Everybody tells you not to judge a book by its cover, but then everybody goes and judges books by their covers.
With this paradox in mind, I’ve been trying to find a artist to make the cover for my upcoming book (The Missionaries, look for it soon on Amazon and CreateSpace). Originally, I looked at a few book covers and, like a lot of people considering only the end-result of a process they don’t understand, thought, “That doesn’t seem that hard; I could do that.”
It only took a few dismal attempts for me to realize, yes, it is quite hard and no, I can’t do that.
So I’ve started to hunt about for an actual artist. Doing book-covers for self-published books is a real cottage-industry on the Internet. Again, I quickly learned something; this time the lesson was, most “book-cover artists” suck.
And suck badly. The odd thing, or I found it odd, is that they all had technical skills. They are able to use Photoshop or Illustrator or whatever and produce glossy-looking “professional” covers. The problem is, their covers are awful. Stereotyped and lifeless and uninteresting.
Then I had a burst of luck. A link on a forum led to a portfolio showed over a hundred covers by the same artist, and they were good. Simple, expressive, individual, good. I noticed a lot of them were for books I had heard of. “That’s clever,” I thought. “The guy is showing off his talents by creating covers for well-known books.”
That bit of optimism lasted until I noticed one of his books was Jurassic Park, and the cover was the famous T. rex skeleton. D’oh, this guy, Chip Kidd, is a real book-cover designer. A little more research and I found out, he is pretty much the book-cover designer. James Ellroy called him “the world’s greatest book-jacket designer.” Oliver Sacks’s contract specifies that only Kidd does the cover.
He ain’t gonna do my cover for the $200 I have budgeted.
There is one bit of good news: Kidd may be great, but I could tell he was great. I am certainly not able to make a good cover, but I can distinguish a good cover (and a good designer) from a bad one. All I have to do is find a future Chip Kidd, somebody as good but not famous yet, and who still needs my $200.
The hunt is on