Artwork for your novel: 5 reasons to get a professional

ImageTime spent on kickstarter will unveil a wealth of fantasy authors who fancy themselves professional illustrators… While I’m no cover-artist, as a graphic designer I’m going lay out some reasons why budgeting $150+ for a kickass piece of concept art is going to be worth every penny.

1) Your mum’s wrong

She might not be, but it took a double dose of The Internet for me too learn back when I was a wee sprout that my mother was very wrong about my artistic skills. A great deal of amateur cover design I see, reeks of an artist trapped in a bubble. If you don’t have any brutally honest friends who work in the design industry, you need to take (not your cover mind you, keep that a secret) your artwork to the internet.

Hit up the critique forums at; and if after a few weeks posting there you feel as though you are capable of producing your cover go for it. You’re either worthy, or so deep in the bubble I honestly wish I was you.

2) Everyone judges a book by its cover

Sorry age-old cliche, but it’s a fact. No, people might not say, “there’s a picture of an elf on here, no chance.” but a ham fisted cover attempt will jump at the reader for all the wrong reasons. This is even more important when marketing online. Though it’s getting less and less, people still have worries buying online, so if you need to look professional.

3) Graphic design is NOT a talent

Talent only determines how good a designer can possibly be, not whether or not one can be a designer. Graphic design is taught, it is a series of elements and principals. Typography, layout, space, all of that crap is falls into a group of rules that are taught and practised over the course of (normally) 3+ years. You wouldn’t go and build a house if you had no idea how to fit two pieces of wood together, so why do you think you can make a cover without the necessary skills?

4) You’ll be a cut above the rest

Getting a professional concept artist to paint your cover, and then a graphic designer to type-set it will set you above the competition in the e-book world. Amazon’s kindle store, to me at least, seems to be filled with amateur digital artists who have done their very best to produce what I could have done for a $50.

This is not their fault! They are doing their best and I absolutely commend them for it. I actual love seeing people who take a book from start to finish all by their own hand. But, this doesn’t register to the masses. If they have the choice between two books; one with great cover, and one with a poxy attempt, they will pick the good one… Why?…

5) Perceived Value

Next time you are at a shop, any shop, look at the stuff. All the stuff, if there are two items for almost the same price, but one is nicer looking than the other, you will pick the nicer. Why? Because good design adds value. Whether or not it’s better is irrelevant, if something looks shit, it looks cheap. 

A $2.99 ebook with a professional cover looks like a steal. A $2.99 ebook, with a $2.99 cover looks about right. You want to be a steal, sales is an impulse game!

Wrapping it up.

I’ve been commissioned in the past to do book covers but have turned them down. I am not at the skill level required to create a competitive cover, and at the rate I charge I’d consider it larceny. Hopefully I didn’t come off as too much of a wanker, I have an inferiority complex when it comes to my artwork, but I’m confident enough to know I’m better than a lot of would-be cover artists.  

Should I finish my book’s editing and no publisher will have me, I will be commissioning one of my many favourite artists to do it for me. 

It might sound weird to hear that a freelance graphic designer, commissions freelance graphic designers; but it is something I do. So In a follow up post I’ll give some tips on how to pick a good one… Believe me, there are a lot of amateurs out there who will sell themselves as the next Davinci. Picking your designer is as hard as the brutal acceptance you need to.

Thanks a lot for reading!


Also, feel free to check out some of my poxy artwork here and here. As well as in this blog.

4 thoughts on “Artwork for your novel: 5 reasons to get a professional”

  1. I completely agree with you on this. Your 2nd reason is particularly important is something that I think that a lot of authors don’t realise. There are so many ebooks out there with flat-out terrible covers; I once saw one which had clearly just been (badly) done in pencil and then scanned in.

    1. When a minimalist cover can inspire intrigue, going out of your way to produce a less than desirable result really does more harm than good. I suppose you could say the author just wants to have fun, which is fine. But, if that is the case; why put it out in the world at all?

      Thanks a lot for stopping by, Parasite!

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