Author of African American Contemporary Romance/Fiction
As a first time Author I worried about many things in advance of writing. Will my book flow well? Can I really finish a full length novel? Will ANYONE but it? How hard will the formatting and posting process be? All of these things are important and can potentially be difficult. However I had no clue that my top worry should have been a cover for my book!
Luckily for me, I’m a planner and usually do things ahead of schedule or in advance of when they are really needed. When I was about 80% done with my novel and it was becoming a reality that I would ACTUALLY publish, I turned some of my time to working on the cover.
How to make or get the cover made is a whole other blog subject. I’ll try to stick with the issue of the art images. I had ZERO clue it would be so difficult to find attractive African American Couples or even single pictures of black men and women that were engaging!
I sent hours I could have been writing, looking on Stock Adobe, Shutterstock, Deposit Photos, IStock and several more sites. I have to be very honest. I put search words black or African American couple and at least 40% of the images returned were of interracial couples. Also whoever takes these pictures to sell them have a different vision of what I (and my friend who I had check out some of the pictures) think SEXY looks like. The men were either extra short, or looked as if they would not want to hold a woman in their arms. The poses were cheesy (not sexy like the photos of other races) or the photos were too racy/sexualized. I write “modern contemporary” and want to gear my books to certain every day readers.
That brings me to another problem. There did not seem to be any in-between. There were “decent” not great photos of African Americans in business clothes, usually not trendy looks, but extra boring and stuffy. We (blacks) didn’t seem to have the same wide ranges of photos and poses as others. It seemed they only have a very limited number of boxes they put us in then took those kinds of pictures. So the few times I did like a male I found-I didn’t like the woman. It was easier to find a female I liked overall but she was usually with a horrible guy. Or the activity they were doing or backdrop was completely wrong.
The next issue was skin color. I wrote my characters how I saw them and wanted the in my head. I had no idea it would be hard to find a couple with near the same skin tone. They (people who took these pictures) seem to think there cannot be “two dark skin, med skin or light-skinned” people in the same pic.
My advice start thinking about your cover when you are 50% to 80% done with your book, or really as soon as you know “how” your characters will look or what you want scene you want to pull from the book to show. Decide if you “want/need” human images on the front at all! I feel for romance most times you should, as a cover catches the reader’s eye and as an avid reader of many genres I know a cover is one of the MAIN things that draws me to a book, online or in store/library. Covers are extremely important! And should convey “something” about what genre the book is. Yes you should be able to tell the genre of a book 9/10 just from the cover. I know I can. I can tell by the cover if it’s Urban, Contemporary, Paranormal or leans more towards Erotic Romance.
Eventually when I saw I would not be able to make my own cover, as I didn’t have the skills needed. I lucked up and found Fiverr. Independent people (though I suspect there are some who are groups of people or small companies) that will do your project or “Gig” as they call it, for various prices. They help with proof-reading, logo’s, covers, flyers and a host of other things for a variety of different business needs. The first person I tried after literally a half day of looking over different profiles and their work was based in Nigeria (yes they were real lol) but told me they couldn’t find what I wanted “because I required black images” Now I picked them because I saw they had done MANY AA Covers. Needless to say I got my refund back and moved on. The next person I chose, didn’t not have anywhere as many AA Covers to show, but otherwise did great work in other genres. I took a chance and in 3 days, with only one special request revision, had a cover I was extremely happy with!
1-Start Early-I would say not before you have a firm book written, but early enough in case you have to look and look and look for what YOU want to convey YOUR vision. Start looking for your next cover images (if you have fleshed out people from a previous book that will star in the next one).
2-Shop around there are many options.
Companies that claim they can do it for $100 to $600+.
Online market places like Fiverr that have tons of options that ranges from $25 (mine cost $25!!) up to a $100 or so.
Local small/side business that focus on branding and marketing.
Or your hobbyist friend or college student who is majoring in graphic design etc.
Think about YOUR budget but also remember the Cover is the “first impression” even before they decide to click or pick the book up. If you are publishing an e-book you can fairly easily change your cover later on if you feel its hindering sales etc. But if you want to do POD, (Print on Demand) you may want to take that extra time and get it right “the first time around.” (However you can change POD images, many do for releasing of series or just because they need a new cover).
3-Find someone whoever it is, who can “manipulate” images WELL. Because of our lack of images to choose from, your designer will have to in all likely hood piece together the images/background/colors you want. Don’t assume because they said they “can” that they actually can. Ask questions! The image I used for “Running Into You” my female had a pair of glasses in her hand. I wanted it to be a cell phone. My designer was able to make it so. I also didn’t know I wanted a color until she asked me about it upfront. By my designer being knowledgably about Covers she knew what questions to ask an author. They were able to use it and make it work with the picture, as well as do some slight modifications with the clothing color and city image as well. They should be able to CREATE what you need. If all they do is cut and paste stock images and cannot perform intermediate to in-depth alterations (if needed) pick someone else. Yes you may have to pay more!
4-If you are working on a Series it’s even more important to pick the right person. While your first images “may” have been easy to find, maybe your second or third will not be. Which is why #3 above is so important. Also you want continuity of your series images. Books in a Series should be easily known to be “in” that series, with just a glance. So being able to use the same person for “all” covers in a series may be best. They can keep the same theme/feel going for the books.
5-I had one small business owner tell me I should hire models (that I felt fit what I was looking for) and have my own photos taken). Again as a new Authors that never occurred to me, but it’s a great thought. However unrealistic for most of us. Cost of finding a photographer, questions of do you pay the models, where do you find them, are just a few of your concerns? Do you need a contract so that you can use their images however YOU want? Is it worth the effort? As you will probably only use one photo of theirs, as you can’t have them on all your books! Though I suppose you could sell the extras Stock databases IF you have the full rights to the images. Since most people starting out don’t have the money or legal know how to do this, this option is not particularly feasible.
I really wish I could do number #5, I’d like to show the world my “thoughts” on what a sexy, black, fun, professional, edgy, modern day couple in love should look like!