Don’t judge a book by its cover… but isn’t that what we all do? Those of us readers who are fully sighted tend to be attracted first by the cover, then turn the book over or scroll down to read the back cover copy to see if the premise is something that we want to invest time in reading. The cover of a book is your first impression, and it’s proven that first impressions are usually formed in the first 8 seconds and last for years.
As an indie published author I worked hand in hand with my cover design artist to develop the cover for my debut YA Fantasy novel ‘Songs of Autumn’. We first began working together after I’d already completed developmental edits for the book, so the most important pieces of the manuscript were firmly cemented. The theme, symbols important throughout the work, colors important through the book, the title, and the characters were well-grounded in their motivations. In my humble opinion, these factors should be the very least that you know before you begin the development process.
My cover for Songs Of Autumn is a symbolic cover, instead of a character driven one. When we tried a character driven approach, it left little to be desired. Though my main character, Liz, is the main protagonist, part of the charm of the book is how much you grow to love and care for all the characters, not just those with perspectives in the book. Everything we tried felt cluttered or too simplistic. I also didn’t like the idea of having the characters on the cover because I wanted to allow room for the reader’s imagination of their appearances.
When we decided to go with a symbolic approach to the cover design, the real work began. Asha, my designer, really delved into the themes of the book and tried to capture an aesthetic that could also stretch along all the books in the series which is currently sitting at an outlined six books. The white background was a bit of a contentious choice as most YA Fantasy novels on the bestseller list favored dark or jewel tone backgrounds. This was an intentional choice as I felt it would stand out beautifully on a shelf against those covers and attract readers' gaze while also having a dual purpose to fit in with the impending threat of winter which is part of the main conflict in the book.
The thistle on the front cover is a dark purple, purple representing royalty but also acting as a dark ominous presence right in the middle of the cover. The thistle is a symbol in the book that is attached to the antagonist, who serves as a dark ominous presence throughout Liz’s journey and was chosen because of influences from 17th century Scottish Highland culture that was a foundation for the worldbuilding I did in the novel.
Songs Of Autumn is also very lyrical and romantic in tone so there are several elements of the cover design that reflect that. From the romantic font for the cover to the intricate designs on the background. The thistle, most people notice on closer inspection, is actually tangled with the designs on the background. This was my favorite part of the cover, as the attention to detail really drives home how trapped Liz feels by her circumstances and fate.
All in all, it was an incredible experience to work with Asha and I can’t wait to reveal the cover for the second book in the series as I feel it’s just as astounding. Being able to have so much control over the creative elements of publishing this book has taught me so much, and working with a gifted professional who was able to take the words I wrote and translate it into such stunning art was a real honor. One of the greatest marketing tools I have as an indie author is to package my book well, to give myself the opportunity to get potential readers to the cover copy and hopefully interest them in buying and reading my book. I think Asha gave me a great head start and she also taught me a lot about marketing in the process. I couldn’t be happier to have my name on that cover.