Not long ago, I decided I wanted to get a new cover for my book Betting on Hope. I discussed in this blog post that I wanted to have a print cover made, and I thought it was time to refresh the old cover, which had been designed in 2011. The cover on the left is what I had.
I hired a designer from the Fivrr site and paid the artist $42 to do a new cover. She did a good job with what I gave her, but I picked the wrong image and decided I wouldn’t switch. The cover below is what she gave me.
A few of our blog readers thought I should use the original image and just go with a new type treatment to spruce up the cover look. I didn’t have the image or the InDesign or PhotoShop file from the original designer, which is customary in the design world, and I couldn’t find the original image on the site from which it had been purchased. In a miracle of skill and organization, Michaeline and Jilly tracked down the image for me.
And then heartbreak ensued, because while the image was found, it cannot be purchased from that location. The site says that “most” of its images were migrated to two other sites for sale, but neither of them has it and won’t be acquiring it.
So with that possibility gone, I went back to the drawing board and purchased the photograph on the left, which I thought sufficiently conveyed the mood of my book.
Then I hired the same artist on Fivrr who’d designed the purple cover. I asked her to crop out the woman in the red top and to make sure that the man driving the convertible is also cropped out. The cover below is what she came up with.
Note that she used the first purple cover as a template for this cover. I’m not disappointed, exactly—for $25, I’d do exactly the same thing. But I would have liked to have seen a different look.
However, I like a lot of things about this cover. I picked a better photo this time: The color palette is right and there’s some juice in the image. The artist did a good job cropping out the people I didn’t need and screening back the less important visual elements. What’s important in the image is central on the cover, leaving a lot of breathing space for the type. I like the type treatment, and she does a reasonable job incorporating the cards on the left in such a way that they can be seen without overwhelming the space.
What is not as good, in my opinion: In a perfect world, the image would have had a couple front and center, rather than a prominent woman and the hand and a small bit of the head of a guy sticking out. Still, I think readers can tell there’s two people there and they might assume they’re a couple. What are imaginations for, otherwise?
In addition, I had the designer make my name bigger than it was on the purple cover, and it could be bigger still. The kerning on “Betting” is poor, making the word just a teensy bit hard to read. The photo on the cover is less vibrant than the original, because of the screening. The woman looks like she’s sitting on the ace of hearts, which is a little weird.
And I’m worried about the prominence of the “Las Vegas” sign. The location is important to the story, but the Las Vegas location isn’t the story. However, I looked at a million photos, and I didn’t see any others that I thought would be better. (But I thought that purple one was a good choice, so what do I know.)
I might ask a second designer for a treatment with this photo to see what I get, and then maybe run a survey on PickFu to see what “wins” with romance readers. But if I don’t get around to that, I think I’ll just go with this cover.
So what did I learn from this experience?
First and foremost: Buy your cover image yourself and send it to the designer, rather than have them suggest image banks at which they have a discount. It’s almost unbelievable that images would eventually become unavailable, but it does happen. If you own it, you can use it forever.
The next thing is about me and not cover design: I’m not that fussy about my covers. In part that’s because I’m not convinced that a cover sells the book. I think you need a professional-looking cover to get readers to pick it up, but after that, the back cover copy and the first page (or maybe a previous exposure to your work) do the selling. I just bought a paperback by a very well-known historical author, and the cover, in my opinion, is no better than meh and maybe not that good. But the book is selling gangbusters.
For me, if a cover ticks the boxes, that’s enough. Does it get the job done? That is, does it tell the reader what the genre is? Does it convey the right mood, and does the image reflect the content? Is the type clear and large? If so, I’m fine with it. I want to spend my time doing what’s fun for me—writing, not production and marketing. And budget is always a consideration: I want to spend some money this year on ads and I don’t want to blow my entire budget on covers.
What about you? And what do you think about this cover?