September 21, 2015

Letting Go of “Perfect” in the Cover Design Process

Designing the cover might be my least favorite part of book publishing. It isn’t that I don’t love the cover for Mortal Musings (I do), but I firmly believe it’s almost impossible to create the “perfect” cover, so we all have no choice but to compromise.

Part of the issue is just reality. The perfect stock images with models that actually do match our vision (and exact description) of the character might not exist. In fact, probably don’t exist—or so countless hours of scouring multiple stock photo sites have taught me. Of course, some small features like eye color could be manipulated, and it’s certainly possible to come close.

But how many book covers have you seen where the cover model didn’t quite match the way you pictured the character while reading? S/he probably didn’t match the author’s vision either. It’s pretty much like casting the story for a movie — the actor who looks just right might not exist unless the author wrote with a specific actor in mind for the character. And for movies, they have casting calls where they can choose the actor and then give him/her a makeover.

In most cases, that’s not possible for a book cover, since we rely on stock photography for the look, for the outfit, for the body position… Very rarely do authors (or publishers) have a casting call and schedule a photo shoot. It’s time-consuming and expensive, and there’s no guarantee you’ll find the perfect model anyway. So, we compromise.

Another hitch in the quest for the “perfect” cover is that writers usually aren’t cover artists, and it’s impossible to mind meld and show an artist exactly what we pictured while writing. Add in the fact that covers now have to be eye-catching in micro-format; and the considerations of marketability; and that, like with everything else, different people will have widely varying opinions on the results, and “perfect” isn’t just unlikely, it’s an undefinable pipe dream.

Letting go of “perfect” becomes a crucial part of the process — which is, in all honestly, also true for the text. We can’t wait until it’s perfect, because we’ll never get there. With constantly growing experience, we will continue seeing new problems, and possibly new solutions. There’s a reason established authors rewrite some of their early books and release a new edition. And there’s a reason publishers (traditional and indie) occasionally decide to design a brand new cover for their work.

“Perfect” simply isn’t the right standard of measurement. Of course, this doesn’t mean we stop aiming for the best result possible at the time. Neither does it change the anxious hope that our efforts will be appreciated by our readers.

So, here’s hoping!

If you like the cover for Mortal Musings, I'd really appreciate a vote in the "Cover the Words" contest!! Click here to vote! (& Thanks!!)

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