Lots of self-published authors offer different advice on what it takes to succeed. But there are three things they all agree on:
- Have great cover art
- Have a great editor
- Have a great blurb
I’m going to focus on #1 in this post. When I originally published IMPERIUM back in 2011, I knew I was going to hire a cover artist. I have no artistic abilities at all, and anything I tried to create myself would undoubtedly look like it had been drawn by a drunken chimp using MS Paint. So I hired an artist and thought, cool, #1 on the list is taken care of. The artist I hired did a good job and I was happy.
Problem is, I missed one critical bit of info related to Having Great Cover Art. Namely, your great cover art needs to fit in your genre. It sounds obvious, and I’m embarrassed to say this didn’t occur to me until much later. The original cover art for the Caulborn series looks much more like historical fantasy, or epic fantasy, but not urban fantasy. I’ve been told that some readers thought my work was miscategorized as urban fantasy because of the artwork. Other readers told me they didn’t realize these books were all part of the same series, because there weren’t common elements across them.
This was not the fault of the artist. This was my fault for not doing my homework. If I had, I could have had him retool the original cover back then. It took several years for this realization to dawn, but once it did I enlisted a new cover artist (as my old one went out of business) to develop a new set of covers for the Caulborn series. Check ’em out:
These covers were done by the talented folks over at StreetLight Graphics and are much more in line with the covers you’d see on a book by Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, or Illona Andrews. So they fit the genre. Also notice the consistent use of the title font and Caulborn insignia. In short, these new covers are in-line with what readers expect a UF cover to look like, and it’s obvious they’re part of a series.
So, lessons learned:
- Your cover needs to fit with the genre you’re writing
- If you’re writing a series, there need to be common elements to tie the books together
- Even if you make a mistake, it’s never too late to fix it
In the next post on the series, I’ll talk about working with an editor.