The Road to Publishing – Artwork

Like it or not, it’s a fact of life that people do judge books by their covers. Look at that bookshelf above; what do you see? Yes, I know – books is probably your first answer, but are there any that stand out among the crowded shelves? This is what I’m talking about.

Artwork is an important element in the world of books, almost (dare I say it) on a par with the work itself. It’s the hook for the eye before the hook for the mind, an image that says ‘Look at me! I need to be read, I’m interesting!’

What happens if  you don’t have that eye-catching image? You put yourself back. There will be other books loitering in the wings – others with gorgeous and slick covers. They may not have a better story than you, they may have characters that pale in comparison to yours, but they get the first punch, so to speak.

So, you’re going to need to get yourself a cover that is eye-catching and catches the mood of your work. It costs money, there’s no way around that, but it doesn’t have to kill your wallet – and those extra eyes on your work may turn into extra sales. It’s best to think of it as an investment. The more sales, the more you make your money back, and hopefully more.

Pre-made VS Fully custom

Depending on the scale of your project, or your budget, you may wish to go down the pre-made or custom route for your cover art. Both offer professional (providing you find the right artist) finishes, for an effective price.


Pre-made covers are exactly what they sound like. The artwork and typography is pre-set, and your title and words will simply fill in the blanks. Without a doubt, this is the most cost-effective way of getting yourself a professional looking finish (unless you know a graphic designer or are one yourself, of course).

The pros of pre-made covers are the simplicity and price. You can see the design up front, with all of the placement and style of imagery and font available for you to see. This allows you to make an informed choice as to whether the cover is right for you and your book. Prices can vary, but you can find yourself some great covers for a great price.

The main con is, of course, that it is pre-made. Your scope is limited to what is already laid out before you (unless you are willing to pay extra for alterations), so you must make sure the design is right for you before you go ahead.

Bleak Horizons is an example of a pre-made cover. It saw a design I liked, and for a great price too. Within the next 24 hours I had the design ready to go and upload. Short, sweet, and effective.

Custom made

This is where things can get expensive (obviously a con if you’re stretched on your budget). You’re essentially paying an artist to create your vision. This isn’t something that they put together quickly, it’s something they work hard at.

You should have a specific vision ready for the artist (or at least you should do, unless you trust the artist enough to freestyle). Most will offer a conceptual stage where they sketch out ideas/layouts, and should consult you on the creation journey.

Although it can get bogged down in detail, the big pro is when you see the final result – you can be sure you have a unique design ready to grace your cover.

Traitors of Sol features a custom cover. This incorporates a piece of art which I commissioned (a beautiful large piece of sci-fi landscape which I may do a giveaway of a canvas of in the future), along with custom typography.

The process took around a month from conception to delivery, with many tweaks and changes in between – so make sure you have the time you need for the full order to be completed.

So, there you go – a quick in and out of the options available to you for your book cover. Keep it professional and eye-catching, and you can’t go far wrong.

Got any cover art hints, tips, or helpful links? Why not drop them in the comment box below.

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