So it’s about time I got a shift-on with my books, and the place to start in terms of marketing, what with the books themselves being written and semi-edited – some written years ago, in fact – is with the covers.
Now, I have gone on quite a journey in terms of covers.
For a while I convinced myself that, seeing as my grand plan was to just get the book out there and get some reviews, I didn’t want to “over do it” by dressing them up as…you know, books.
Stupid, isn’t it?
I actually now realise that was my lack of self-confidence talking. Somewhere inside me was that evil voice saying, ‘What’s the point in dressing it up? It’s still crap. You can’t polish a turd, love.’
We’ve all got the Evil Voice inside us. Some are better at ignoring it than others, and I’m afraid I’ve always been particularly weak to it, even though I do truly believe in my work. It’s probably why it’s taken me so long to consider self-publishing to be an option for my hard-to-place works. Before, it just seemed like failure. I now see that a book being difficult to sell doesn’t make it bad.
Anyway, so there I was, convinced I had no right to pretty-up my work and spend money on it, so for some ridiculous reason, that converted to making some “simple” covers. Long story short, that was not working out. I’d made many attempts at making my own covers in Gimp,and they just looked like cut-and-paste collages, so I abandoned anything complicated. But even when I copied some “minimalist” covers that I loved, the best I could produce was some MS paint lookalikes that didn’t transfer well to the story at all. At all.
Problem was, I knew I needed good covers. I just had no budget at all, and the only “affordable” cover artists I’d found were, let’s say, uh…a bit shit. I wouldn’t ever name names – I can’t remember them anyway, because they were just Google results – and I know everybody has to start somewhere, but most of the pre-mades and even custom covers were overpriced for what wasn’t a very professional job. In fact most of them were down-right shoddy. Perhaps I wasn’t searching in the right places; perhaps I didn’t ask the right people. How these awful examples transferred to making my own awful covers, I’ll never know. Remember: Evil Voice.
So I was pretty down in the dumps about it all, until I stumbled upon Humble Nations. I was in love with the quality and style exhibited throughout this guy’s portfolio, and though he doesn’t appear to specifically make products for YA books, he does absolutely everything in between. His designs are such that you can think outside the box. There’s no “YA” tab, sure, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great YA covers. The pre-made designs – of which there are hundreds – are very much symbolic, in that they aren’t all completely “literal” covers, although for some genres that require that, there are covers to suit.
He was my wish-list cover artist before I realised he did pre-mades, and after that, I was stoked. Seriously, go check out the prices on pre-mades. Amazing, right? Considering what the shoddy people charge, you can get a pro on a budget. If, however, you do have a budget for custom covers, it’s still the best place to go, in my opinion. Judging by the details on his website, the custom process is quite intimate between him and the author, so you work together to build the perfect cover, with concepts and several mock-ups to choose from.
Well, it was the best place for me, anyway, and each to their own.
So, after adding my crappy “minimalist” covers to Goodreads, I waited. Turns out not a lot of people like to add books with crappy covers to their “to-read” lists, and in truth, I wouldn’t add mine with covers like that either. A friend of mine said it’s vital because, even if they’re “okay” covers and not necessarily bad, it just doesn’t ignite much faith into the author and their book if there’s no effort in the window dressing. She was so right. I’d convinced myself that it was okay to skip probably the most important aspect purely because I was afraid of making that step. Oh, and the budget, of course. Mustn’t forget that.
When people did start adding my books, however, I picked the two most popular – which, unsurprisingly, was the darker, grittier two books of the four I’ve listed; Honest and All Girls Cry – and chose them to get covers first. When I find covers that match my other two books on my perusing, then I’ll go ahead and update those. There’s no rush, though. They won’t be available for a while, but I’m working on it.
I’m actually toying with the idea of getting Honest ready to come out around Halloween, what with it being a dark story, but we’ll see.
Anyway, I am just so stoked about the covers. I love them. For the first time, I actually managed to find covers that I felt expressed not just the story but the tones of the stories; the atmosphere. That was really, really important to me. I didn’t want them to look like typical YA novels and I’m certain they look every bit as awesome and unique and above all, professional, as I’d hoped they’d be.
So without further ado – here they are! 😀
For me, I loved how the artist could take seemingly non-cover-pictures and make them work with the right font and the right style of genre/title in the pre-mades. For example, there’s a cover of a cheesy-looking guy with glowing white teeth and folded arms. You’d think that’d make a silly romance cover, or something – but the artist made it work by giving it the title “The Smug Shit”. Now it looks like a hilarious, anecdotal memoir or maybe a quirky business management book, or something like that. He just seems to have this insight into what photographs actually should convey, rather than what you’d initially expect them to convey.
The point is, for me, this graphic artist – and any great cover artist, I’d imagine – just communicated to me. I think that’s what I’d been missing before; that aspect of an artist’s work speaking to me. I guess to enjoy your own work, you need to be open to persuasion and allow yourself to be “spoken” to, or to receive that “Calling” to a particular graphic designer.
Oh, and it’s also important to remember that the Evil Voice is an idiot, and unhelpful, and that they can just go shove a sock in it.