Hello #Aspiring Authors!
Today’s topic is one I get a TON of questions about–book covers. Many of you are curious about options, cost, thought process, design process, and (of course) the models. I will try to cover everything, but I ask you to remember that I answer only for me, based on my experience. Other authors might have different things to say.
First, I’ll say 5 Important Things about Covers, and then I will answer questions I received.
- It should fit your brand. Your font choice, color, and placement are things you can use to keep your branding consistent, in addition to cover photo. Take a look at the FRENCHED SERIES covers, which were designed by Tom Barnes around photos I supplied. He found the title font, which I loved. I thought it was fun, feminine, and somehow French-looking. My author name font is also fun and girlish, light and maybe a little vintage-looking. Note the colors–pink and white. All of that relates to my brand, which is flirty and dirty romance. Title and name color, font, and placement are consistent across the series. The photos, which were stock (more about that later) match the tone of the series (sexy, fun, humorous romance in female POV) and I loved the idea of the lingerie theme (I’m ignoring YANKED because it’s a bit of an outlier).
By the way, FORKED and FLOORED had different covers at first, but I changed them to be more consistent with the FRENCHED cover and sexier overall. Take a look:
Incidentally, the art deco author name font you see to the left was my original choice because it was on my very first covers (the historical SPEAK EASY SERIES) and I loved it. But we decided it felt TOO historical for a contemporary romance, and that’s when we changed to the script font. I kept it on the historical series.
Take a look at some covers by other authors you love. What do they tell you about that author’s brand? Great examples (IMHO of course) are Aleatha Romig, J. Daniels, Corinne Michaels, Laurelin Paige, Lauren Blakely, Claire Contreras.
2. It should fit the book. I chose women for the FRENCHED covers because all the books were female POV. I chose men for the HAPPY CRAZY LOVE SERIES because I wanted to differentiate it from the first. The HCL series was dual POV, and the hero’s journey was as important if not MORE important than the heroine’s. Each cover photo fits the tone of the book (note how light CRAZY is, which is the lightest book in the series), and I kept author name font/color consistent, although the placement changed. Incidentally, other than HAPPY, I chose the photos for these covers before writing the book and I’ve learned that I prefer it that way.
Fun fact! The model for LOVE (the gorgeous Franggy Yanez) is also the photographer for CRAZY!
NOTE: That is actually HAPPY’s third cover…it was rebranded when we did the CRAZY cover to better match–one of the beautiful things about being indie is the ability to change your cover at any time! I liked the original cover (which featured a stock photo that’s on a million other covers; I can’t even find my old one) but people who had read the book early felt it was the wrong choice, and I changed it before the book was even released. The second cover is below.
I liked this cover (photo is stock), but again, I didn’t feel it conveyed the right tone. Plus, I have decided I like faces on covers! I am done chopping off heads. When I saw the amazing photo of Brandyn Farrell in the Love N. Books gallery (more on that later) I ended up using on the CRAZY cover, I knew instantly that was the direction I wanted to go. My designer changed up the fonts (note the Frenched font on that cover to the left!) and I fell in love with the look. I chose a photo for HAPPY (Hollis Chambers is the model, photographer is Scott Hoover) and LOVE from Love N. Books as well.
NOTE: For the HCL series, I bought exclusive rights to those cover photos. That means you will never see them on other covers. More on that below!
3. It should catch the eye as a thumbnail. When readers are scrolling through Goodreads or shopping on iBooks or Amazon, they usually see your cover as a very small image. Increasingly, people are on their phones when they’re browsing, so you want to make sure your cover looks good and stands out when it’s small. If the image is taken from far away or has a lot of detail, the cover won’t grab readers and you lost your chance for a sale. Don’t be stubborn–think like a businessperson. Your cover is the FIRST chance to grab a new reader, especially if it’s your first book. How many times have you heard readers say they one-clicked for the cover? I heard it a million times when CRAZY released. Trust me–make sure it looks good small.
4. Do your research and pay attention to trends. What covers are selling in the genre you want to write? You write sports romances? Go look at the top 40 books on Amazon in that category. Romantic comedy? Erotic romance? Inspirational romance? New Adult? Amazon makes it easy for you to research this. Look around, take notes. What are readers clicking on? Is it man abs? Guys with tattoos? Couples? Girls in ball gowns? Objects? Take the trend and make it work for you. And guess what? You can always recover if a book isn’t selling. We do it ALL the time.
NOTE: sometimes going off-trend works too, especially if you have good advice. One of the reasons I think CRAZY stood out was because it was sort of different. It worked for me, but I was nervous about it (the photo was a lot of money for me, way more than I’d ever paid before)–I never would have gone for it if my publicist (Jenn Watson at Social Butterfly PR, who also designed the HCL covers) hadn’t said, “It’s perfect. Do it.”
ANOTHER NOTE: Trends change fast. While a hot male body will never go out of style, you don’t want to design your cover based on today’s trends if your book won’t release until next year (I speak from experience). That said, you can always recover!
5. Don’t be cheap. Good covers cost money. You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for a good photo, but you do need to invest in a good designer. And that’s what a good cover is–an investment. Unless you are a graphic designer yourself, please hire one. Check the cover credits in books that have covers you love. I also list some options for you below. Don’t be stubborn. When your designer and your trusted inner circle tell you your idea/photo choice is wrong for the book or for the current market, you should probably believe them. Don’t insist on things that people are telling you don’t work. This is a business, and your cover is an investment in your business. It’s the first chance you have to sell the book. Don’t blow it.
How do you pick cover models? Are they picked before or after you write the characters?
For the Frenched series, I picked the photos after. For the HCL series, I chose CRAZY and LOVE before and HAPPY after. From now on, I will choose before because I’ve learned that I like using the cover as inspiration.
What is the process of making a cover? Do you have a company that makes them for you? Do they offer you cover model options or do you recommend?
A cover designer usually asks for a photo from you and some input. Often they like to read the book blurb to get a sense of the book’s tone, and they should pay attention to your branding. There are a lot of options these days! A few great designers popular with indie authors are Hang Le, Sarah Hansen at Okay Creations, Najla Qamber, and Letitia Hasser at Romantic Book Affairs. Prices vary; check out their web sites for design costs.
Sometimes designers or even photographers will have ready-made cover templates to choose from (I know Najla does this), and I think it is a great way to keep costs down.
Some photographers also do cover design, and I list a couple of these below.
Can you enlighten us as to the typical cover costs/options?
Stock photography will be your least expensive option. Check out sites like Canstock, Shutterstock, iStock, Adobe Stock, or Getty Images. Prices range from free to hundreds of dollars. You will not own exclusive rights, but you’ll purchase a “license” to use the photo. Pros? It’s affordable, and there are great options. Cons? It’s a chore to search stock photos, and you might see the photos on lots of different covers, especially if it’s great.
Another option is to buy exclusive rights from a photographer or site that specializes in book cover photos like Love N. Books, which sells exclusive rights to HOT photos from a number of fabulous photographers. I used Love N. Books for the HCL series, and I was thrilled with it! Other options are Sara Eirew, who sells photos AND does cover design; Christopher John at CJC Photography, who has a stable of seriously hot guys; Perrywinkle Photography (Lauren is super popular with authors), and FuriousFotog. Prices vary, but it’s safe to say you will probably pay anywhere from $600-$1500 per photo, depending on the model or photographer. Pros? That pic is ALL YOURS. Cons? Can get pricey.
You can also do a custom shoot. Any of the above photographers will do custom shoots and have a gallery of models to choose from. This gets pricey because you have to pay for model time, photographer time, editing, and final photos. I don’t do them because I don’t have a good enough eye to know what I want (I tried once), but other authors love them. Prices will vary, so check the web sites.My guess is that you will pay anywhere from $500 to well over $1000 depending on the photographer and what the package offers. Pros? You can get exactly what you want, and all images are yours alone. Cons? Gets pricey, and you need to know what you want ahead of time.
You can also hunt around the internet for hot model pics, find one you love, and reach out to the model or photographer. That’s what I did for my latest cover, which will be revealed May 18th. A reader posted a pic of a model that I thought would be fantastic on a cover, so I reached out to him. He was very enthusiastic about the idea and put me in touch with both the photographer and his agency. This was a very pricey route to go, because I had to pay photographer fee, model fee, and agency fee. But in the end, it was worth it to me, because I knew it would make a fabulous cover, and I looked at it as an investment. Pros? Model shopping is delightfully fun, and you can buy exactly what you want. Cons? It can be very expensive, and you have to deal with three different people.
So there you are! Cover options for every budget. Hope this helps!
Now go write.