In getting ready to self-publish my novel, there comes the question of what to do about a cover for my book. Many writers I’ve talked to in the past have said that it’s better to hire someone else to do cover art for your novel, leaning on the idea that other people are trained in marketing and graphic design and that most writers have not taken the time to learn such things. However, with the rise in self-publishing options, there has also been a rise in available templates which people can use to make their own book covers. So the question becomes one of preference, costs, and time management; is it better to create your book cover yourself or to hire someone to do it for you?
Personally, I am creating my own book cover. Why? Because I am not afraid to admit that I have passed up numerous books because their cover designs did not catch my attention. They gave an impression of a predictable, genre-generic story. They had poorly rendered photoshop images. They blended into the masses of other covers around them. In short, the cover art quality did not sell me on the idea of the story contained within being anything special. Now, doing my own cover art and design does not guarantee other people will think my story is anything special when they see it, but at least I will be able to eliminate all of the things that I see as flaws on other book covers.
Another factor which I am taking into consideration for this particular book cover is the fact that my story does include some dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts. It’s been a long-standing problem that artists who don’t regularly work doing scientific illustrations often steal paleoart without permission or without giving credit to the original artists. This mainly stems from the fact that there are no reference photos for prehistoric animals outside of fossil specimens. There are certainly no stock photos for photoshopping images. I have no desire to pay one artist just to have them steal from another. In addition to this art-stealing issue, most general artists are not going to be keeping up with paleontological studies and current understandings of extinct animals, meaning that they’re more likely to reference outdated images and inaccurate pop-culture ideas for their own artwork. From what I know of my target audience, inaccurate cover art would most likely be off-putting to a significant percentage of them.
Not everyone will have concerns with art-stealing and scientific accuracy when thinking about options for their own book covers. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take into consideration how best to represent your story to your target audience. If you want to market to the broad readership of your story’s general or primary genre, then a more generic book cover might be better for you, one that follows the basic template common to most books similar to yours. But if you have a more niche audience in mind, then catching their attention specifically may take a more detailed approach. What visual clues will shout to them that your story is specifically for them? And will it be easier to design your own cover to make sure these clues are included, or can you effectively communicate the need for them to a hired artist? Whatever you choose, remember that the cover is often the first chance you get at catching a reader’s attention and drawing them into your story. Make the best first impression you can!