One of the advantages of self publishing is that you have total control over your product and this is never more obvious than in the cover design.
While many publishers will attempt to accommodate your wishes, what happens when your vision and the publisher’s art department don’t mesh. It’s bad enough when the cover has little or nothing to do with the contents on the inside. But when they get the concept you’re trying for but compromise with carelessly picked cover models; that can be heart-breaking. So close and yet so far.
When you are self-publishing you can pick your own cover artist, someone whose style gels with your own and fits the tone of your story and who can create the image you have eagerly conjured up in your mind. That is why I decided to use Meredith Russell again after the stellar work she did on Theory Unproven. In contrast to TU, where I detailed exactly what I wanted on the cover, for Lovers Entwined I just gave Meredith the gentlest of nudges in the right direction and let her do the rest. Until it came to picking the cover models. Then it was great to be working with someone who was happy to cater to my every whim (whilst being far too professional to call me a fussy bitch).
Lovers Entwined is still available at the special pre-order price.
So how do you turn characters from your imagination into flesh and blood renditions on a book cover?
You could go all Sleepy Hollow and have a pair of headless (or at the very least faceless) torsos.
You could go with something that features no people at all. Some of these covers are really effective. However, as a reader I like figures on my covers. To me covers with two male figures imply m/m romance, and three figures prepare me for some type of ménage relationship.
If you are lucky enough to have something drawn for you then that will probably get you as close to your character as it is possible to get, just so long as you can communicate the vision in your head to the artist.
I know some people, having learnt from experience, have the cover model in mind before they start writing. I can actually see how that would be advantageous, having the model in front of you at all times as you’re writing.
Or you can trawl through model after model looking for the right combination of features to suit your character. Hair can be trimmed, lengthened, or dyed. Eye colour can be changed. Clothes (or even bodies) can be swapped. But even when you find some possible examples it’s still not that simple. Do you want your book bearing the same model that graces hundreds of other covers? Do you want to appear on Chris’ Misadventures over at stumblingoverchaos? (Maybe you do, because any publicity is good publicity, isn’t it?) Personally, I would be inclined to reject models that are used too regularly elsewhere or that are already associated with popular characters within the genre.
Taking all that into account you can limit yourself to a small pool of candidates and then it’s just a matter of working out which best fits the character and, occasionally, whether the position/stance of the model fits the cover.
But no matter how much time you spend picking the models (and believe me when I say these guys took many hours and numerous emails, Meredith will back me up on that one) there will always be someone that tells you they don’t look like the characters.
How important are the cover models to you when imagining the characters?