Custom Covers: Design Ideas & Expectations

So you’re about to schedule a custom cover with me and you have a thousand ideas in your head. How do you get them all out? Better yet, how do you focus on one and share it with me in exact detail, exactly how you see it so I can create it as it exists in all its idyllic glory in your mind?
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First, take a deep breath.
Second, we don’t want to start your cover this way. I promise, we really don’t. Because what we really want is to create a cover together that will sell your book.

What? You say, But my idea is a scene exactly from my book and it captures absolutely everything: character, scenery, romance/action/adventure… 

And then I hold up my hand and say, Wait, let’s.

But you’re just so excited and you were still talking. But it’s my story and I know every detail of it and this idea is perfect. 

So I nod and smile at you and let you finish (because I shouldn’t have interrupted, that’s rude). Then when you’ve told me everything and I’ve taken detailed notes, I hesitate. Because I want you to have the exact cover you want and to be so proud and excited about your cover that you can’t contain it and want to post it all over the internet (and maybe on your fridge at home). 

But. I also want your cover to capture your reader with a single glance. I want your audience to click on the cover and then purchase it. I want your cover to SELL your book.

And the best way to sell your book isn’t with a complicated image exactly from the novel, with all of the details perfect. The best way to sell your book is more (and less) than that.

Simple. We need the cover to be eye-catching. This means simple, especially at thumbnail sizes. Believe me, all of those amazing details can actually start to add clutter.
Your model always wears this exact necklace, you say? And it’s only just a little detail on the cover, so no one will even notice until after they’ve read the book and then they’ll be so pleased and surprised to find it “hidden” there in the design. Except they really will notice it and if it draws their eye away from a key feature, it’s not helping your cover, it’s hurting it.

Legibility. We all know about thumbnails. I’ve already mentioned them (right there, in the paragraph above). But here’s the funny thing about thumbnails: if I can read every piece of text on your cover at thumbnail size, there’s no room for anything else on the cover. And on the other hand, if I can’t read any of the text at thumbnail size, then that doesn’t sell the book, either. So, we want to be absolutely sure that some of the text (title) is legible at thumbnail size. But it’s okay if the reader has to click on your cover to read some of the other details (tagline, series, maybe even author name).
Also, color has a lot to do with the legibility of the text. Not just size. If the stock that we’re working with is very bright and colorful, we’re probably going to want to use white or black  text for the title. On the other hand, if you want a colorful title, we’ll want to tone-down the other colors because we need contrast so that your title can jump out of it’s thumbnail, and say ‘click me! click me!’

Genre. There are little visual cues that indicate genre (no, I don’t have a master list or anything awesome like that). So if you’re writing a sweet romance about first love, this influences every choice we make: font, stock, over-all tones and colors, etc. We definitely want your cover to be original, but we also want to make sure that the genre is clear with a glance.

So, if you’ve put hours of thought into exactly what you want on your cover, including little sketches on napkins, please take a deep breath and relax for a minute. I want your input and to hear your ideas, I do. But I also want you to rest assured that I’ve been designing covers for years (and worked in the print/design industry before I started this book-cover-thing). My goal is always to make a cover that you are proud of and that will help your book sell and sometimes that means NOT using your awesome napkin sketches (seriously, I peeked over your shoulder, they’re awesome, they’re just not right for a book cover… maybe post them on your blog as a fun “behind the scenes” post, what do you think?).

Now, go fill out the Custom Cover form so we can get started!