June 20, 2014 by Mod
I’ve talked before about how important it is to get your cover right, how many ways it can go wrong and what you can do to prevent this. Today I’d like to talk about when is the right time to begin work on your cover.
The process of getting a book from your mind to your readers is long and detailed, made up of many steps, some of which need to made in order, and some of which can take place at various times. Choosing your cover is like this. While it seems logical that the cover design begins AFTER your book is totally finished, this is not always the case. There are some situations when it might benefit you and your books to begin earlier. So when can you choose your cover?
At the very early stages of writing/planning your book.
As crazy as this seems, for some authors this might work. If you are a very experienced indie-author with a regular schedule of releases, choosing a cover at the same time as planning a new book or series could benefit you. For example, you may still have vague ideas of what your characters look like. Choosing a cover design will help you finalize this, and may help you visualize your characters as you write. It can also help you to more precisely pin down your genre – is it steampunk or clock-punk? Historical romance or suspense? Erotica or Steamy Romance? Authors who are very much in control of their writing can use a cover this way. Those of us who are never sure what a book is going to be until it’s written should maybe not.
You might be particularly drawn to a stock image – say a red haired woman or a Mexican landscape. If your book is not written you have the time to adapt your characters and settings to the image you love.
If you make your own covers, or work with a flexible cover designer, things such as title, tagline etc can be changed closer to publication, but having a cover image could work to inspire you and keep you on track. Recently I made myself a cover to inspire an upcoming series. Working on it helped me to crystalize a few things about the book such as names, settings etc.
If you’re writing a series, working on covers before subsequent books are written can be a benefit too. With my book AUDACIOUS, for example, the cover brand was set with the first cover – comprised a of a painting of the main character in a striking item of clothing – the pink dress. Because of this, when I wrote the second book I knew to include another striking item of clothing as an important plot element – the blue bikini.
Clients sometimes contact me and say “I’m very close to finishing my book…” That sometimes worries me because from personal experience there is a big difference between finishing a first draft and finishing a book. And also, even for the first draft, for me anyway, the difference between 80% done and 100% can be months, even years. So I get nervous.
But then again, if you have firm plans in place to self-publish, and a set schedule in mind, a snazzy cover might be just the thing to put you over the line. It also might be a useful thing to send out to your beta readers and editors. They can give you feedback on your whole package – book, cover, title, tagline – everything.
While in the process of editing a book
You’ve written your book and sent it off to editors and/or beta readers. What do you do with yourself while you wait to hear back from them? While some writers will jump right in to the next project, you might be one that benefits from a bit of breathing room. So again, if you have firm plans to self-publish, you can spend some of this time thinking about your marketing strategy. This includes your cover and any design work that might go with it – Facebook banner, bookmarks, webpage etc. It’s a great way to keep up your enthusiasm for your book while you wait for notes.
Also, as any experienced writer will tell you, editing can be emotionally very hard. Personally I love it, but some writers struggle with incorporating feedback while maintaining their vision. Some others find the process detrimental to their self-esteem. With a good and sympathetic cover designer you can have fun and feel a bit more in control. It can be a really therapeutic process. A lot of clients say things like “I feel really good about my project now,” after getting their cover design. It’s a confidence builder.
When the text is locked.
The only downside to waiting this long to design a cover is that once you have your book exactly how you want it, you will be itching to get it out into the world. And cover design takes time. I council clients to allow for at least two weeks to complete the cover design process. Can you wait that long?
If you can, great. It will help your designer to have very specific FINAL details about your story.
When the Paperback and or eBook is formatted.
Of particular relevance is the paperback. If you intend to sell print copies of your book you need to provide the FINAL page count and dimensions to your designer. From the designers point of view this is the best time to design a cover because there will be less changes down the track. But from your point of view – again you’re ready to publish – can you wait? Some designers also book weeks or month in advance. It’s worth thinking about these things earlier in the process.
Whether you choose your design early or at the last minute, there are things you can do and think about to make sure you’re getting the cover of your dreams. I have posted about this here, here and here. And please, don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.