Contrary to the popular advice, everyone DOES judge a book by its cover. Whether you’re browsing in a bookshop or library, or scrolling through the plethora of books available on Amazon’s website, or looking at recommendations on your Kindle, your first impression is the cover of the book. Often it will be the cover which will grab your attention and then you make your decision by picking the book up and examining it to see whether it is worthwhile spending your money on it. The actual decision isn’t based on the cover, but the initial interest often is.
Taking this into account, the development of a cover is a very important aspect of preparing a book for publication. Its is for some people the most difficult part because its visual, not text, and while most authors are comfortable with the written word, they aren’t nearly as comfortable with visual design.
The style of the cover is often determined to a large degree by the genre or type of book. A textbook will have a completely different style from a high fantasy tale for example. We have published a large number of autobiographies over the years, and designing a cover for them has been relatively straightforward. There are usually images that illustrate the subject of the book or their activities in some way . Selecting one or more of these images and combining them into a cover will send a clear message of who the subject of the book is as well as why their story is particularly interesting. If you see a photo of a soldier on the cover, you can be fairly certain that the book will include stories of soldiering, and you can immediately decide whether this is of interest to you or not.
Fiction is a lot more difficult. Especially fantasy, because there are no handy photos around that illustrate dragons and elves, dwarves and hobbits.
When we set out to design a cover for a fiction book, we will generally look for artwork that is available for use, either photography or paintings etc that we can arrange with the creator for permission to use as a part of a cover.
When I decided to publish my own fantasy novel War Brothers, I had to go through this process. I first created a “placeholder” cover that had a simple sword on it, then I updated that with a line-drawing of a predatory cat. Both are elements from the story, but the cover looked and felt unfinished and lacked the “feel” that I was looking for. I searched online for something else I could use and could find nothing.
Eventually, I decided to create my own. I used some 3D modeling software that allows you to craft a scene by selecting figures and beasts and posing them precisely the way you wish. After many iterations, I finally arrived at a result that I thought reflected the look and feel that was striving for as well as both current and future elements of the actual storyline. I have included images here for you to see the progression for yourselves.