Re: Why do most novel covers suck?

#25
Definitely not what the discussion I was expecting based on the title but a very good point.

I think its just trends. A novel can be extremely successful with a crappy cover, so people in marketing decide what works based on that instead of people who have something else in mind. This is exacerbated by authors, who might have the biggest artistic vision normally, not necessarily being in their wheelhouse and having an idea what to do with the cover. 

  This all trickles down to sites like this. So even if everyone is independent and coming up with things themselves, they still follow those trends because they want to be successful  and that's how success is perceived. It works for those big novels right?

Re: Why do most novel covers suck?

#26
Definitely not what the discussion I was expecting based on the title but a very good point.

I think its just trends. A novel can be extremely successful with a crappy cover, so people in marketing decide what works based on that instead of people who have something else in mind. This is exacerbated by authors, who might have the biggest artistic vision normally, not necessarily being in their wheelhouse and having an idea what to do with the cover. 

  This all trickles down to sites like this. So even if everyone is independent and coming up with things themselves, they still follow those trends because they want to be successful  and that's how success is perceived. It works for those big novels right?

Re: Why do most novel covers suck?

#27
That cover of Quozl, by the way, is by the late, great Josh Kirby.  Josh was best known for his cover art on the early works of Terry Pratchett which were, of course, very good sellers, so I suspect the main message being communicated by that cover is "If you like Terry Practchett, you'll probably like this!"

That said, pretty much all of Josh's work had the same "WTF is going on?" quality.

FWIW, here's the artwork that I commissioned for my book, Zero Dark: Operation Nemesis.  It's not a novel and it's not on RR (it's a supplement for a tabletop miniatures game and, if you're interested, PM me and I'll send you a link), but I commissioned this art from an artist I know well and whose work I've followed for a long time.  I happen to think it's pretty awesome.

https%3A%2F%2Fimages.dakkadakka.com%2Fgallery%2F20...rodark.png

Re: Why do most novel covers suck?

#28
Problem, kinda. My novel cover is literally just a lime. It has 100% relevance to the story, but I'm not sure it qualifies as a good cover, exactly. Then again, it does better than every other fiction I have up,, which most of them have covers I worked on for around 5min longer on.(to be fair, I think it's the first one I posted, and it has the most activity, but still) It reached 2k views on christmas day(yay) after around a month of being posted, which isn't the greatest, but it isn't the worst, either.(still, somehow it has 0 ratings....) So I don't exactly think that you can 100% say a novel needs a good cover, but I will say that the reason mine suck is because I spent almost no time on them. It took me ages to find an image of a lime that looked good enough for me, though. So technically I spent hours looking for an image that fit the bill. But I barely edited it at all. It was too beautiful to do that.

Re: Why do most novel covers suck?

#29
I feel that the answer is subjective due to a variety of reasons, such as how much money you are willing to pay, the chosen artist's experiences with designing book covers, a matter of the reader's preference, the type of genre of a given book or story, trends, and whatever most of the consumers may be drawn to but may not appeal to you.  

Re: Why do most novel covers suck?

#30
Good art is expensive. 

Lets do a comparison.  Magic the Gathering cards are all illustrated, with art that's ~2"x1.5".  A mass market paperback is 4.25"x6.75", which is actually ten times the size.  But MTG art is designed to be looked at up close, while book art is designed to be seen at a difference.  So lets say a book cover takes four times the time and effort (instead of ten times) and should therefore cost about four times as much.

An MTG artist gets paid $1,200-1,300 per card.  Scaling appropriately, a book cover should cost $4,800-$5,200.  Give it a range, say $4-6,000.  However professional book cover art tends to weigh in at around $1,500 as an industry standard.  So as to why it sucks, you have to find an artist willing to work for those rates.  It'll be through a firm rather than freelance, so might be even less money than doing an MTG card.  So a lot of cover artists are either just breaking in to the industry, or not able to get a better paying position elsewhere.  It's not really a good job, it's scutt work.  That's also why you see so damn many book covers where the art doesn't even resemble the main character.  You think they read the book when you're underpaying them that badly?  Heh. 

Needless to say for online where people are paying like $100, well, if you get a great artist, you are a damn lucky son of a gun and you treasure that poor sod who is willing to work for peanuts.

Re: Why do most novel covers suck?

#32
Pay is kind of a grey area. I can't speak for other artists, but whether I like the story would have a huge amount to do with whether I even took the commission or not. There isn't enough money you could give me to put my name on a story I dislike or think is bad. I wouldn't be capable of doing my best work in that scenario and there isn't any point in hiring me to do less than my best. So, some of it may be down to just finding an artist with whom you have good chemistry.

Pricewise, I'd say somewhere between $1000 and $5000 seems about right for a pro. My personal price might be a little bit lower, depending on the complexity required and how much I like the story. The more I like it, the lower the price would go because I'm all about putting my time and energy into things I'm interested in. I can make a living doing what I want, without having to deal with prickly authors and bad stories. So I have little incentive to put up with any crap just for money. Most artists would probably not be as difficult to work with as I am. But, then again, most artists are not likely to give you a discount just because they like your story either.

Basically, what I'm trying to say here is artists often have their own goals and purposes. Finding somebody with whom you have good chemistry and common goals, is worth the extra time in many cases. Throwing a ton of money at an artist does not guarantee a good cover, and paying very little does not guarantee a bad cover. In my experience, solid relationships matter more than money (relatively speaking). Being easy to work with goes a very long way.

One of my favorite writers/publishers got me to work for very low pay, just by promising me I could do anything I wanted. He was super easy to work with and gave me lots of breathing room. He always held up his end of the bargain. The pay was low, but it came immediately, without any fuss. These are the types of guys you want to work for. I'd probably still be working with him today due to how great our relationship was. But unfortunately, he died suddenly, with a brain aneurism about 20 years ago.

Re: Why do most novel covers suck?

#33
Book covers are 100% to sell the story. You can write the best story to tell, but unless you have the right "door" very few are going to take a step into the world you've created. 

The biggest reason most book covers on Royal Road specifically suck is due to font. Yes, just font. In fact, if you can't use font effectively in your book cover, don't include it, especially if you're publishing on purely digital platforms like Royal Road where the thumbnail only needs to attract the reader's attention, not inform.

For books that are intended for traditional publication or print, then the book cover has to both catch the reader's attention and inform on things like title, author, summary, etc. Having an exciting, busy, and unique book cover with font that's clear to read at a glance while its sitting on a shelf somewhere can do a lot to sell the story.

On Royal Road, stories are accompanied by a thumbnail and then a short list of information on the side (title, author, rating, pages, etc.) so you really want a good illustration or image. Adding random, out of place looking text in a font type that just doesn't fit can actually be a detriment to the cover. So use font well or not at all. The image also needs to scale, so it looks good at various sizes depending on the device the reader is using. Generally, the more visible the image is at the smallest scale you need is a good indication of how "readable" the image comes across. 

For digital platforms, busy images with poorly thought out color pallets generally don't read well when scaled down.

For examples of good thumbnails that help sell the story, just check out "Trending". There are some stories there that have nice, eye-catching covers/thumbnails, but once you read some of their first chapters, you might realize that some of them aren't actually that well written. So yes, a good cover can really sell a story far. It will help reel in those initial views to get the ball rolling.

For examples of good thumbnails attached to stories that are already established to be decently written, check out the "Best Rated" section. Most covers are pretty good. They either use font effectively, or not at all. The few that do have poor font usage also have an image that strongly compensates for it. There are exceptions to every rule though.

Re: Why do most novel covers suck?

#34

O_Weaver Wrote: The biggest reason most book covers on Royal Road specifically suck is due to font. Yes, just font. In fact, if you can't use font effectively in your book cover, don't include it, especially if you're publishing on purely digital platforms like Royal Road where the thumbnail only needs to attract the reader's attention, not inform.

I'll say it again because I love doing so. My cover is literally just a lime.

No words, nothing.
My other novels are doing noticeably worse than my pretty lime. I'm fine with that, but still. I agree. My fonts don't look natural enough. They don't stick. I'd say the coloring also counts a lot. Whether or not it "pops" at all is important. I think it might count equally as much as the font, if not more. Probably more.

Re: Why do most novel covers suck?

#36

lil_chicken Wrote:
OrionTello Wrote: Scaling appropriately, a book cover should cost $4,800-$5,200.

Wait, I just reread this. What? Are you joking? Holy shit. Artists must be pretty damn rich, then. I wish I could do that. Then again, even if it is around $1.5k, that's still a shit ton of money, isn't it? I know nothing about art, but...



Hah, no, this is where we get into the joys of owning your own business.  If you are self employed, you pay a 15.3% tax, plus income tax.  Then state taxes, which between property/sales/income tend to come out to around 10%.  So lets call it 40% tax rate so you get $900 post-tax (I'm probably being generous, but hey artists don't tend to live in the upper tax brackets).  

Your expenses are healthcare (self-employed) so $1-2k/month, rent, which we'll call $1k/month, $200 utilities/phone/internet, $400 food.  You save money on transit, so we'll call it $300, personal care/cleaning/clothes $200.  This adds up to ~$3,500/month.  Again, this is me lowballing a whole lot (average transit is $10k/year, for instance).  But we're being frugal.

So you need to do 4 covers a month just to have a roof over your head and food in your belly.  You're going to have to track those down with your contacts, you're going to have to do them to the author's specifications, and you're going to have to hope the payments go through (oh yeah, corporations fuck you to make their bottom line work.  If it's a choice between taking out a short term loan and screwing their small suppliers for a while, which do you think they do?  Yeah, you're not getting your checks on time). 

Oh but then there's all the network building.  If you're an artist no one knows about, then no one hires you.  So better go knock on some doors.  Take some cheaper commissions.  Pray you don't get an author or publisher who demands multiple redos.  Oh and you'd really like to get 5-6 covers because damn it you want to go to a movie and eat out sometimes. 

TLDR: Once you've done the network building, have a large stable of people who trust you, have more creative freedom, and have weeded out the asshole clients, it can be pretty nice.  But have fun getting there without developing a crippling alcohol addiction!

Re: Why do most novel covers suck?

#37
Yep, they mostly do suck. Every time I go into a book shop not one cover catches my eye. They are all bland, generic and boring.

Me personally, I love the ones which look like old-school movie posters with a collage of characters and action. Unfortunately people are too lazy to make elaborate covers nowadays so we just often get stuck with one generic image. Take mine for example, I'm no cover artist or graphic designer myself, so I just had to make do with what I could find. If I had the talent or could afford a decent cover artist I would have loved to have had an elaborate, hand-drawn collage as my cover.

Ah well.

Re: Why do most novel covers suck?

#38

Many indie authors create their own covers because they don't have the money to hire a professional, and rather than save up for a professional and wait to publish, they throw something together on their own. For websites like this, it's a little less demanding for covers to be appealing because you're reading for free--I'm not saying the cover doesn't matter, because it still does; however, many users won't take the time to commission a cover to post their stories to a site like this.

I commissioned two of my covers so far, and I created the others. For my novella that I plan to publish in summer 2021, I had the cover commissioned, and I love it. I create the digital design myself then show my guy and he'll recreate it, cleaner and more professionally.

The person I commission isn't expensive and he does great work (in my opinion), which is why I only commission him when I want something done.

Re: Why do most novel covers suck?

#39
 
OrionTello Wrote:
lil_chicken Wrote:
OrionTello Wrote: Scaling appropriately, a book cover should cost $4,800-$5,200.

Wait, I just reread this. What? Are you joking? Holy shit. Artists must be pretty damn rich, then. I wish I could do that. Then again, even if it is around $1.5k, that's still a shit ton of money, isn't it? I know nothing about art, but...



Hah, no, this is where we get into the joys of owning your own business.  If you are self employed, you pay a 15.3% tax, plus income tax.  Then state taxes, which between property/sales/income tend to come out to around 10%.  So lets call it 40% tax rate so you get $900 post-tax (I'm probably being generous, but hey artists don't tend to live in the upper tax brackets).  

Your expenses are healthcare (self-employed) so $1-2k/month, rent, which we'll call $1k/month, $200 utilities/phone/internet, $400 food.  You save money on transit, so we'll call it $300, personal care/cleaning/clothes $200.  This adds up to ~$3,500/month.  Again, this is me lowballing a whole lot (average transit is $10k/year, for instance).  But we're being frugal.

So you need to do 4 covers a month just to have a roof over your head and food in your belly.  You're going to have to track those down with your contacts, you're going to have to do them to the author's specifications, and you're going to have to hope the payments go through (oh yeah, corporations fuck you to make their bottom line work.  If it's a choice between taking out a short term loan and screwing their small suppliers for a while, which do you think they do?  Yeah, you're not getting your checks on time). 

Oh but then there's all the network building.  If you're an artist no one knows about, then no one hires you.  So better go knock on some doors.  Take some cheaper commissions.  Pray you don't get an author or publisher who demands multiple redos.  Oh and you'd really like to get 5-6 covers because damn it you want to go to a movie and eat out sometimes. 

TLDR: Once you've done the network building, have a large stable of people who trust you, have more creative freedom, and have weeded out the asshole clients, it can be pretty nice.  But have fun getting there without developing a crippling alcohol addiction!


muh bubble has been burst. Damn you real life things!! Making things like taxes mandatory and things like duels illegal! I wish to duel you right here, right now, real world! Bring it! I will destroy the economy with cheap Chinese knockoff transformers action figures if you do not cooperate!! Or worse, ones that aren't knockoffs but cost thousands! Actually, why are transformers so dang expensive nowadays! Same with legos! Wait. Actually, legos have always been hella pricey. That's even worse!!! I mean, I literally have a toy action replay dsi cartridge sitting on my desk. You know, the ones for Nintendo ds lite? The things worth over 150 bux! I mean, seriously! The DS I just ordered is less than that! And there's a game cartridge with over 200 games for literally 30 bux. It has things like pokemon diamond, pearl, platinum, etc. Zelda stuff, Mario, and more! AAAAAAAAAAAAA. It's a good thing since the value increased and I can sell it for tons, but still! Imagine being a kid and wanting one of these nowadays! You'd have to sell a kidney!(Though typically they get sold for way more, and often the person will never see a dime of it. or another day in their life, unfortunately. human organs are worth tons.) RAaaaaaaaaaa. 
peoangry