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Latin Band with Drums


Getting the brand back together

As a kid, the mystery of good cover design was lost on me; I'd just grab whichever one yelled 'pick me!' the loudest. Nowadays, I sometimes ponder on the 'why' behind the 'wow'. When it came to Ørma, I even took a stab at designing my own cover – it was a masterpiece of complexity, a stroke of genius, an absolute stunner. Sadly, it turned out to be a fandom of one.


Still, one of the gifts of being a self-published author is autonomy. I could stand by my beautiful artwork if I wanted to. Ego aside, I'm a great believer in constructive feedback and the truth was, when it came to a finished product, it didn't work. 

Stack of Books

Luckily, we can often learn more from what doesn't work than what does

My artwork hadn't factored in a title, it had no point of focus, and as a thumbnail, it looked washed out and insignificant. It was also all soft and lovely, Ørma isn't a soft and lovely book'. Ørma is strong. It needed a strong cover. 

One of the best pieces of advice I've heard is to gather a selection of jacket covers that you like and then pull out any main themes. So, what works for me? Honestly, it can anything. I like covers that make me think; I like covers that don't make me think. I like stunningly complex covers; I like covers so simple they're barely there at all. I like covers that scream their genre; I like covers that give nothing away. So, the million dollar question is: what did they have in common? 

A: when I looked at the cover, I was already reading the story

The jacket cover is the reader's first engagement with your story. It should encapsulate the genre and serve as the narrative's opening line. For a series, its design should carry seamlessly across all instalments. For a standalone, it's about threading common themes that resonate with your other works. Crafting your debut book cover is a tribute to your creation and a cornerstone of your authorial identity. Even the font choice is crucial. This is your signature style, take your time with it. 



Book Shop Shelf

The cover of a book as a critical part of an unspoken interaction between the author and the reader. The reality of consumerism means that we get maybe half a second to hook a potential sale. This is the general process: ​

1. Cover (or spine) grabs the attention of the reader
2. They pick the book up, turn it over and read the back
3. They read the opening line
4. They flick through and read more
5.  Hurrah. You got a sale! ​

At any point in this process the sale can be lost, and it doesn't matter how amazing your back blurb is, or how stunning your opening line is, or how downright gripping your story is, if no one picks the book up it may as well be written by a tribe of baboons. The cover of your book is your point of first contact. How does it tell the story? What does it say about you as a writer?  


Books are expensive things to produce. Publishing houses will have their own design department and as a new author you may not have much say in the final product. As a self-published author, it always comes down to cost. If you can afford to pay an indie artist, then you're not only getting a unique piece of art, you're supporting a fellow creative. For me, that's the ideal scenario. And as I can also testify, it doesn't always go that way. We do the best we can with what we have available to us. Be kind to each other. 

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