In my last blog, I had a bit of a ramble about covers and what I think makes good ones.
So how did I apply all that to my novel?
I found my cover through 99 Designs, but this process will apply if you use a specific designer (as I intend to in the future).
I thought about what I wanted my cover to say about my story. I knew that I wanted it to go with my title (The Edge of the Woods… fairly specific), but more than that I wanted it to evoke the feel of my book. Emma, my protagonist, lives in a village surrounded on all sides by thick woods, and has grown up hearing myths about the dangers of wandering into them. Although the majority of my book takes place in the village, the simultaneous call and threat of the woods are constantly there. So it made sense that the look and feel of the woods should be evoked on my cover. I also thought about colours. Blues are very popular in YA, and can evoke a sense mystery and magic, so I asked for blues with pops of gold in the form of fireflies, which are a frequently used symbol in the novel.
I received several mock ups of the cover featuring woods, but most felt too safe. They were pleasant woods, daytime woods, woods you wouldn’t think twice about going into. Or they were flat out horror movie woods – woods you wouldn’t need to hear stories about to want to stay clear of them. Only three designers really nailed the beautiful-but-deadly tone I wanted to to convey. (I’d like to show you the designs, but as I only own the winning one I won’t).
I went back and forward on including Emma in the cover. My own preferences said no, but I didn’t want to rule out a very popular marketing trend out of prejudice. So I included an optional Emma in my brief with a description (which I made up for the brief, as Emma is only described as being tall in the book) and waited to see what came in. Most were pretty, bland stock models staring bored into the middle-distance. But again, three (and not quite the same ones) designers used her in an interesting way that I felt added rather than detracted to the cover.
So I ended up with four finalists. Three featured Emma. Three featured the woods. Two featured fireflies. All conveyed the tone I wanted.
So then it came to genre (fantasy) and target audience (young adults, primarily girls). And here I enlisted a test audience.
One cover was immediately put out of the running because it skewed quite young. It appealed to boys more than the other covers, but looked like children’s fiction. And while my book is appropriate for children to read, I didn’t want to turn young adults and older readers off. Another looked great and appealed to young women, but my test audience interpreted it as a historical drama rather than a fantasy.
So I was left with two covers I loved: one showed the woods and Emma, the other only focused on the woods. Both gave the tone I wanted, and both featured fireflies which gave the test audience a sense of magic. But in the end, I found that the cover featuring Emma actually skewed older, appealing to 30+ readers while the woods-only cover appealed unanimously to 13 – 25 year old readers. With their results in, the decision felt clear. Only one design ticked all the boxes and even fell in line with my character-free preference.
And here it is! And how I love it.
I know, you’ve all seen it.
These are my woods, and this is my book.
I haven’t discussed typeface, which I should as it can make or break your cover. In the brief I specified that it should be clear and readable, pretty but not too ‘girly,’ and not exceed more than two fonts. The font on the runner up was difficult to read, and the fonts on the other two rejected designs complimented the children’s fiction and historical fiction feel of them. Both good title fonts, but neither appropriate to my book.
I love this typeface. I love that my name is simple and small, but readable. I love that my designer used the same simple font to balance out the flourish on edge – feminine but strong – and I like that she picked one word to focus on. I also like that she gave the weight to ‘edge,’ rather than ‘woods’ which reflects Emma’s position in the story. My designer had no idea about that of course, but she did a great job and made me very happy. The only real complaint I could have is the obscured ‘w’ but if I’m being honest it doesn’t bother me. And who doesn’t love an ood?
The original title was in light blue, which was pretty (and I still use in my banners) but we decided later to change it to white so it would really pop.
Are you in the market for a cover? Is that the whole reason you clicked read more on this post? Well aren’t you in luck! I’ve come across some cover designers with great portfolios over the past few months and I’m going to share my favourites.
Now, if you haven’t heard of premade covers, you are missing out. Great for writers on a budget or for something as simple a short fiction, premade covers are, as the title so handily implies, ready made covers. You just chose your cover and the artist will swap out their interim title and author name with yours. You have to be willing to make compromises and go a little more vague with your imagery (unless you find THE PERFECT COVER), but they tend to range between $30 – $100, and some designers run specials so you can get them for even less.
My absolute favourite premade designer can be found at GoOnWrite, who offers unbelievably professional covers for $40 and updates regularly. Another great resource is the Cover Art Collective, a Facebook group which highlights premade work from various artists. And if you like the look of an artist’s premades, you can always click through to their site and request a custom cover.
Custom covers cost more, especially if you want to make a full paperback version and/or audiobook cover (and Facebook/promo banners). Depending on the designer, a custom cover can cost you anywhere between $100-$1000. My favourite designers portfolios are: Art By Karri ($175 – 225), M. S. Corley (contact to negotiate price), Yocla Designs ($95 – 145), and Jason Gurley ($350 – 750). My designer, Destiny Marie, doesn’t currently have a website but if you contact me I can pass on her email address.
You can also find an artist whose style you love and negotiate to purchase the rights to an image they’ve already produced or commission new work for your cover. You’ll often have to come up with your own typeface to lay over the image, or you can see if another cover designer would be willing to negotiate a typography only price for you (if you can’t do it yourself – and if you don’t have decent photoshop skills, don’t!).
Any cover artist recommendations? Name drop in the comments!