Over the last few months I have spent a great deal of time searching for cover art for Mountains of the Moon, a book, set in the world of Neveyah, and one that takes place in a rugged mountainous area. A lot of the action at the end of the book is in a ruined keep. I have four heroes, five bad guys, and great deal of hilarity to cover, and it’s hard to know just what will work.
I have no idea what to commission, if anything, and I have been unable to find the right combination of stock pictures, so here I am, writing a fourth book set in that world, with no idea of what sort of cover is appropriate for the one that is currently on hold.
What ever I get, it has to be colorful and eye-catching and SIMPLE.
So this takes me to another cover dilemma–writing the dreaded blurb. So what do the professionals all do? By “blurb” I mean a condensed, concise, and compelling description of your book, in other words, a book advertisement. The blurb is a book publisher’s description, or even a review comment (but I hate those.)
I went out to several books on my shelves, and discovered that the big publishers don’t write blurbs any more. They just put glowing descriptions of the author’s other work on the back. I feel that is a bit disrespectful to the reader on the part of the big name publisher–expecting the purchasing public to just blindly follow the well-known author. After several recent expensive disappointments at the hands of authors whom I quite respected, I have decided I am not going to buy your damned $25.00 book unless I know what I am getting, no matter WHO publishes you. I will stand in that aisle and read as much of the book as I need to, if that is what it takes to get an idea of what is inside, proprieties be damned.
ANYWAY–a blurb like that won’t help an indie, because your other work won’t sell your book–the book has to sell itself. BUT some of the older books on my shelves have great blurbs, little teasers that sold me that book back in the day.
1. Who or What is your book about? Choose either the idea of the book or the main character and stick to that. If you choose the character, use only the main character in your description, and forget the others, because it is that character’s story that you are trying to sell. (I personally am always intrigued by the idea of the book, and a good example will follow below.)
2. Run it past your reading group, your friends, and your online author buddies. Run it by someone, anyone! Ask them if it makes them want to run out and buy the book, and heed their answer. Ask them why it works or why it doesn’t.
3. Keep it short! I have found that a little exercise currently popular in online writing groups is really helpful – getting in the habit of writing 100 word flash fiction. I write a 100 word flash fiction nearly every day, because you really have to choose your words wisely, if you want to tell your story in such a short space. It is a warm-up exercise for my real work, and I have quite a good backlog of ideas that will become short-stories or novellas, all written this way.
Let’s look at the cover and the blurb on ’Roadmarks’, a classic sci-fi fantasy written by the late Roger Zelazney. It was published in 1979 by Del Rey Science Fiction. The cover art is awesome–and it really caught my eye. It is simple, with plenty of visual room for the graphics.
The blurb is intriguing too, as the publisher sold me the IDEA of the novel:
“The Road runs from the unimaginable past to the far future, and those who travel it have access to the turnoffs leading to all times and places–even to the alternate time-streams of histories that never happened. Why the Dragons of Bel’kwinith made the Road–or who they are–no one knows. But the Road has always been there and for those who know how to find it, it always will be!”
I have the cover design for Huw The Bard, and the blurb. That book is covered! But Mountains of the Moon–not so much. Finding the art for that book is proving a challenge, but I have six months at least so something will turn up.