By now you should all be aware that the re-release of my debut novel, The Exercise Of Vital Powers, was last week, Monday. You should also have noted the most readily apparent difference between the first and second editions of the book: the cover artwork. Once I had decided to move ahead with a revised second edition, I knew that the book’s outer appearance would be the most crucial factor in improving its fortunes over its predecessor―even more so than the editing. This post will give you a little insight into my thought processes when it came to the design of the new cover.
Before I finished drawing up a shortlist of designers to potentially hire for the task, the first thing I did when contemplating how I wanted the cover to look was to try and put myself inside the head of a reader who judges books by their cover. It was a futile effort, and I quickly abandoned it. The logic behind this mindset has always eluded me. I’ve never understood how or why so many readers make their book reading choices primarily (or even solely) on the basis of what’s on the outside of a book. I’ve lost count of the number of reviews I have read wherein the reviewer gives a poor rating and negative review to a book they admit they only picked up because they liked the cover.
While not judging books by the cover has served me well over the years (I wouldn’t have read most of my all-time favourite books if I did), I realise that I am in the minority in this respect. Acceptance of this observation helped to reinforce just how important it was to ensure that The Exercise Of Vital Powers had a cover that would instantly grab people’s attention, and spark an interest in reading the book irrespective of whether they have heard of it before.
By the time I eventually commissioned a book cover from Damonza.com (who were actually my second choice) I already had a rough idea of how I wanted the artwork to look; I just needed to be able to convey in words what I visualised in my head to the designers. Fortunately, the application process made it easier to do this by making me describe key elements of the story that I wanted depicted on the cover. And, better yet, the requirement to provide links to pre-existing book covers I like, that feature similar motifs, was really helpful. Coincidentally, of the handful of covers I highlighted, several of them had been designed by Damonza―one in particular was the catalyst for my cover idea.
Once the decision was made to splash the cash on new artwork designed by professionals, my biggest worry was ending up with a book cover that bears an uncanny resemblance to other books. I have noticed that many self-published and small press books, in particular, have covers that have been designed using stock images. As a result it’s not unusual to find multiple books sharing the same images. During the two week wait for the completion of the initial drafts of the two cover design candidates, I was really fretting about this possibility happening to me, but my worries proved to be unfounded.
Upon receipt of the two designs, not only would neither be mistaken for the artwork of someone else’s previously published book, I was also so impressed with both that I found it difficult to choose which one should be developed further as the final design. Eventually, I decided on an amalgamation of the two, taking the elements I liked most from each, and combining them to produce a newer design.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of characters from a book being depicted on the cover. But I knew it was more or less necessary to have my protagonist represented, front and centre, as my novel is very much a character-driven story. At a glance, people viewing the cover should get a feel for the main character, and know immediately that she is not (and never will be) a passive damsel in distress. She’s by no means a conventional female fantasy heroine and, frankly, a lot of people will dislike the book because they dislike her. I certainly expect her to be pilloried for conduct that would be excused for a male character. More insightful readers, however, will be able to look beneath those surface actions, realise she’s a more complicated individual than she appears, and understand why she is the way that she is, and forgive her.
Many book cover designers make a point of advising against trying to depict a specific scene from the story on the cover. While I did heed this advice, the front cover is definitely inspired by a pivotal scene towards the end of the book. Obviously, I won’t go into detail about that; you’ll have to read The Exercise Of Vital Powers to find out what I mean.
When all is said and done, I’m very glad I picked Damonza for the task of giving my book a much needed makeover. I think it goes without saying that the new cover is the principal reason why more people are giving my book the time of day. The design team did a fantastic job, and I would most certainly recommend them to any indie author seeking an eye-catching cover to get readers to notice their books.
Next time on lonelyboy1977: Changes in the frequency of my newsletter.
Thanks for reading,