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Friday, September 19, 2014

3 Things to Know When Updating Cover Art - My Work with Maer Wilson on Relics

"Relics" by Maer Wilson. Cover art by M Joseph Murphy

Cover art is a complete mystery to most writers. Don't believe me? Check out for hundreds of examples of  what NOT to do on a cover. To compound the issue, many cover artists take advantage of indie authors charging ridiculous amounts of money for bad cover art. 

I recently had the privilege of working with science fiction/fantasy author Maer Wilson on the updated covers for her Modern Magics series. She needed an updated cover when she moved to a new publishing house. Working with Maer I learned three important tips all indie authors need to know. 

1) Don't Pay in Full Until You're Satisfied

Would you pay a plumber before they fixed your pipes? Do you pay a DJ before the wedding?

Normally, when you hire a contractor, they may request a deposit up front but they don't send you the final bill until they've finished all the work. Maer had a few challenging experiences with previous cover artists. One fell out of contact with her after being paid but before finished versions were delivered. With another artist, there was a misunderstanding about the scope of work required. Thankfully, Maer had given each artist a deposit, paying for only half the work up front.

The lesson here: don't pay in full until you have a usable finished version. If the artist demands to be paid in full before they deliver any work, find a different artist.

2) Use Google Hangouts to Discuss Revision

To discuss the first few revisions, Maer and I spoke back and forth over email and Facebook. She asked me to do something very simple. I misunderstood and ended doing much more work than necessary. Maer suggested we chat over Google Hangouts and it was the best thing ever.

I shared my desktop with her which allowed her to give me instant feedback on changes I made to the cover. This saved both of us significant amounts of time and, I believe, delivered a much stronger product.

3) Sometimes The Author Doesn't Know What They Want

Maer told me there was only one thing she didn't want on her cover: people. All her previous covers were abstract images because she wanted to avoid having topless sexy people on her cover. I showed her two drafts of abstract covers (shown below). Then I showed her one with a person on it because a cover most urban fantasy covers have people on them. 

She liked it. Maer was surprised that she liked it but it wasn't like the covers she was used to seeing. Far too many urban fantasy books nowadays feature half naked people superimposed on a nature background. This almost never looks professional. The final result should look like a single piece of artwork, not a cut-and-paste job. 

BONUS POINT FOR COVER ARTISTS: Sometimes the Author Does Know What They Want
Remember, the customer is always right. No one cares if the artist prefers one cover over another. Heck, maybe the artist is right. But if your employer is telling you to do something, you do it. You have entered into a contract and have a legal responsibility to make sure your client is satisfied.


Cover art doesn't have to be difficult. There is absolutely no excuse for having bad cover art. You can find several artist on Fiverr who are willing to do a cover with simple stock photos for $5. If you're not willing to invest $5 in a cover, you obviously don't take your writing seriously. On the other end of the spectrum, I've seen cover artists that charge over a $1000 for a cover. This is ridiculous unless they are a world-famous cover artist like Christian McGrath (artist for of the Dresden Files) or Alejandro Colucci (artist for the new Robin Hobb books).

Check out my website for other examples of my cover art. You'll also find a contact form and rates if you are interested in hiring me to do a cover for your book.
Cover Art by M Joseph Murphy

I'll also be featured on an upcoming episode of Maer's podcast to discuss the cover creation process.

Watch for a post next week in which I show you the numerous revisions we went through to get the final version.

For more details on Maer Wilson and when her books will be re-released, check out her links:
Twitter: @MaerWilson

Related Links:
10 Tips for Effective Book Covers
4 Steps to Create a Good Book Cover
Evolution of a Book Cover - Council of Peacocks
Tips for Designing Your Own Cover

Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo


  1. You did a great job with Maer's cover. Well done :-)

  2. Thanks so much for an awesome job on my series, Joseph! I can't wait to share the rest of the covers...soon! If you're an author looking for a great cover artist, I highly recommend Joseph, as his work is outstanding. He is super easy to work with and best of all he listens! He brought ideas to the table that never occurred to me. I'm thrilled with his work.

  3. Love the cover and thanks for the tips.


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