How I chose my book cover:
I’ve been procrastinating for years with this book. It is expensive to get a book professionally edited. And I have refused to publish without editing. So I decided back in January that I was going to release Part I of White Minority, which just under 100 pages (in MS word page count anyway).
Over the last three and a half months, I’ve been working with Monique from Make Your Mark Publishing Solutions to get Part I ready for you. Her team been handling the editing, cover design, and is typesetting as I write this. A couple of weeks ago I decided on the cover design, which for someone as indecisive as me, is no small feat.
Initially, I had no idea what I wanted on the cover. No clue. I had a few thoughts but none of them were strong enough visions to materialize in a cover. Monique and I talked came up with a few things, but I had a ton of work to do on my end to make sure the designers made a cover I could really love.
Here’s what I did:
Made a board on Pinterest.
All great brainstorming sessions start with Pinterest. I made a Pinterest board of covers I liked. Colors, styles, anything I thought might look good for my cover. All related genres of course. This was for the designers to see, so I could get what I wanted.
Considered my genre.
Speculative fiction is such a broad category and includes many types of books. My book is an amalgamation of dystopian/utopian, science fiction, and Afrofuturism. The only “real” category here is science fiction. My intended audience is adults who like to read YA science-fiction and dystopian/utopian fiction. I wanted a YA-like cover. Adult science fiction, especially the classics, have a very particular look to them, whether they are space odysseys or not. If you read sci-fi you know what I mean. I hate those covers. And I love sci-fi (but dislike space odyssey in books anyway).
I really studied adult science fiction covers, and nowadays they run the gamut. It gave me plenty of room to play around with style.
Asked family and friends for their favorites.
When I was first presented with all the options from Monique and her team, I loved them all. Seriously, all of them. It was the first time I’d seen my book represented in image form, and choosing some over others was difficult. But choices had to be made.
A few members of my family had read earlier iterations of the book and were happy to offer their opinion. This helped me narrow the list down somewhat away from covers that weren’t relevant enough. A few favorites emerged, and few were rejected because they didn’t stir up the right feeling or attract the right reader.
I compared my possible covers to covers on the market.
After I narrowed down the list considerably to a few main favorites, I shrunk my favorite cover options down to thumbnail size in one window on the right. And on the left, I opened Barnes & Noble (I dislike amazon very much, and would boycott them 100% if I could). I compared my favorite covers and the covers on B&N.
Certain cover choices of mine had a very STRONG science fiction feel to them. Too much for my target audience. Other covers were too ordinary or literary.
I scrolled the YA science fiction books and examined the covers to see which cover fits in best with my intended category. There were a couple that stood out. My book isn’t technically YA, and it can be considered mature YA or New Adult. (But that New Adult category is now too romance-y and White Minority doesn’t feature romance as the main theme.
Nearly every marketing guru on the planet tells you to consider your market and your readers when writing and marketing books. I hate this. All it does it perpetuate norms in society. Especially norms I hate. But this activity did give me a sense of which covers would “fit in” the best.
Decided what I thought matters more than all the rules.
You ever heard that Toni Morrison quote that every writer on the planet has posted on Instagram (I can’t remember if I have though. Probably.)
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
I’ve heard people saying that you should consider what people want to read—genre norms—when you write. Make sure the story is one that can live up to readers’ expectations. Sure I’m sure that works. But not for me.
No one tells artists what type of art to make unless they sign up to do commissions. How is that any different from self-publishing? I wrote the story according to what I like to read in a story, why should the cover be any different? I chose this path because I don’t like people telling me what my book should be.
Besides, marketers and businessfolk will wear something out until people become immune it, until Google’s algorithms ignore it, until it stops “trending.” They will push things until the end of oblivion until someone random comes up with something fresh and new that diverts our attention. Something not driven by what’s popular. Think of how toddlers walk around and everything in the world is new. And for adults, it’s all banal because we’ve seen it before. Yep. All of our entertainment is formulaic now. Including many of our books.
Well, guess what?
Capitalism kills creativity.
(certainly debatable, but that is my mood today). That being said, I would like to sell some books… actually, I would like people to read and enjoy my book more than anything. So I have to pick a cover that entices people to select it.
Including myself…Market is important, but I wanted the book to be something I would buy. Something that reflects my hopes and dreams for the book. Norms are important, but what I think is more important.
Forgot all of the opinions I asked for.
Not only is family not the target audience, but they also have their own opinions. And they don’t agree with me on a lot of different other things. I wanted their support and their input, and they wanted to support me, but they didn’t do market research.
I always have trouble making decisions. Sometimes, I don’t trust my own decision-making capabilities. I don’t know how I ended up this way. I take it back. I have a vague sense of how I ended up this way, but I’m not going to go into it. It suffices to say I’m a perfectionist, and that lends itself to indecision.
Nonetheless, I like what I like. I’m immediately attracted to certain things and repulsed by others. But once I get input from family and friends, I can’t figure out what I like anymore. The same thing goes for my cover. I didn’t know what I wanted anymore because I’d asked people for their opinions. I couldn’t make a decision anymore based on what I wanted.
There are other decisions I made in life, that I won’t get into here, because other people said was a good idea, even though on some level I knew it wasn’t right.
Eventually, I had to ignore their input in order to make a decision and select what I wanted.
Held a prayerful, mindful (let go, let God) space.
As much as I liked all of the covers on the list, I didn’t feel like the most obvious choice was the cover I really wanted. It was great, and it was the best choice at the time, but I didn’t want to pick it. I couldn’t decide on it. But I also couldn’t decide not on it.
I realigned my mind and got myself into a prayerful, mindful space. (I don’t like talking about God and stuff. It’s super uncomfortable for me, so I’m not going to preach or proselytize you. I’m just sharing my experience)
The spirt/Universe/God (whatever you call it) told me to keep making those veggie burgers and stop obsessing over the cover. So I did. After I calmed down a bit, I checked my email, a new cover option was presented. Which I loved. It made all of the other cover options not seem up to par.
Of course, I would later question whether this “sign” was really a sign. And this new cover made me appreciate the previous number 1 choice that everybody liked. Truly appreciate it in a new way. Fortunately, in the end, I was able to make a decision.