Judging a cover

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

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