your book. It’s one of the first things your readers will see, and readers do make an assessment about your book from the cover. They have to—it’s a major part of your publishing package, hinting at the style of writing, mood, type of characters, genre, and overall story. It can be “read” faster than your blurb or your first chapter, and in this busy world we live in, where there are lots of books fighting for our attention, readers would be a bit foolish not to use the cover to help make a quick decision.
This isn’t to say you have no chance of getting readers if you have a bad cover, but it does mean you should do everything in your power to get one that reflects your story and looks good, too. It’s one of the reasons why I was so excited when my long-time blogging and writing friend, Ryan Lanz, started offering premade covers that look great and are affordable at the same time.
His covers use stock images but put them together to tell a compelling story, hinting at what readers might find within while letting your title and author name still take their proper places of precedence. And premade covers can be a great way to get an initial cover that works well; sometimes, they can be just what you need anyways (if you can find the right combination of images on the front cover).
But sometimes, you want something more specific. Why?
You have a unique time period or world to showcase. If your story is set in contemporary times, it’s generally easier to find a stock cover that works, since there seem to be more stock images from “now.” (No surprise there, as we didn’t have digital cameras back in times past.) If your story is any time in the past, it can be harder to reflect that using a premade cover design.
You need specific images in the cover design. If your book is “The Lord of the Rings” and you want the Ring of Power on the cover, you might have to go custom, unless you happen across a premade cover that a designer created with a ring on the cover—that doesn’t look like a wedding story, of course.
You are opinionated. If you’re an author like me, who has had just enough visual arts training to be “dangerous,” you might have strong opinions about things like font, color, overally layout, positioning, etc., to where a premade cover just won’t cut it.
Recently, I had the opportunity to use Ryan Lanz’s custom service—where, instead of just buying one of his premade covers, I got to work with him on a custom design. And I have to say, at first, I was skeptical if we could make anything I’d like, despite his being a good friend of mine. As noted above, I’m hard to please, and I wasn’t sure if Ryan’s new foray into cover designs would be able to “pull off” something I liked. (Especially since I tend to be the type to know what I like only once I’ve seen it.)
But I wanted a new cover for my retelling of Sleeping Beauty, so I sent him all the pertinent information and waited to see what he came up with. In a few days, he sent back a few cover concepts, and one jumped out at me.
It was far from perfect, of course, but I liked the castle, as that immediately set the time period and hints at the political scheming that goes on in the book. I also liked the spindle, but the princess worried me. For one, she clearly had mascara and her lack of visible garments suggested a very different tale—either a modern maiden in a medieval setting and strapless gown or something far more romantic/risque.
The mood also worried me. It looked far too sunny and romantic for a story that features action, adventure, and an assassination plot (albeit one where it’s still likely everything will turn out all right…I didn’t exactly write a thriller, here). I liked the look of the image, overall, but when I compared it to the story itself, I felt it wasn’t a good fit.
Finally, there was the font. Call me nitpicky, but I didn’t like the “N” in the title. It looked like something from Chinese architecture rather than an uppercase “N.”
So Ryan and I went back and forth, trying a few different things and addressing my many concerns, and here is what he came up with.
I love the fact that he went in and took the mascara out, pixel by pixel, and I was amazed that he actually dressed the princess—I thought for sure we were going to have to scrap her entirely. He shifted her to a less-dominant spot, reflecting how the story isn’t “all about her” but concerns itself with many other characters, too, and he brought the spindle into center stage, which fits the narrative focus perfectly.
He changed the “N,” added shadows, and created a mood that is far less “chipper” overall. In the end, I have a cover design I’m completely happy with, where ever feature reflects my tastes, preferences, and story.
And that, right there, is why getting a custom cover is worth it. 🙂
Note: Ryan can also make his cover designs “print-ready” by making the spine and back cover. I didn’t opt for that, at this point, as I’m not sure whether this story will actually “go to print” or just remain an ebook, but it’s great to know I can add that on later if I want. In fact, I’m seriously thinking about expanding my short story now into a full-length novel—the cover is just so inspriring!