Confident Reads (3): Let’s Talk Covers (Pt 2) Guest Post with M.R. Merrick- The Magic of Art

Hello everyone!  Welcome to the third week of this brand new feature!  Confident Reads is a way to open communication between readers and indie authors.  Confident Reads is to help readers feel confident in the books they spend their money on, and for authors to feel confident in the book they publish.  You can find this feature each week (Wednesdays except in September when it will be Tuesdays) discussing a different subject regarding indie books and authors.

Previous Posts:
Week One: State of Publishing Guest Post by Jeff Bennington about the differences in publishing terms.
Approved Read: Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe by Jeff Bennington
Week Two: Let’s Talk Covers Part One
Approved Read: Exiled by M.R. Merrick

Last week we talked about covers and how important it is to be visually appealing.  But sometimes I don’t think I can say things just right so this week we are talking covers again and the fabulous M.R. Merrick is here with his thoughts.  And I hope, really hope, that indie authors out there will take this advice to heart.  Good cover art is very important! Huge thank you to M.R. Merrick for the fabulous post!

The Magic of Art
What is the Magic of Art? Well, it’s the secret ingredient that makes you take a second look. It turns your head, stops you in your tracks, and pulls you towards it. It demands your attention, forces you to look deeper and it provokes you in an unexpected way. Simply put, it’s magic.
There are very few people that will pick up something unappealing. If given the choice between a perfectly ripe apple and a bruised one, I don’t take the latter and give it a chance; I go for the one that looks the juiciest. That same theory applies to covers.
For a book lover, when you first enter the bookstore and the scent of untouched pages fills your sense, it’s the smell of adventure, love, loss, and heart break. It’s the future discovery of the pending journey that will tear through your mind. Thousands of books lay spread across the tables, unbent spines fill the shelves, and people who share your passion occupy the aisles.
Now consider when you’re looking at a table of books. What makes you pick one up? Assuming you’re looking at a range of books that fit your reading tastes, what makes you reach forward, grab one, and look at the back?
The answer for most of us is: the cover.
Something about that image, that title, that font, and the color – or lack thereof – is powerful. It strikes you in a certain way and pulls your in, intriguing you to discover more. And that’s good! That’s what it’s supposed to do. So why is it that we sometimes see cheap, generic covers that don’t speak to us, and so the amazing story that waits inside is missed?
When you’re designing your cover, much like when you’re searching for editors and/or critique partners, it isn’t only about who can work on your timeline, who is qualified, and who is within your budget of affordability. Sure, those are all factors too, but the most important part is finding the right match for you and your story. You invested the time crafting your novel, so why drop the ball now? The cover is the first thing your potential reader will see, and you need it to suck them in and claim their attention.  
An amazing cover doesn’t necessarily represent an amazing book, and the opposite is also true, but it doesn’t hinder it by any means. A good cover is a selling feature. It’s your introduction to the world as an author, and if you want to be taking seriously, do it right. Have it represent the story in some aspect, use font that is fitting with the entire image you’ve created, and make everything clear. If the title is hard to read, or images are pixelated, that looks bad. Occasionally, this is intentional, but when it is, you know it and it works.
There are countless designers online that work at affordable rates. Just like anything, you may occasionally have to filter out some crap, or some of the higher priced artists, but it’s out there. Maybe you can’t afford two or three hundred bucks, and that’s fine, keep looking! If you really can’t find anything in your price range, consider putting a delay on your publishing timeline for a few months to save up. Purchasing five dollar generic art and doing it yourself isn’t usually the answer. If all else fails, visit your local college. Surely there is some graphic design student that would love to take your project on just to add to their portfolio, not to mention they get their name in a book!

Don’t risk using the same generic cover model as other books, because it gives your book a bad first impression – which kind of defeats the purpose of a cover.  In the last month, I’ve seen three books that had the exact same cover model, and used the exact same photo from that modeling shoot. Two of these were indie books, and one was traditional. I didn’t look to see what was published when, but that’s not important. You’re an individual, and so is your story (I hope), so do it justice. Do your research and find a talent that will work with you to create something wonderful that represents your work, and the tone of your novels.

This is your book. YOUR book! You created it so don’t go cutting corners now. You should treat your cover with the same respect and diligence you did your novel. Not just for your readers, but for the story too. It deserves to have a face that’s remembered, one that stands out and provoke readers. If you do that, your odds for success will only increase.  Afterwards it’s up to your writing and the story to do the rest.
So when planning to put a face on your book, consider this: as potential readers walk through the book stores or browse the digital shelves, it’s up to you to give them something more. Wow them with cover art that is deserving of your novel.  Make it so that image lights a spark inside their imagination, catches the breath in their throat, and draws them in before they’ve read a word. Make them want it (Hint: You don’t need a half-naked cowboy with rippling abs to do this, but sometimes it helps).
Your cover is a doorway to another world; the easier it is to open, the easier it is to get lost on the other side.
That, my friends, is The Magic of Art.  

M.R. Merrick is a Canadian writer, and author of Exiled & Shift, the first two installments in The Protector Series. Having never traveled, he adventures to far off lands through his imagination and in between cups of coffee. As a music lover and proud breakfast enthusiast, he’s usually found at the computer, between a pair of headphones and in front of a large bowl of cereal.

  You can find him on his blog, and Twitter.

Each week I have an approved read and this week I’m skipping that.  I was away all weekend and am playing catch up.  

Next week Nikki Jefford is on to talk about editing.  We all know editing is very very important…
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  1. Well said! I think good design is so important, especially in a book cover where it’s the first thing readers see. You wouldn’t show up for an interview at a big corporation in ripped jeans and a t-shirt because that would make a poor first impression, so why allow your book to make a similar mistake? Both of the above covers are beautiful:)

  2. I really love the covers of his books, and I completely agree with all of his points. It’s important to have a nice cover as it really is the first impression for most people. I see a lot of indie books that have horrible covers and it makes me a bit weary to check them out…I hate that, but you just never know if the outside matches the inside and we have too little time and money to spend on reading as it is, you want to be more sure!


  3. I’m a bit of a cover whore and have a harder time buying a book if the cover’s ugly. Self-pubs and Indies actually have the benefit here–they get to design their own covers! They have completely control over what their books look like, unlike those who are traditionally published. And there are plenty of professionals out there who can create gorgeous covers. Don’t hold back now, authors–Make us drool over your book!

  4. Ooh yeah I’m a definite cover whore and I won’t be motivated to read a book with an ugly cover. It’s also the first thing I check when I get review requests and if it doesn’t attract me I won’t even look at what it’s about. Lol yeah I’m awful but it’s the first impression so I think it’s important.

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