I knew the guy I chose for this cover wasn’t ideal. He’s not nearly handsome enough to be Bridei and he is too skinny. But after searching through stock photos for hours, he was the best I could do. My cover artist uses a stock photo website for her images and even though the site has thousands of photos, it’s a serious challenge to find one where the model looks somewhat like my character and yet doesn’t have modern clothing or something else that throws it out of the time period of my book. I’m sure with a book set in the contemporary era, it’s a little easier.
I considered putting the heroine on the cover instead, since I thought it might be easier to find an appropriate image of a beautiful woman with long auburn hair. But the book is called The Dragon Bard. Since it’s about the hero, I really thought he should be on the cover. I also considered not featuring either character. The cover background has a misty, forest-surrounded lake with a harp on one side and a cat at the bottom. It’s pretty and mystical looking, but has no real focal point. In a thumbnail online, it would just blur together. (BTW, even the cat model is wrong. There were no wildcats in
The cat that plays a small but important role in the book is just a larger-than-ordinary
housecat. But finding such a cat the right color that was posed right was a
struggle, so I gave up and used the bobcat-like image my cover artist
came up with.) Ireland
After reading the review, I got to worrying that maybe the “skinny guy” on The Dragon Bard was holding back my sales. But then I considered the cover of my poorest selling book, The Dragon Prince, is a studly looking model I’ve seen on several other book covers. Even though women readers obviously think he’s attractive, it doesn’t cause them to buy my book. And then there’s my ebooks that do sell well. This month my re-released Viking book is my best seller. Since I couldn’t find a decent Viking model, I used a close shot of a couple kissing, cropped so you can’t see their modern swimsuits. There’s a tiny Viking ship in the background, but the only thing obvious about the cover is that it’s a romance. My other best-selling books feature pretty, nude women shown from the back. They convey that the books are sexy romances, and that’s probably what attracts readers.
The lesson in all of this (other than the one it’s easier to find female models that are universally attractive than it is male ones), may be that all an ebook cover needs to do is convey genre and have one strong element that stands out in a tiny thumbnail. Still as an author/publisher, it’s hard not to agonize. I know on the ebook loop I’m on, several authors have put up four or five cover variations and asked the loop members which one they like best. In most cases, they are designing the covers themselves so doing several versions only costs them time. If I did this, I’m sure my cover artist would have to charge me for all the variations. Then I would be incurring more costs that I’d have to recoup before the book started making money.
I have to say I almost miss the old days, when my publisher designed the covers. I didn’t hate any of them (although one had an anachronistic element that made me crazy) and some I really liked. I didn’t have to find the photos and come up with the basic design, or pay for it either. And I had a sense that the art department knew what they were doing. They were putting out dozens of romance covers every year and could really gauge what sells.
With independence comes freedom, but also a lot of responsibility. Here I am, stressing about covers when I should just be writing the next book!