As every published (independently or otherwise) writer knows, covers are crucial. They must stand out, draw attention, & be artistic and evocative – and now all in thumbnail form. The general consensus is that writers without design skills (i.e. most of us) looking to self-publish should hire cover designers. But however the covers are designed, as the ultimate word on what works for the project, an independent writer must make many choices, usually on our own – ones that may very well define the success of our projects. Yikes.
On the plus side, independently published projects can fairly easily switch out a cover that just isn't working. However, if you're publishing with an ISBN, as far as I am aware, you will need to purchase / use a new one for a work whose cover you're changing (not so for correcting stray typos and such that sneak through). Plus, we want our first cover choice to be perfect – by which we mean one that will get attention and inspire readers to read a preview or outright buy our books.
I've been dealing with cover designs for my poetry collection for a little while now – introducing tweaks, seeking opinions, starting from scratch, etc. Here are some of my latest options:
All three are quite different in certain ways, somewhat similar in others. The first was, for instance, described as old-fashioned, harkening back to an older style. This doesn't match the image I have of my poetry – or at least not entirely – so it's an unlikely choice. The second was described by one person as being reflective, reminiscent of Walden Pond – open and welcoming of thought and contemplation. Certainly not bad. Perhaps, if I was choosing a print cover, this one would be it. My personal preference leans a bit to the third cover (with a few more tweaks), but it was once described as closed-off & walled in. Not quite what I'm going for. (Or is it? That may be a perfect illustrator for some of the themes.)
There are also some practical considerations. For instance, for a printed book, the title would need to span less of the width than in the second or third options – because binding inevitably eats some of the cover. When dealing with a book that will be sold primarily online, the critical element for a cover is that it must speak for itself on a virtual shelf, which means in a ridiculously small size. So, let's take a look:
That is, approximately, the size of a book cover on Amazon (click here for a comparison). While the title and even author's name do not have to remain legible – they tend to be printed separately near the cover image on online distributors' sites – the cover does have to retain a clear image portraying an author's work, even in this size.
For me, it looks like that means cover #2 is out: once miniaturized, it loses clarity and doesn't really draw the eye. Although the first cover remains distinctive, in that its elements are clear, I still have to consider that old-fashioned feel and whether it's right for my work. So, it seems that, from these options, my best one is the third (which is actually the first of these three to have been created. Hmm. . . ) This cover is distinct and clear, even in the small size, while also having a slightly philosophical air appropriate for poetry. Or so I hope.