Different Aspects of Cover Art…
I tell writers to do their own covers. The levels of critical voice excuses I get back are amazing. And all the excuses are geared to make sure the writer fails. After all, that is what critical voice does, it stops you.
In this modern world, unless you have a ton of money you want to just toss into a garbage can, no writer can afford to hire covers done. Wait, let me change that. No moderately prolific writer can afford the time, the money, the problems that come with having someone else do your covers. Moderately prolific? Four novels and a number of short stories a year regularly. Or more.
So I tell the writers that use the excuse “Art costs money” to go to the royalty free sites. Great art by top artists can run as much as $10 for all the use you can want early on. Usually it is closer to $1.
Indie writers also forget one of the great freedoms of being an indie writer. Something can always be changed later. Unlike traditional publishing that sticks writers with covers and will never change them, you are in control and if a cover doesn’t work, or you found a better way to do it, or wanted to rebrand, you just change out the covers.
(Of course, you can’t do that if you are paying hundreds of bucks per cover and up. Unless you have a ton of money, you just can’t change anything.)
Doing you own covers is a learning curve, sure. But not really that much of one, to be honest. The biggest hurdle I have seen for writers and covers is that they don’t think they can do them. And thus will never try. For some reason, covers seem to be some sort of magic to some writers.
And if you can learn to do a cover in thirty minutes, it frees up your creative voice in your writing as well. I know for me, having complicated covers done by someone else makes me not want to write a story that needs that kind of work on a cover. That’s why all my covers I can do myself. And without worry, thus I am free to write what I want.
But this week I got three people in different forms tell me the best critical voice excuse for not doing their own covers and for buying expensive art that I have heard since 1990. It can be summed up in the following sentence:
“What happens if someone else uses that art I picked?”
Now, back in my traditional publishing days, that happened all the time. Stock art got used over and over for various books. And sure, it happens at times in publishing. A piece of art I had on a cover of Pulphouse was used a year later by another magazine for a cover. Shrug. I got the art for a buck. The art was cool enough the artist licensed it a bunch of times. Made no difference to me or my readers of Pulphouse.
And back to forgetting the most important thing about indie publishing. YOU CAN ALWAYS CHANGE IT. If I cared, I would have changed it out.
But what about licensing?
If we don’t have any licensing plans in the works for a book, we use a royalty free, non-exclusive piece of art for the cover. Costs us a buck. If plans change, and a licensing opportunity comes up, we call the cover a “sample” of what will be in the license and then either license a new piece of art or talk to the original artist to increase the license we bought to the level we need. In other words, WE CAN ALWAYS CHANGE IT.
We use over a hundred pieces of art a year, at least. Sure, we can spend the time and the money to work with artists and get non-exclusive art for the covers, but we would rather save that for the books, like the latest Diving novels, that we need the art for licensing of things like masks and games. The others can be non-exclusive.
And because we are not in a hurry on the exclusive stuff, we have spent the time to work with and get to know a couple of amazing artists.
So if you are a prolific writer, and spending a ton on covers, time to stop, get past your excuses, and learn how to do them yourself. You will discover, in a very short amount of time, how much fun it really is.