I've spent a lot of time creating book covers this year. I put as many hours into them as I did writing the first drafts! Maybe I'm a little bit of a perfectionist, but readers do judge books by their covers. It is the first thing that needs to grab their attention.
I'm going to share with you my process over the next few months, and end with the reveal of the first three Totem covers.
The first important thing you need to do before you start creating is know your genre. This is vital. The cover will need to declare where your book fits. If it has a sub-genre, be aware of that too.
My genre: the Totem series is urban fantasy. My sub-genres: there is a strong element of romance, and the protagonists are shifters.
Once you have your genre, it's research time. Google makes it very easy. Do an image search and compare several covers of books in your genre. What are the common elements? What makes some covers stand out from the others? What makes you want to pick up a book?
Urban fantasy cover common elements:
- urban background at night. Usually cityscape or forest.
- protagonist the central feature. Typically ready to fight. And nobody smiles. (Seriously. It's like smiling is against the law on urban fantasy covers!)
- dark colors, sometimes misty, to create an ominous atmosphere.
- books in a series need to share a common look.
Sub-genre common elements:
- a little bit of sexiness for the romance. But not the oh-la-la type!
- the animal or a hint of the animal the protagonist can shift into.
- silhouetted villain/danger lurking in the background.
- silhouetted love interest
lurking being protective in the background. In human or animal form.
What makes me want to pick up a book? A protagonist that looks unusual. Not your typical beauty with a sword or tattooed beefcake. A background that tells a story as much as the character featured. A hint of brilliant color along with the dark and mysterious colors.
A big order, but I'm determined to fill it.
Next post on the mad science of book covers: your general concept.
P.S. I'm calling this the "mad science" of book covers because piecing the elements together is science. Yet there is something magical in making it all come together as a whole. An awesome cover artist is a little mad with the magic, and that's what makes their art stand out.