The Mystery of an Awesome Cover

You never know who you married until you ask, “What book covers do you like?”

Joe and I have been together eighteen-ish years. We’ve also taken on this writing enterprise together (I do the writing. He’s the IT department). He’s read all my work (except for what’s currently underway), and he says he loves my stories (kinda has to say that). In our grand self-publishing efforts, we’ve come to one of many challenges - covers.

Covers are an exquisite mystery. The right one can make or break a book because the truth is - books ARE judged by covers. And rightly so. How many times have your eyes been pulled - no yanked - to a gorgeous cover? It happens to me all the time. The ones that capture me make me wonder what mysteries lie within those pages and I just have to find out!

So, when it came to my own books (Check them out!), we agreed that this wasn't going to be a DIY project. If you have money to spend, this is where to spend it! Unless you're a graphic designer, don't even think about doing your own cover - it's too important!

We researched online and hired a reputable company to create ours. One of the first things we had to figure out for them was what book covers we liked. Makes sense. If the artists expect to please us, then they have to know what does.

I love art and books, so I thought this part would be fun - much easier than writing succinct, exciting blurbs or coming up with a complicated plot twist. Joe was excited, too. So, we both set about compiling our covers. Then, we compared.


Didn’t turn out at all like I hoped. While I sought out books that I thought looked like mine (mistake), my husband went on a creepy kick and picked every cover that had blood, shadows, and weird Alice in Wonderland psychopaths. Sure, I’ve always known that he prefers the dark side, but really? Those may have been the covers he liked, but they were so far removed from my book that I didn’t see the point. I didn’t want to give the artists the idea that they should go for the creep-factor on my cover.

Course, I couldn’t be too disappointed in him when I hadn’t done a good job either. The task was to supply book covers I liked - not that matched my story. I hadn’t followed instructions. I’d overstepped the assignment and tried, in an indirect way, to micromanage the artists. They’re the artists, I had to remind myself. Let them figure it out. Don’t give them a sampling of books like mine that they could copy and paste together to get some kind of generic, hybrid cover. I gave myself an F and redid my homework.

What emerged was much better - truly a list of book covers that made me stop, wonder, buy. Joe and I talked about what we saw between our two lists that were similar. Simplicity. Covers that pose questions. Covers that create a mood. Once we understood why we liked what we liked, it was much easier to give good feedback to our artist. The results were awesome. Mystery solved!

So, here's the gist of my cover advice:

#1 Unless you're a professional, don't DYI your cover. Do your research. There are many affordable options out there (try looking up pre-made covers to be especially budget-friendly). We hired Damonza for ours because we liked the look of their books.

#2 Find covers that you like (not ones that are like your book) and reflect on why you like them. We learned that we liked covers that were simple, less is more.

#3 Don't micromanage your artist, if you can help it. Give them guidance without telling them exactly what to do (granted, this flexibility will depend on your artist).

#4 Go for the right MOOD rather than a SCENE. Covers should evoke a feeling and entice readers to wonder about the story, not necessarily lay out what happens - the story will do that.

Anything to add? Dare to share below.