My fantasy novel, The Shadow Watch, is now up for pre-order on Amazon. I have received my proofs, and I am wrapping up my final-final read of the book, IN PRINT. ARCs are sent off. The early reviews are trickling in on Goodreads. All this hard work for the past two years is nearly done.
And my stomach is full of butterflies, as I wait to see what happens with my first published novel.
But already I have reached some really cool milestones.
I saw my book in print for the first time – Holy Crap! I cannot tell you what an amazing experience this was. It has been my dream for so many years. As I read through the opening chapters, I was holding back tears (and I am not much of a crier). But there is nothing like holding your own book for the first time.
I got my first US sale AND my first international sale too – This was a pretty crazy feeling. I have been writing for years, wondering if anything would ever come of it. I posted the first draft on Wattpad originally. But the fact that someone (in Germany, no less) was willing to shell out hard-earned cash for something I wrote was a pretty cool experience.
I got my first review on Goodreads (um, and my novel is on freaking Goodreads!) – I built a Launch Team from my readership on Wattpad. I had heard many stories that few Wattpad followers turn into readers beyond Wattpad, as that readership is used to free books. So I decided to invite them to join me in a different (and still free) way. Reviews are huge for a first-time novel (or any novel for that matter), so I figured I would give the final version to those readers for free in hopes they would give me some of those initial reviews. And that has really paid off. Those readers were very eager to be involved in the launch, and many have already begun posting their reviews on Goodreads.
And I got my first Booktuber review – This was an unexpected one. A couple wonderful young women approached me (through Wattpad) to review the book, and it was absolutely incredible to hear someone fangirl over my book for like 20 MINUTES, talking about these characters that have become like family members to me. Very surreal! Be advised, if you have not read the book yet, there are spoilers after the first 4 or 5 minutes.
In three weeks, even more firsts will begin!
In the meantime, you can pre-order THE SHADOW WATCH here!
The cover is one of the biggest selling points for any book. It is the trailer, the advertisement. It is what draws in the reader. It tells them what genre the book is at a glance and, whether we like it or not, it indicates the caliber of book that lies within. That is why traditional publishers often shell out thousands of dollars for the cover artwork and design.
Which is daunting when you are heading down the Indie path.
Yes, there are rare exceptions. Hugh Howey’s original Wool cover was low-quality. Andy Weir’s The Martian cover was just a stock image of Mars. But those are anomalies that overcame their cover’s deficiencies because the books inside were incredible. Don’t bank on that. They got lucky, and they will tell you that.
If you are looking at the people who are making a decent living at this indie publishing thing, you will immediately notice that they are willing to shell out some cash for a solid cover.
If you have any money at all to put upfront towards your book, I would recommend throwing it at your cover before anything else.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to blow $1000+ on a book designer. Don’t just Google “book cover designers” and pick the first one that pops up. It is probably over-priced. If you have that kind of money and want to throw it at your book upfront, go for it. But it is not necessary to spend that much.
What I have found, after spending hours upon hours looking for my own artist, is that there are amazing covers available for about $200-300 or so, if you look in the right places, and are willing to take your time.
How to Find a Good Artist
Like I said, I would avoid simply Googling. Go somewhere where people are talking about cover art specifically for Indies, and even more specifically, your genre.
- Kboards is a great place to start. Cover designers advertise there, and you can get information from people in the forums who have already worked with these artists. Ask those authors about the experience, how much they paid, etc. Look at the covers that various artists created for those prices. Look at how well that book is selling on Amazon.
- DeviantArt is a great place to find great artists, some established, some who are trying to get their foot in the door of the business. Search for covers in your genre, and contact the artists to find out their pricing. You will likely find some amazing artists for a good price.
- Find top-selling Indie books on Amazon, and glance through their copywrite page at the front of the “Look-Inside” section. Most authors give credit to their artist there. Look up that artist and find out their pricing. That is how I found my artist. A guy I followed on Twitter released his book, and I absolutely loved the cover. I went to look for the artist, went to her website, looked her up on DeviantArt, emailed her, and ended up booking an original illustration for a low price for an entirely original cover (no stock photos).
Working with an Artist
Once you’ve found an artist for the price you are willing to pay, and their schedule is open for your timeframe, the real work begins. I put together a very thorough artist’s brief about what I wanted, and my illustrator was grateful that I was specific about what I wanted. This is your cover. Communicate what you want it to look like.
- Do yourself and the artist a favor, and do your research. Find comparable covers that match the tone or layout that you want for your own cover.
- Have a character you want depicted? Be sure to include a physical description of that character. Find models or photographs that match how you imagine they look. Consider things like stance, facial expression, clothing, skin tone, etc.
- Find images or illustrations that capture the setting in a comparable way, whether specific features or a general mood.
- Is there a scene you want depicted? Or a description that captures your character or setting well? Include that excerpt from your book. It may add some helpful context and even provide inspiration.
A Few Things the Artist Definitely Should Do for You
- They should give several stages for revisions once the design process has begun. Find someone who wants the end-product to be what you want.
- All payment should not occur until you are happy with the finished product. Generally, a good artist will ask you to pay about half upfront, and the other half once the cover is finished.
- The artist should have experience with your genre. Don’t hire an artist who specializes in Romance covers, if you are publishing a Space Opera, etc.
Best of luck as you search out your own cover artist. If you are willing to put in the work, and a little money, you can have a high-quality cover that will help you sell many copies of your book.