Getting good cover art for a book is no easy task. There’s a huge talent pool out there, and of all the people in it, chances are only a handful are going to create the kind of content that clicks with what a writer wants for his work. And there are other issues as well.
One of the biggest difficulties regarding cover art is the cost. Commissioning a quality artist can easily run into the hundreds of dollars. So, for indie writers in particular, this is a major issue. Some have tried to circumvent price constraints by going one of three routes: buying pre-made book covers, doing it themselves, or looking for someone willing to do the work on the cheap (artists on sites like Fiverr, for example). While I won’t say that turning to one of these methods will never work (I happen to know a handful of writers who managed to get pretty decent covers through Fiverr), chances are very much against it. This is particularly true of the do-it-yourself method. Unless a writer has a solid background in graphic design, he has no business even making the attempt. The results are often laughably bad.
As mentioned earlier, finding the right artist is another major hassle … unless the book in question is a work of erotica or romance. There is a massive glut of books in these genres on the market, and there is a corresponding overload of related material filling portfolios. It’s exasperating to look for someone capable of making a great horror or thriller cover and finding nothing but images of half-naked people about to screw littering artists’ sites. The best course of action to minimize this problem is to search Amazon and genre-appropriate publishers’ websites for books with covers that are a good match for the work in question. The free excerpts at the front of the ebooks often provide an artist credit that can then be searched through Google, or one may be available by looking in the publisher’s staff/about section.
The final part of the cover process comes down to business relations. If the artist is available and is willing to take the job, be reasonable. One can haggle on price–to a degree–but don’t expect a professional to work for peanuts. It’s also a good idea to have a solid vision of what the cover should look like so the artist knows what you want before he sets to work. This will make his job much easier and reduce the odds of costly tweaks and extra drafts. And most importantly, pay your artist what he’s owed immediately after the job is done. Just imagine how galling it would be if Amazon or a publisher was late with your royalties! Artists need to eat just like the rest of us, so take their feelings into account and treat them with respect. Not only will this help build a good working relationship for future projects, but it’ll keep a bad reputation from limiting your options later down the road.
Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure how effective a cover will be for certain until the book is on the market. Sometimes, for whatever reason, a great cover doesn’t sell the book it’s wrapped around. This can be due to a reader bias regarding medium (Photosphopped images seem to attract more than painted ones–at least right now) or similarities to other covers making it blend in with the competition. And if feedback/research indicates the cover is an issue … you may have to commission a replacement. Yeah, yeah, I know; it sucks pretty hard, doesn’t it? But the markets are a fickle thing, and sometimes there’s no choice but to rely on general taste to attract readers to a book–even for something as subjective as art.