Nothing douses an artist, designer or any sort of creative person in a cold shiver of dread then the phrase “Let me run this by my friends and family”.
“But wait,” you say! “I need opinions from other people to see what I’m missing!”
Yes, you do absolutely! But allow me to explain from a couple of different perspectives.
When an author (or anybody hiring a creative) completes an art brief – be it a simple email outlining what they want for a logo, a web design or in my case, a cover art request, they do so with a certain vision. This vision may not be a good idea, and the designer will try to recommend other approaches, be it to make the book more marketable, or a website more useful. Sometimes the ideas will be agreed upon, and sometimes the author will insist on what they want. In all those cases, the communication is one on one – designer to client.
Imagine a designer’s surprise when a concept comes back with critiques from five different people who weren’t involved in the initial conversation and now want to add things that may counteract each other? Suddenly, the designer needs to cull through different suggestions, pick out those that may not work for the existing design (sometimes things we visualize just don’t work in practice), and try to communicate to the author who is equally confused by the barrage of “helpful advice”.
Now lets take it a step further: how are those friends and family and the advice they give related to your product?
Well, you say, they are all readers! Wouldn’t they be my audience?
Sure – if they normally read/watch/enjoy similar genres without a push from you. If your sis is a romance reader and you show her your mystery cover, her suggestions may not be the most helpful because she isn’t your target audience. She isn’t the one who will be trolling Amazon’s new mystery categories looking for something to jump out at her.
Similarly, author friends (or worse – authors in a critique group), will throw suggestions to you based on their personal feelings and experiences. “Isn’t there a dog in the story? Why isn’t the dog on the cover?” Or “Author names should always be huge” or “You should have the title in this really pretty script font”. Some of these these may be very valid suggestions. But how many of you – especially those of you who are just wading into the publishing waters (small press or indie) – know how to cull out gems from hay?
Allow me to be of help. Yes, you should absolutely seek out help if you aren’t sure about your cover (or any design). But choose wisely.
If you have an editor – an experienced editor who has many published clients in YOUR genre – they are a great person to get advice from. They know your book as well as you do, and they have the advantage of having some distance from the book and potentially seeing avenues you haven’t explored marketing wise. (This is the ideal person to consult with while in discussion with your artist about what you need them to create)
If you have author friends who are pretty successful in your genre, those are great people to seek advice from, because they’ve walked your walk and talked your talk. And paid the same dues you’re paying now.
If you know readers – readers who enjoy your genre – those are diamonds and should be treated as such.
And finally, when you send them your new shiny cover, don’t ask them “what do you think” or “should anything be changed?” Ask five people if anything should be changed and you’ll get 5 different answers. Instead, ask “would you click on this book?”. “Would you pick up this book from a shelf?” And if they say “No,” to any of these questions, ask the whys. Don’t try to find a solution before you know the problem. Once you know the “whys”, you can go back to your designer armed with specific things to change, and rock solid reasons to change them.