Posted July 3, 2012 by davincikittie in All Authors

Indie-Pendence Week Giveaway (US/Int): Ilona Andrews on the necessity of eye-catching cover art

Please help us welcome the lovely and talented Ilona Andrews to GraveTells today!

The old adage, although it’s unfair, is true: people do judge the book by its cover. It’s the “face” of your book and your best chance at catching the attention of your readers. Having the right cover is important for any writer, but when it comes to self-publishing, the cover truly becomes vital.

Independent releases have two strikes going against them from the start. One, they lack the publisher’s promotion. They will not be included in the catalogues or benefit from the publisher’s agreement with retailers. Two, readers are less likely to trust the self-published releases.

Here is a hard, unpleasant truth: the ease of e-book self-publishing is a double-edged sword. Because it’s so easy, many excellent books, which were out of print or not suitable to traditional publishing channels, finally see the light of day and find their audience. Unfortunately, the fact that anybody can do it also means that any knucklehead can write some sort of nonsense, slap a badly made cover on it, and call himself an author, and great many knuckleheads do just that. Statistically, the quality of the independent releases is significantly lower than that of the books published through a publisher. Many readers have caught on to this fact. Having a beautiful cover helps your release to stand out from the pack. A well-made cover suggests to the reader that the author cares about their book, and they’re more likely to be treated to a carefully crafted narrative.

Remember that double-edged sword? It cuts both ways. If a cover looks cheap or is badly made, the readers will dismiss the book without ever glancing at the contents. Let me demonstrate. I braved Smashwords for you and looked at their new releases in science fiction category. Which book are you more likely to click on?

So let’s talk a little bit about what makes a good cover, where to find the artists, and how to make your own.

Good Cover

I wrote a long post on cover design, which you can read here, but I will summarize it for you. A good cover has similar elements:

  • eye-catching image – the image has to be appealing to the eye, usually feature one strong element, like the girl on the cover of Surrogate, and has to have large dimensions and resolution (more on that later.)
  • legible title and author name – both name and title have to have good contrast when applied to the image
  • be visible when shrunk – remember that readers will be browsing your cover when it’s shrunk down to 170-200 pixels in height. If it’s too busy, they will see a mess.


How to find an artist

Do you like the art of SURROGATE? I do. I think it’s gorgeous. I clicked on the twenty 20% preview option for this book and saw the following:



Maria Rachel Hooley


© 2012 Maria Rachel Hooley

Original cover photo by Chastity Ijames

Cover by Phatpuppy Art

I googled Phatpuppy Art, since this was the person who designed the cover. Here is the website. Clicking on the contact page gives us:

Digital artist specializing in book covers for best selling authors.
I’ve done over 80 covers to date — some of the authors I’ve done work for you may know -Amanda Hocking (five covers)
JL Bryan (four covers)
L.K. Rigel
Courtney Milan
Robin Brande (2 covers)and the list goes on.. 🙂 

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you are interested in my work or about commissioning me for any of the above.

You can send all inquiries to:

It’s that easy.

I would also suggest looking at Deviant Art, a community of artists many of whom are available for commissions.

Doing Your Own Cover

If you can afford to pay for a good cover, I would suggest you should. But if you’re a designer, on a budget, or you just particular, you can try your hand at making your own.

To make your own cover you need some sort of photo editor and a source of digital art. The most robust of the photo editors is Photopshop, which is very expensive, but there is also GIMP, which is like photoshop in many ways but is free. To find art, search for royalty free photos. The cheapest libraries of this sort are Shutterstock, Istockphoto, and Fotolia, but there are many more.

You will need to learn about layers. If you’re planning on using GIMP, here is a tutorial.

If you are not sure what you’re doing, ready-made images are your friends. Try to think outside the box. Many self-published authors get hung up on having images of people on the cover. It’s hard to find good images of models and it’s easy to mess them up if you have no experience. Sometimes objects are safer.

For example, let’s say I have an Arthurian fantasy story. I went to the Shutterstock and searched for sword in the stone.

For the purposes of this demonstration, I just worked with a sample which still has a watermark. You would download a large size file, add your title and cover, and full speed ahead.

It’s still not as good as a cover produced by an artist, but it’s a step in the right direction and it’s simple – it took me less than 3 minutes.

In conclusion, cover is important, and it’s probably a good idea to spend a little bit of money on it. It’s a good investment.

About the author

“Ilona Andrews” is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Texas with their two children and many dogs and cats.

They have co-authored two NYT and USAT bestselling series, the urban fantasy of Kate Daniels and romantic urban fantasy of The Edge and working on the next volumes for both.

Read more about this (quite prolific) dynamic duo here!

Giveaway (US/Int)

This is our giveaway for the entire event week.  You’ll have a chance to enter on each day’s post, so be sure to visit often!  We’re giving away the following prizes: a $10 Amazon Gift Card and 4 swag packs filled with as much Indie loot as we can find (and maybe stuffed with a few extra goodies).  All prizes are open to US and International readers! All you need to do to enter to win, is follow the instructions on each daily post. You guys know the drill.  =)

What elements of a cover draw your eye the most? How much difference does a cover make to YOU?

Be sure to leave your comment in the Comments area of this post, NOT in the Rafflecopter widget!  If you are viewing this from our main Feed page, you will be unable to see the Comments area, so click the title of the post, then scroll down to the bottom. Good luck!

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Thanks for visiting!


Sue "DaVinciKittie" Brown-Moore is a veteran romance blogger and reviewer and the primary voice for GraveTells.com. Sue and GraveTells have won several blogging awards, and GraveTells recently celebrated its five-year anniversary! Sue is also a freelance Developmental Editor passionate about helping authors bring out the best in their stories. She loves reading romance, fantasy, and sci-fi and edits any genre she reads for pleasure. You can follow Sue's editing blog, with tips and tricks for authors, at DaVinciKittie.com.