Today’s post will discuss the process I go through when I choose my book covers, and it is a long one. If you know anything about choosing a book cover, it can be hectic under normal circumstances. Now, throw genre-bending into the mix, and you’re sure to embark on quite the whirlwind.
That said, what is my process?
One that contains the following steps:
- The cover must fit the genre in which I’m writing. That’s obvious.
- The cover must “brand” with other covers in the series or universe. For example, you can tell that my Terrian Chronicles covers resemble one another. Ditto for my Elementals of Nordica covers.
- The main cover model must resemble my protagonist. If you look at the covers for Tarja Titan, Braden Hawk, and Liza Fury and read their descriptions, they resemble them almost to a T.
Let’s break down these three steps in my book cover choosing process below.
Related: What is Genre-Bending?
The Book Covers Must Fit the Genre
This one’s a given. But since I’m a genre-bender, I can get away with a little more leeway. In Elementals of Nordica, I’m bending epic fantasy tropes into science fiction settings. Therefore, I can have a bit of both in my covers without leaning too far one way or another. If you look at the cover to Wind Wielder, you can tell it’s a work of fantasy. However, Wind Master (see in the next section) flirts with science fiction.
I actually researched the model on the cover of Wind Wielder. Turns out, the “whirlwind” he’s conjuring on the cover are really stadium lights behind him. The cover model is a boxer. And yes, he is posing for photos inside a sports stadium.
However, it fit the cover well since the lights resemble a whirlwind, one of Sion Zona’s many abilities within controlling the wind element. I also decided early that Sion and other wind wielders would conjure whirlwinds, vortexes, and other moves with boxing techniques. At least until their golden-hilted Sword of Wind manifests. Therefore, the cover fits well.
Are you looking for more information on how to choose a book cover?
The Huffington Post has a great article entitled ‘How to Choose a Book Cover That Tells Your Story.’
A Closer Look at Wind Wielder’s Cover
What you see to your right is not the first cover I designed for Wind Wielder. While the model and cover art remained the same, Wind Wielder’s cover went through a couple of drastic changes. This stemmed from me conducting personal research into the bestselling fantasy books – indie published.
My initial cover for Wind Wielder looked like this:
Looking at the cover above, you can see obvious changes. For one, I used a Times New Roman typeface – the one above is Palontino, which gave it more of a serif finish than Times. I noticed the bestsellers went with serif, some with even decorative typefaces, but I also noticed that old-world epic fantasies did this the most.
I also noticed the bestsellers all had caps in their titles. My first cover for Wind Wielder did not contain all caps, as you can see on the right. When I took this down into thumbnail, I knew the cover was a no-go. If I couldn’t see the typeface, the average reader would not, and they would rightfully pass the work up in favor of another.
Therefore, you can see the following changes I made to the cover on your left.
Final Change to Wind Wielder
This one is my actual preferred cover of Wind Wielder’s three book covers. I wanted the breaking chain to be visible. However, I forgot the golden rule for a minute there: It’s not about me, it’s about readers.
And the bestsellers on Amazon show that most of the typeface lies toward the bottom, not the middle, of the cover. Therefore, the cover you see in the previous section won out.
I may wind up using the cover on the left if the unfortunate event occurs that my final installment of Wind Wielder’s cover does not sell well. This is easy enough, as I would see how many clicks and sales I get via my various channels. If I feel it’s lacking, I’ll shift gears to the one you see on the left. But right now, it’s the backup quarterback!
Let’s bump over to Wind Master, where our cloaked figure (I’m 99 percent sure it’s a different model) appears to be in outer space, which makes it a decent cover for science fiction. However, Wind Master introduces us to the Five Worlds, Sion gets a sleeker cloak, and the colorful, smokey substance seen on the cover was a thing months before I stumbled across this cover.
Related: How to Choose Book Covers That Sell
The Book Covers Must Brand With the Series
If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s when authors take “branding” to the point where they have the same cover, but they change the color of one thing; sometimes, just the color of the typeface or the same model positions themselves in a slightly different pose. It’s not who I am. It’s annoying. It’s cheap. And in my opinion, it will frustrate readers when they can’t tell Book I from Book II.
I’m all for branding, and in today’s world, authors are smart to do it. And while Wind Wielder and Wind Master resemble one another, they don’t look so much alike that they will confuse readers. I’ve always admired E.E. Holmes’ Gateway Trilogy covers and based my own on that template: They’re different covers, but they also have a lot of similarities. Their brothers (or sisters), but not twins. You can say the same for her Gateway Trackers Series.
Tarah Benner’s Witches of Mountain Shadow is another good example. Ditto for Kachi Ugo’s Levitator Chronicles. They’re branded well. But they don’t overly resemble one another. Covers in the same series need to look like one another because it adds another degree of professionalism.
But in my mind, they should have a different image or at least the cover model in a blatantly different pose. Or, in the case of Holmes’ Gateway Trilogy, completely different colors, yet with the titles and bylines in the same spot with the same font.
Did you scour the internet looking for the right images for your book series and come up empty?
Damonza shares five tips to help you choose your book cover images.
The Main Cover Model Must Resemble the Protagonist
This one’s not as tough as it sounds.
When you look at Tarja Titan’s cover, the model has what looks like a bob cut, and Tarja’s hair reaches her shoulders. This model’s skin is a shade darker than Tarja’s, which is naturally pale.
However, this model has Tarja’s hair color, her gothic style (literally everything but the black lipstick), and even her ultra-petite bodybuild – I’ve always pictured Tarja weighing about 90 pounds, even at age 18.
Braden Hawk has wavy hair, much like my own. Though the model wears a combover. Braden, like Sion Zona, is also a Wind Wielder. However, there was no other cover model striking the same pose.
But like Titan, this cover gets several things right. Braden always wears a long, black jacket. His face holds a fierce demeanor. And the cover even hints at the story if you notice the ordinary house and window in the background.
Funny story behind this book cover – I got it for free from Self Pub Book Covers after winning a drawing back in 2020.
I’ve pictured Liza Fury as a rather petite girl, though her cover model has more muscle definition than I’ve given her. She also looks a shade older than sixteen-year-old Liza. But the cover showed enough of her – brown hair, Fire Elemental, plus the urban background since this one takes place in and around Pittsburgh.
I first read in Ricardo Fayet’s How to Market a Book that models on book covers do not need to look just like the main character. And I can go on and on regarding my own. My model for Tash has green eyes when I’ve stated numerous times she has blue eyes. Sion can’t grow a beard, yet his cover model has a five o’clock shadow.
Again, I’m not going to flip here. As long as you, as a reader, can tell that the character on the cover is the protagonist described in the book, I’m good to go. I did my job.
How Do I Choose Book Covers?
If I can help it, I take the premade book cover route on Self Pub Books Covers. They have thousands of covers to choose from, and their site is the only one that I’ve found easy to use, navigate, and customize. One reason I like going with premade as opposed to reaching out to an artist and ordering something custom is that I suck at briefing. I can’t describe what I want on a cover to save my life.
I’m currently searching for a cover for Wind Keeper, which I’ll reveal to my Readers Republic when I decide on something. However, nothing has fit the criteria outlined in the sections above. In this case, I’ll reach out to the artist that designed my cover for Wind Wielder or Wind Master and say something like, “Hey, I bought a cover from your stock.” Could you make another one with the same cover model in a different pose and with a different background?”
In this case, I need to do a little briefing since I can email them the cover in question. Then, I would put the title “Wind Keeper,” subtitle “Elementals of Nordica Book III,” and my name in the byline as I did in the previous two books with the same color for the title, subtitle, and byline, and call it.
Update: Since I had first written this post, I DID find Wind Keeper’s book cover, which you can access by clicking through to Wind Keeper’s profile page or by taking a look at the featured image to this post. Keeping true to Wind Wielder and Wind Master, Wind Keeper also has the same cover model, with another major character in the series (can’t say anything else here).
Still need help?
Check out Publish Drive’s Ultimate Guide for Choosing a Book Cover.
It’s a long process when I choose book covers, and I often customize between five and ten before I settle on a winner. But regardless of the book covers I choose for current and future works, they will always fit the above criteria regardless. And if I can’t find anything to “brand” them to my liking, then I’ll order something custom from the same artist based on a previous cover I bought.
Before I go, let’s review what to look for:
- Book Covers Must Fit the Genre – Head over to Amazon and scour the best-selling indie-published books in your genre. Indie-published books give you a better idea of what readers are looking for as opposed to traditionally-published works.
- Book Covers Must Brand with the Series – Don’t take this to the extreme. You want your book covers to resemble one another. But they don’t need to be twins, triplets, or quadruplets of one another.
- Cover Model Must Resemble the Protagonist – This also doesn’t need to go to the extreme. If the cover model can pass as a sibling to your protagonist, feel free to go with that cover.
Note: This post contains links to Amazon Affiliates. I may receive a small compensation for anything purchased through the link at no additional cost to you.