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Indie-Pendence Week Giveaway (US/Int): Ilona Andrews on the necessity of eye-catching cover art

Indie-Pendence Week Giveaway (US/Int): Ilona Andrews on the necessity of eye-catching cover art

by davincikittieJuly 3, 2012

Please help us welcome the lovely and talented Ilona Andrews to GraveTells today!

The old adage, although it’s unfair, is true: people do judge the book by its cover. It’s the “face” of your book and your best chance at catching the attention of your readers. Having the right cover is important for any writer, but when it comes to self-publishing, the cover truly becomes vital.

Independent releases have two strikes going against them from the start. One, they lack the publisher’s promotion. They will not be included in the catalogues or benefit from the publisher’s agreement with retailers. Two, readers are less likely to trust the self-published releases.

Here is a hard, unpleasant truth: the ease of e-book self-publishing is a double-edged sword. Because it’s so easy, many excellent books, which were out of print or not suitable to traditional publishing channels, finally see the light of day and find their audience. Unfortunately, the fact that anybody can do it also means that any knucklehead can write some sort of nonsense, slap a badly made cover on it, and call himself an author, and great many knuckleheads do just that. Statistically, the quality of the independent releases is significantly lower than that of the books published through a publisher. Many readers have caught on to this fact. Having a beautiful cover helps your release to stand out from the pack. A well-made cover suggests to the reader that the author cares about their book, and they’re more likely to be treated to a carefully crafted narrative.

Remember that double-edged sword? It cuts both ways. If a cover looks cheap or is badly made, the readers will dismiss the book without ever glancing at the contents. Let me demonstrate. I braved Smashwords for you and looked at their new releases in science fiction category. Which book are you more likely to click on?

So let’s talk a little bit about what makes a good cover, where to find the artists, and how to make your own.

Good Cover

I wrote a long post on cover design, which you can read here, but I will summarize it for you. A good cover has similar elements:

  • eye-catching image – the image has to be appealing to the eye, usually feature one strong element, like the girl on the cover of Surrogate, and has to have large dimensions and resolution (more on that later.)
  • legible title and author name – both name and title have to have good contrast when applied to the image
  • be visible when shrunk – remember that readers will be browsing your cover when it’s shrunk down to 170-200 pixels in height. If it’s too busy, they will see a mess.


How to find an artist

Do you like the art of SURROGATE? I do. I think it’s gorgeous. I clicked on the twenty 20% preview option for this book and saw the following:



Maria Rachel Hooley


© 2012 Maria Rachel Hooley

Original cover photo by Chastity Ijames

Cover by Phatpuppy Art

I googled Phatpuppy Art, since this was the person who designed the cover. Here is the website. Clicking on the contact page gives us:

Digital artist specializing in book covers for best selling authors.
I’ve done over 80 covers to date — some of the authors I’ve done work for you may know -Amanda Hocking (five covers)
JL Bryan (four covers)
L.K. Rigel
Courtney Milan
Robin Brande (2 covers)and the list goes on.. 🙂 

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you are interested in my work or about commissioning me for any of the above.

You can send all inquiries to:

It’s that easy.

I would also suggest looking at Deviant Art, a community of artists many of whom are available for commissions.

Doing Your Own Cover

If you can afford to pay for a good cover, I would suggest you should. But if you’re a designer, on a budget, or you just particular, you can try your hand at making your own.

To make your own cover you need some sort of photo editor and a source of digital art. The most robust of the photo editors is Photopshop, which is very expensive, but there is also GIMP, which is like photoshop in many ways but is free. To find art, search for royalty free photos. The cheapest libraries of this sort are Shutterstock, Istockphoto, and Fotolia, but there are many more.

You will need to learn about layers. If you’re planning on using GIMP, here is a tutorial.

If you are not sure what you’re doing, ready-made images are your friends. Try to think outside the box. Many self-published authors get hung up on having images of people on the cover. It’s hard to find good images of models and it’s easy to mess them up if you have no experience. Sometimes objects are safer.

For example, let’s say I have an Arthurian fantasy story. I went to the Shutterstock and searched for sword in the stone.

For the purposes of this demonstration, I just worked with a sample which still has a watermark. You would download a large size file, add your title and cover, and full speed ahead.

It’s still not as good as a cover produced by an artist, but it’s a step in the right direction and it’s simple – it took me less than 3 minutes.

In conclusion, cover is important, and it’s probably a good idea to spend a little bit of money on it. It’s a good investment.

About the author

“Ilona Andrews” is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Texas with their two children and many dogs and cats.

They have co-authored two NYT and USAT bestselling series, the urban fantasy of Kate Daniels and romantic urban fantasy of The Edge and working on the next volumes for both.

Read more about this (quite prolific) dynamic duo here!

Giveaway (US/Int)

This is our giveaway for the entire event week.  You’ll have a chance to enter on each day’s post, so be sure to visit often!  We’re giving away the following prizes: a $10 Amazon Gift Card and 4 swag packs filled with as much Indie loot as we can find (and maybe stuffed with a few extra goodies).  All prizes are open to US and International readers! All you need to do to enter to win, is follow the instructions on each daily post. You guys know the drill.  =)

What elements of a cover draw your eye the most? How much difference does a cover make to YOU?

Be sure to leave your comment in the Comments area of this post, NOT in the Rafflecopter widget!  If you are viewing this from our main Feed page, you will be unable to see the Comments area, so click the title of the post, then scroll down to the bottom. Good luck!

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About The Author
Sue "DaVinciKittie" Brown-Moore is a veteran romance blogger and reviewer and the primary voice for Sue has been shamelessly pimping book boyfriends since 2010 and has won several blogging awards with GraveTells. Sue is also a freelance Developmental Editor passionate about helping authors bring out the best in their stories. She loves reading romance, fantasy, and sci-fi and edits any genre she reads for pleasure. You can follow Sue's editing blog, with tips and tricks for authors, at
  • Mary Preston
    July 3, 2012 at 7:07 am

    I first see color. If a cover catches my eye I am much more likely to investigate further.

  • July 3, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Covers are extremely important any author who tries to tell themselves otherwise I think is kidding themselves. I get drawn to pretty covers many times a cover is what sells me or a title. Something pretty, great color bright and bold anything to catch the eye. Being unique is important as often I see stock images recycled and used on many covers.

  • July 3, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Many many readers judge a book by a cover. I have written a few posts regarding ‘judging a book by its’ cover’ and a bad or ugly cover is a major detraction especially to new readers if they are new to the series.

    New authors should consider the ramifications before selecting or approving covers. If the cover is poor, the new reader will not even consider picking up the book. If the cover is beautiful and eye catching, appealing to the reader, then the first and biggest hurdle is over. The reader will be attracted to the cover and pick up the book.

  • Janhvi
    July 3, 2012 at 7:40 am

    The color definitely draws me in.There are so many pretty eye catching covers nowadays!The cover usually builds my curiosity of the book.

  • candice
    July 3, 2012 at 7:44 am

    ‘Never judge a book by it’s cover’…unless of course you intend to READ the book. I’ve left so many books behind at book stores that had crummy cover art. I always feel like if the author didn’t take the time to wrap the package nicely, they didn’t take the time to create a quality pacakge either.

  • Natalie Lee
    July 3, 2012 at 7:51 am

    The cover usually draws me to the book, I like a clear readable title on the cover but also a pretty cover too


  • July 3, 2012 at 7:56 am

    As long as it’s pretty…whether it’s a person on the page, or animal, or just a background, it’s got to be clean and smooth, and really just…pretty.

    Once a cover draws me in, I look at the blurb. If the cover doesn’t seem relevant to the blurb, that actually turns me off a little.

  • Lisa Uranker
    July 3, 2012 at 8:13 am

    The cover definitely needs to catch my eye however if I turn the book over and it doesn’t have a great story I don’t buy it.

  • Susan W.
    July 3, 2012 at 8:20 am

    The cover is what draws me to pick a book up and read the blurb if I don’t already read everything by that author. A bold title, bright covers and a design that matches what the books about are what catches my eye. I’ll pass on a book with a plain, boring or too cartoonish cover.

  • sienny
    July 3, 2012 at 8:32 am

    the whole cover is what draws me first to a book, so its attractiveness is a huge factor for me to pick a book from a shelf.

  • Carin W
    July 3, 2012 at 8:36 am

    The cover is the first thing to attract your attention and as such if its childish or badly done I may look past it. I am drawn to a cover that gives me an idea as to the story within. I read romance so I want to see a couple or a hot guy (more often I find if its just a shirtless guy alone its m/m romance/erotica and that’s not so much my cup of tea so I will glance but not necessarily stop) I like to be able to look at the cover and tell if it’s historical (what time frame as well) contemporary, western what ever type of romance novel it is.

  • Nedraw
    July 3, 2012 at 8:44 am

    Unless I’m looking for a specific author I always look at covers. If the cover doesn’t draw my interest then I most likely will not pick up the book. I also read the blurb and that is what will ultimately determine whether or not I buy the book.

  • July 3, 2012 at 9:28 am

    I spent two weeks on the Entangled cover, book one in the Spellbound trilogy. I hired a designer, but was unhappy with the initial outcome so I looked at every royalty free stock site on the planet until I found an image that grabbed me (after much eye crossing).

    That’s another lesson. Don’t hesitate to speak up and ask a designer for the changes you want.

    Author S.M. Boyce just did an informative post on How to Choose a Cover Artist and featured the process I went through further down in her post.

  • laceyblossom
    July 3, 2012 at 10:03 am

    I do look at covers a lot. They draw me in first, but I will still read the blurb, and if it looks interesting, I’ll buy the book. So how a book cover looks is very important

  • Michelle Bledsoe
    July 3, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Like many people it’s the color that catches my eye. I really love vibrant in your face colors. I also like the trend of the tattoos that are gracing the cover models for the paranormal genres. I have found many a authors this way. If fact that’s how I got hooked on Larrisa Ione….LOL

  • July 3, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    An excellent, informative post. Thank you! I echo the sentiment of so many others here: a great cover always catches my attention … and I have read many a book because of its cover. Conversely, I can’t remember ever reading a book with a cover I hated.

    On the subject of covers, my Indie-Pendence post for today introduces an indie author whose book caught my eye because of its cover. If you have a chance to swing by, check it out at:

  • Suz Reads
    July 3, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    I look at the colors and font design in the cover. I like a good cover but it doesn’t influence me to read or not read a book. I’ll read a book even if I don’t like the cover and even if I think the cover is amazing, I won’t read the book if the story doesn’t appeal to me.

  • Sherri
    July 3, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I have to say the covers are nice to look at, but what draws me to a book is the storyline. The title probably draws me in more than the art work on the cover.

  • Viki S.
    July 3, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    I think we’re all in agreement that color draws our attention to a book. But having said that, I have never bought a book based on the cover. I almost always go with a recommendation.

  • bn100
    July 3, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Bright colors of a cover draw me in. A great cover makes me want to find out more about the book.

  • Diane
    July 3, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Covers I don’t check out too much, usually I read the excerpt and that decides for me if I’ll buy the book or not.

  • FollowtheP
    July 3, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    I normally don’t buy a book for its cover..I have a Kindle so it really doesn’t matter 🙂

  • Shannon
    July 3, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Covers are usually important to me. I prefer if the cover is at least somewhat related to the story. Just a random cover because it’s pretty or sexy or what-have-you ticks me off when I read the book because I can picture something else that would have drawn me to the book sooner.

  • Linda Thum
    July 3, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    I wouldn’t buy a book just because of the cover but an appealing one definitely does serve to attract interest. Anything & everything is important: the colors, graphics, a gorgeous guy on the cover 🙂

  • July 3, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    I like books with some sort of focal point, and therefore simplicity. I’m not keen on books that are too busy.

    I like ‘character’s on the front, in addition to an object or element related to the book itself; however, I’m also partial to more abstract designs and images.

    I thinks that it’s important that the cover does however, give me an insight into the genre of the book.

    Thanks for the giveaway x

  • Trix
    July 4, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Even in the age of ebooks, covers are important. (I do wish fewer m/m books had photo covers, they tend to get samey after a while.)

  • Vanessa N.
    July 4, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    The cover for me are important. If the cover catches my attention then I’ll check out the blurb.

  • Stacy
    July 5, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Covers are really important to me. I like bright and bold colors, but only a few (two to three). I like when there is a girl on the cover, but only if she relates to the actual story. I admit I “judge books by their covers” and have been both surprised and disappointed.

  • Sandy Lion
    July 5, 2012 at 11:07 am

    I love cover art and think they make a huge difference in catching my eye as much as the story and the subject matter. I love captivating images, ones that draws the imagination making you want to know more about the intensity inside that jacket. Sexy covers are excellent as well, but nothing that lacks sensuality, because masculinity is not enough to make a book.

  • July 6, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    We say don’t judge a book by its cover, but it hard not to. The more beautiful it is, the more likely I am to pick it up. Now it doesn’t go without saying I have found ones with beautiful covers that were just absolute let downs. But still, they are so eye catching LOL! I am with you there Sandy. Sexy covers are great too especially if they show the face LOL! Awesome post guys, thank you 🙂

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