Sir Lance says I should talk about cover art (mostly because he’s featured on the cover of my book. LOL) But he does know me too well, and one of my favorite aspects of books is the cover art, and I don’t think I’m alone amongst avid readers in that regard. This is one of my primary reasons for not buying a standard black and white e-book reader – the covers look horrible. Oh I know, I sound like one of the high school kids I used to teach when they had to watch a black and white movie, but in the case of book covers, I’m sorry, it’s true. Those e-readers just don’t cut it.
I have often bought books I never end up reading because I love the cover art so much. I’ll just set the book out on the shelf, cover facing out, and admire the artistry of the cover the way others admire paintings. Okay, I’m weird. But I love book covers! Firstly, a cover can make or break a book because it’s the first thing that catches, or doesn’t catch, the eye of a potential reader. I’ve seen book covers that are absolutely terrible, but the book turns out to be great. I’m different from most likely readers, however, because I might explore a book further, especially if the description peaks my interest. Most people, though, gravitate to “cool” covers.
A cover artist I recently discovered is Zachary Sexton, an Australian who creates some amazing gothic imagery, dark and somewhat out there, but stunningly rendered. I bought a book featuring his cover art (and I might actually read it, though it isn’t really my type of book), but I bought the book solely on the basis of his incredible cover (as I said before, I’m weird that way. Ha!) I checked his website, and his paintings, like this particular cover, look like photographs, lush and detailed, and often quite edgy. Some of it was too edgy for me (ha!), but if I ever have a book I think he’d be right for, I’d hire him in a second. My point is, his cover for that book I bought drew me to a book I otherwise wouldn’t have considered buying, and ideally that’s what cover art should do.
I designed the covers of my first two books myself because they were self-published and I didn’t want a “stock” cover. Those are absolutely egregious! Knowing the importance of cover art, I tried to put significant elements of my stories right there on the covers, some of which wouldn’t make any real sense until after the book was read but might hopefully make potential readers curious enough to at least read the back blurb.
For Children of the Knight, I had created my own “spec” cover art in case I ended up self-publishing, but when Harmony Ink Press bought the manuscript for publication I stressed a little over what they might put on my cover. I needn’t have worried. An amazing cover artist named Reese Dante was assigned to my book and she was fantastic to work with. I wholeheartedly recommend her to any of you authors out there looking for a free-lance cover artist. She asked for my ideas and shared with me her own. When she needed a boy for the front cover, I convinced her to use the one I had already found for my spec because he so perfectly fit my main character. She even used the same sword I had (which I own) in essentially the same position, and created a whole new background that was striking and original and eye-catching. Even the title font she used was perfect. I’ve already seen comments on Goodreads and other sites that people love her finished cover. I couldn’t agree more. If it weren’t already my own book I’d have bought it for the cover alone. Ha!
Since the book involves King Arthur in modern-day Los Angeles recruiting street kids and gang members for a new Round Table of knights to take on the adult society that rejected them, the sword represents Excalibur. The boy is my main character, Lance, a homeless teen skater who becomes Arthur’s First Knight. There’s gang graffiti on the wall behind Lance and Arthur’s “A” symbol spray-painted over it. All of these elements are intriguing and are explained as the story unfolds. Even the boy’s position, with his feet pulled up and arms wrapped around them protectively, indicates the nature of Lance’s character as the story begins – wary, a loner, detached from others, anxious, and closed off emotionally from others.
Every element is perfect and just looking at the cover completely sets the stage for what is to come within the storyline, and that, to me, is what a great book cover should do. It should catch the eye and intrigue the mind and, hopefully, inspire the potential reader to take a leap of faith and dive into the book with interest and expectation. The worst thing a book cover can do is set up expectations not realized within the story or not even relate to the story at all. I’ve seen this happen on occasion and it irks me to no end.
So any of you potential authors out there, never neglect cover art in the process, especially if you are self-publishing. If you have to, take pictures of your own and use Photoshop or pay a friend to meld the pictures together as you want. Or hire Reese Dante – you won’t be disappointed! Steer clear of stock covers on these self-publishing sites unless the photo truly represents your story in a visual way. Remember, a book cover is the doorway to your story. If the door is unappealing, people won’t even open it, and all the hard work you put into crafting your story will be for naught.