Last time I posted about why I decided to publish independently as opposed to the traditional route.
One of the pros I mentioned was control and how it can be both a good and a bad thing.
When it comes to covers and being an indie, the onus is on you. A lot of the stress of cover design might be taken away by publishing traditionally, but there’s also likely little you can do if you get a cover that doesn’t suit the story. The most important component of cover design is whether it attracts the right kind of readers. Your epic fantasy story needs to attract epic fantasy readers, not romance or suspense readers.
The good thing about being an indie is that you can switch covers (at your own cost) if you don’t like them or if they’re unsuitable for your market.
I had a pro designer put together 2 covers for my Vagrant Souls series. These are the covers:
I thought they were great covers. They looked professional, and, importantly, they stood out in thumbnail (This is important because most readers aren’t going to see them up-close. They’re going to see them as thumbnails on a website).
The first negative reaction to these covers was from a writer’s forum. Everyone loved them, but they didn’t think they conveyed dark/epic fantasy. Some suggested they looked like YA or Romance, even Suspense/Thriller because of the items on the covers (the orb and the jewelled necklace).
Not happy with this advice, and feeling a little disgruntled (in all honesty), I took to another writer’s group, this time on Facebook. What did I find there? The same thing. Great covers, but totally not dark/epic fantasy.
This was a problem. My stories are in the epic fantasy genre. They’re also dark.
Now, I have to say that this was totally my fault. The cover designer I used nailed my design brief. It was what I suggested that didn’t work for the genre. (I’ll speak more about design briefs and their importance in a future post.)
For quite a while, I ignored this advice from the writer’s forums. I thought that the covers, although not a good fit for the genre, were still kickass.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I was given a (super secret) opportunity from a writer that involved some help with launch marketing. He told it to me straight. The covers weren’t going to sell. At least not in the dark/epic fantasy genres.
So I was in a pickle. I knew I needed to revamp the covers. I hadn’t even launched the two books yet, so I would be spending money I didn’t really have in the launch budget.
Deep down, I knew my writer friend and the writer’s groups were right. I needed new covers.
With my pride sorely wounded, I took to DeviantArt and browsed around for artists who were 1) affordable, 2) their schedules were open ASAP, and 3) their style matched my vision for the stories.
After much back-and-forth, I settled on Alberto Besi, an artist from Italy. He was super enthusiastic about my project and wanted to get started right away. I loved his style of artwork and was happy to give him a design brief. He begun the work just a few days later.
He provided me with a color sketch and a character sketch.
After he made sure I was pleased with these, he proceeded on to the finished product.
I’m still considering whether to make some alterations before this becomes the new “official” cover for The Shattered Orb.
Maybe the background should be changed for something more world-specific? I thought simplicity might be best, but now I’m thinking a few buildings in the background and something in the foreground would work better than the magical effects. I could be wrong so I’m going to have a think about it before scheduling any changes with Alberto.
With the cover art done, I got a pro to do the typography (my attempt in Canva was abysmal).
I’m now halfway through the drama of updating my covers before I’ve even published. Hopefully the new covers better represent what’s behind them.
Alberto Besi is a comic artist, now focused on illustration, concept art and digital art in general.