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Why You Should Pay for Great Cover Artwork

There’s a saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” but in marketing, the cover image of your book is pivotal to its success. It’s in fact the first thing people see, and in that split-second they scroll past it on their crowded social timeline, they’ll decide wether its interesting to them. Especially in print, but equally so in digital storefronts, a ton of customers simply buy based on seeing a fantastic cover and reading a few lines of synopsis. So it should be your top priority to get fantastic artwork for your book, if you want to increase your chances of commercial success.

First Impressions Matter.

The First impression is crucial. Regardless of how insanely fantastic your writing is, just by looking at your cover artwork, consumers will subconsciously (and instantly) form an opinion about your book:

  • what they think your book is about
  • whether they feel they want to have it
  • what kind of experience they think they will get from it.

The way the human mind works is that many times they buy “emotionally” which means the moment they see something, they have already internally decided they want it or not, primarily driven by emotions. They will then find reasons to logically justify they need it.

Your artwork is the perfect vessel to imprint a feeling, a desire and expectation into the customer’s mind. If, after buying your product lives up to its promise, all the better.

Improve Your Chances.

With strong art you can improve your chances drastically to create a strong emotional desire, during that split-second your work comes by on their crowded social timelines. Don’t fool yourself into thinking your book will sell just fine with mediocre art done by a friend.

In fact, your cover artwork is the one image that’s gonna be used over an over again across all social media channels, promotional images, video and it’s the spearhead asset in your Kickstarter campaign. So you better get this one to look amazing, and it pays itself back more often than not.

Paying For Great Art

This brings us to the next point: Pay for great art. There’s no way around it really, and in our case it usually means we pay for the artwork right at the beginning of a new project, way before a Kickstarter secures our funding. This is because the artwork is the key asset that will help our Kickstarter succeed. Its the image that will make everyone jump up in their seats when they see it (hopefully) and garner interest in our projects.

Now, everyone has a budget, no matter how small or large. Even big publishers like Wizards have a set amount they can spend on certain aspects of a book. Everything adds up, so its wise to break down your budget and allocate chunks of money to all different things such as Writing, Editing, Layout and other graphics, ordering print proofs, etc. it all costs money. So there’s no shame in admitting you can only pay a $150 on artwork for the book cover. As you have more published products and hopefully revenues, you can slowly start to afford more on artwork for your next projects, hiring increasingly veteran designers. You may reach a point where you feel so comfortable in your book releases doing great on Kickstarter and earning revenue, that you feel it’s safe to spend money on artwork early on, knowing you will get it back later down the line…

Don’t Cut Corners on Art

Whichever way you do it, we advise to never cut corners on getting great artwork. Even though you are a small publisher or one-man-show (like us) and choose to do a lot of the work yourself to cut costs, the one place to spend some dollars is artwork. This even means that after commissioning an artist to do art, and we are not a 100% sold, we will attempt everything to solve it, even if this means hiring another artist to do the job.

As an example, good friend and writer Benoit Bernardy from GoblinStone.com decided to (initially reluctantly) commission new artwork for his book “Banquet of the Damned”. The book was previously called something less exciting, and the cover artwork did not grab attention. After talking to each other, Benoit agreed to spend money on getting new artwork done. Upon it’s release, Banquet quickly sold over 250 copies, and got a ton of attention and comments saying how much the artwork made people smile (with glee and horror).

The cover made them want to know more. It made a promise that it will provide a great adventure. And this makes total sense. By investing in great artwork, customers instinctively realize you are confident about your product. Because why would anyone spend money on having fantastic artwork made for a crap product? Gotta love the human mind!

Finding a Great Artist.

Nowadays, finding a great artist for your project is easier than ever. With hubs like DeviantArt and ArtStation, there’s a massive amount of talent to be found, all looking for a chance to work with you. It’s often enough to simply post a forum message, describing your project, budget and deadline, and watch your inbox fill with mails from artists interested in working for you. So how do you know which one to pick? Aside from looking at what you think looks good, have in mind what kind of visual style you are after. Is it high fantasy? Sci-fi? Realism? Anime? Most artists will have a certain style they excel in, and it pays to play to their strengths.

We will do a blog post about how we go about scouting for and working with artists soon, if you are looking for more information on this topic.

What’s your experience?

So, what’s your experience with cover artwork? Shout out in the comments below and join the discussion! Have a question? Let’s hear it!

Chris van der Linden

Founder, Creative Director

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