TQG Book Cover Ideas

Love it or hate it, we all occasionally judge books by their covers. A great cover can cause me to click through and read a blurb I otherwise wouldn’t, while a terrible cover will most likely make me chuckle and move on.

And while I don’t care about bad covers for my favorite authors (because they’re already my favorites), new authors don’t always get that grace.

Now I’m a new author. I need to tempt people into checking out the blurb and giving me a shot, which means I need a decent cover.

I started thinking about a cover for The Queen’s Gambit today, and after looking at stock photos until my brain is broken, I am turning to you all for help.

What do you love/hate on book covers? Do you care about covers for authors you’ve never heard of? What would you like to see on the cover of The Queen’s Gambit?

Personally, I’d love to see Samara on the cover in clothing that resembles something she’d actually wear. Based on the stock photos I’ve seen, this will be harder than it seems. I’ve seen far more women in metal bikinis than I ever needed to. 😳

And yes, I’m thinking about book covers at 7:45 on a Friday night. Behold my glamorous author lifestyle. :)

46 Replies to “TQG Book Cover Ideas”

  1. I feel the same way and often upset by some covers that should be better. I am no artist, however some of the fan art I have seen over a few good series is incredible and would make such a better cover. Could you hold a competition on one of those sites along with a chapter or two to give them an idea of the story. Winner could receive a signed copy or payment plus the chance at international stardom? I know that would make a great prize for someone trying to make a name for themselves and a great cover for you.

    1. “international stardom”

      I like the way you think! 😍

      But I definitely believe in paying people for their work, so the stardom would have to be a bonus on top of cold, hard cash. :)

      1. I’m in Australia so your already halfway there :)
        It could help someone personally achieve something rather than a large company’s stock photos that half of the other authors have already used with there spin on it.

      2. And I am from Austria (Hello to Leah Allen from Australia! : ), so you’ve already got several continents covered! Can’t wait to read the book!

        P.S.: Personally I prefer covers without the characters, as most of the time they look really cheesy. I always pick up covers that stand out or are beautiful in a different way.
        As you said, it’s different with authors you already know. But with unknown authors I tend to gravitate towards covers that stick out, and character drawings get lost easily in the sea of male/female (semi-nude)ness.

  2. Unfortunately I am definately guilty of judging books by their covers. Bad photo shopping is always a bit of a turn off, I think I like a more real looking cover. I can picture the front covers of TQG as a more sci fi version of Kate Danleys Maggie Series.

  3. If I had even a modicum of artistic ability, I’d happily gift you my best effort, alas no talent, but I’ll bet if you asked for volunteers someone out there would be able to provide a perfect cover.
    Good luck.

  4. Definitely guilty of buying books based on the cover.

    As far as what should be on it? Samara in a space suit, or suitably futuristic out wear doing some heroine-y stuff.

    Alien landscape not necessary, but would be fun.

    1. Caption on the back could read something like: “Samara is not your typical queen. She likes to get her hands, and weapons dirty”.

      Hmmmm… Maybe I’ll leave captioning to the professionals. 🙈

  5. For me when I choose a book its about the font. Whatever Ilona Andrews or Sherrilyn Kenyon uses is about right. I can literally walk through the library and pick books based on the font. Daryna Jones First Grave on the Right is my most recent read. Alot of the time its whats on the spine. When pull it out and see the front cover, thats when I want to see a kick ass mysterious heroine and I’m sold. I read alot and am a bit more picky about what I like and dislike these days, but I can guarantee that when TQG is available I will be ordering a copy shipped to NZ through Chapter Books and recommending you to Frances so she’ll probably order a few as well. Keep up the excellent work!

  6. The cover definitely makes a difference for me when encountering a new-to-me author. I don’t mind whether it includes photos or is completely drawn but, for me, the cover indicateds something of the tone of the book and helps me decide if I’ll read the blurb (which then helps me decide if I’ll download a sample). If you can’t find a stock photo to use for Samara, perhaps you might consider getting someone to draw a Samara for you instead (e.g. Grace Draven’s covers for Radiance and Eidolon). All the action so far has happened either on a spaceship or on a space station, so perhaps seeing Samara and Valentin with deep space plus spaceship/station background might work for you?

  7. I am influenced by cover art. That’s probably why I could never get into those romance books showing a bare chested man with long locks, holding a woman gazing at him all star struck. Sigh. (I can read them, but I’d like to rip the cover off!)
    I like to read about strong woman protagonists, so seeing one on the cover definitely catches my eye.
    I have enjoyed the covers from the Kate Danials series for that reason.
    I hope you find something you like that we will all like too!

  8. I 100% agree with your analysis of covers. For my preference, I’m not a fan of the covers with shirtless sweaty men and the couple-embracing-romance covers. Those covers make me hesitant about puchasing books from new authors but I’ll buy them from known authors. I like the covers with silhouettes of characters or back shots. I’d rather create my own image of the characters, for example see covers by Catherine Cerveny or TA White’s Midnight’s Emissary. Some other covers I enjoy are extracts of the book world with no people, for example see covers by Darynda Jones and TA White’s Mist’s Edge. For The Queen’s Gambit I’d enjoy a combo of the silhouette and an extract of the world. I have many opinions (sometimes multiple opinions on the same topic!). Happy to share my opinions and looking forward to Puchasing one of your products. I’m thoroughly enjoying The Queen’s Gambit.

  9. Hi. Thanks for sharing preview of Queen’s Gambit. One of the best covers that I have seen is the one for the Master of Crows by Grace Draven. The cover truly captured the main characters of the book. I do not remember exactly what made me purchased this book (probably a recommendation from Ilona Andrews). Nevertheless, I really like the cover.

  10. Ewww on Metal Bikinis. She is sleek, dangerous and protective… So something sgowing all three. A one piece ship suit, but not skanky. No oozing boobs. A solid knife, nothing flashy, either sheathed while she is staring down a cocky emperor with a bit of a smile on her face or in her hand while she confronts a threat, standing between it and some vulnerable charge.

    Setting: harsh planet surface with cool colored moon in the background or on a ship near an observation window showing a moon/asteroid/space station and some sleek flying space craft

    1. Oh and if you cannot find a good, non-skanky female pic for the cover, a planet/station/etc with cool colors like blues/greens/purples swirling near a planet, or maybe the sun peeking around the edge of a planet in the distance… And of course the space ship. I will always pick up a book with a sleek spaceship on the cover to read the blurb.

  11. Yes, the cover makes a difference. I just like to see a cover that looks professionally done. I like some that just have a symbol but also like those with people. No bikinis! I agree with several others who mention the artist that Grace Draven uses. Her covers are amazing. If you can’t find a woman in space clothing that you like, how about her ship or planet? Moons?

  12. You can book a photographer & model, to get exactly the look you want. While it may seem pricey, sometimes it can be cheaper than using stock photos by the time you read the fine print.

    Also you might want to try deviant art, you may find pre-existing original art you might be able to contact the artist and pay for use, or commission what you want. There are also stock models that post there as well.

    Personally, I want the art to reflect my expectations, space/sci-fi setting, and with the main characters in it looking appropriate to the story action with that hint of there might be chemistry too. And really in this case, Samara prominent, since the story is really focusing on her voice.

    This is just an example of some nice art on deviant art that isn’t girl in bikini.

    http://fav.me/d1veoj5
    http://fav.me/d2w6wlb
    http://fav.me/dbp8zxf
    http://fav.me/d9tubxy
    http://fav.me/d7oqw26

    1. Thanks for the links! I’m constantly amazed by the talent on DeviantArt. I draw bad stick figures, so what these folks do seems like legit magic.

      1. Right?

        Sometimes you can score ridiculously amazing art for a bargain, as the artists are young in their careers and needing to build out their CV.

        Also, I come from an entertainment marketing background: tv & film, and know what goes into DVD covers, and promo posters. So books is similar, tjough a bit different. Your cover design should be driven by your target demo, industry trends, and story content. I’d imagine you should have a dashboard via your website analytics giving you the data on your target demo already. Stalking your demo to see what else they like can help too.

        I’d see the cover playing off the female heroine fantasy books meets similar romance books in space. :) At the same time your creative brief needs to ferret out the one thing that ONLY your story represents from other similar stories and make that present. for further differentiation.

    2. Well, there were no bikinis but still, boobs, butts, and long hair that couldn’t fail to cause trouble in a fight. And all that eye makeup and lipstick, really?

    3. I really like these, though a couple feel a bit on the sketchy/less polished side. The one with the model for reference is really nice though. Put her on a space BG and she’d make a really nice cover…

  13. Even Samara in her black “cat” suit is preferable to a metal bikini!!!! And, please, if there is to be a guy on the cover, please have him dressed. It’s a bit embarrassing to have the guy shirtless when I’m out in public reading. I do like the covers of the Kate Daniels books– the focus is on a strong Kate but Curran is represented as well. And I also like the covers of Grace Draven’s books as well. But, honestly, I’m already to the point that I would buy anything you write!!!

  14. Based on the story so far, that is not a bad caption. I would be very upset if the story sunk to a Harlequin romance level, but I do not think that this will happen. I know that I am dating myself (but I do not care lol), but if you read one of those Harlequins, you really have read them all. They were written to a formula and only changed to include more sex .. you knew what the ending was going to be from the first chapter. I am so happy with the Rogue Queen. I am enjoying these snippets and would wish for a truly kick ass cover.No hunky, bare chested guy with brainless female in his arms. It has been so many times, boring and really dated, Space ships and the Rogue Queen with a shadowy guy in the background. He is not the centre of the story, she is.
    Good Luck Jessie. You are doing great and will continue to do so. Hugs

    *

  15. If you could custom design it a picture of Samara outside the cell with the king trapped inside by a forcefield could be cool. Both would be kind of beat up looking but with determined looks and glowers.
    But the first of the deviant art links above would be good too. Could you use that one and tweak the skin color?

  16. ..I second everything above. I prefer clothed, true to character, realistic shots.. for example, I most preferred the third in those deviant art shots, if you changed the blond hair, darkened the skin tone and changed the eyes.

  17. :) Love your idea – I definitely picture something similar to Ann Aguirre’s covers for her two science fiction series for The Queen’s Gambit, except instead of a drawn character, a real one? Deviant Art could be a good way to go – I also like the contest idea. #authorlife sounds amazing! Good luck!

  18. An eye catching cover will make me look at a book, and font can make a difference. My suggestions to look at are:
    Gini Koch – alien series, they are consistently good composite pictures.
    Darynda Jones – grave series, a good less is more cover
    Midnight ink published books, I’ve read a few books published by them (Kirsten Weiss, Lorretta Ross) they are oversized paperbacks, use a soothing offwhite paper, different fonts, and nice artwork .
    Most important be accurate to your character and setting ( catsuit not metal bikini) I read a lot of cozy mysteries and their covers are nice but very inaccurate, it makes me crazy!
    My favorite BAD cover had a dog on the front that should have been a tripod but was drawn with 4 legs!
    I look forward to your chapters! Good luck on your cover.

  19. I don’t really like having people’s faces on the covers, because they are never like I pictured them. I like your banner for The Queen’Gambit, because we can see their outline but not their face, and the space background is wonderful.

  20. I agree w/o no bikinis or shirtless men. For me the covers need to be minimalistic and reflect the story,
    (which doesn’t as always happen). Since QMB is her debut, I think you want her independent of V. (I like the story home screen, but not w/them together for this story.)
    The Deviant Art is amazing, but some are too much for a cover.

  21. I read a lot of books each year. Most are from authors that I am either already familiar with or who have been recommended by sources I trust. In your case, I found your website through a mention in Ilona Andrews’ blog. Because I have enjoyed “The Queen’s Gambit”, you are a known quantity and I will buy your books regardless of the cover.

    An eye-catching cover definitely helps to attract my attention if I haven’t heard of the author before. That gets me to read the blurb on the book. If that sounds interesting, then I go through and read the reviews. If they are generally promising, I buy it. In the days before amazon.com, I would flip through the book itself and read passages at random, rather than read reviews, but well-stocked bookstores are pretty much a thing of the past.

    I think you would be better off to commission a cover from a new artist than to use a stock one. Nothing is more jarring than to see the same exact cover on different books by different authors.

    The Queen’s Gambit would seem well-fitted to either a military or space theme. David Weber’s Honor Harrington series has interesting covers with strong female protagonists that don’t resemble “Chicks in Chain mail” in the slightest. So do Elizabeth Moon’s Trading in Danger and Serrano series. It is just a matter of finding something that speaks to your vision of what your novel is about, and thinking about how the covers of future novels in the series can tie together.

  22. There are also sites with pre-made covers, though finding the right match could be a challenge. https://www.selfpubbookcovers.com promises that once you purchase a cover it is removed from the site, so you get a unique cover. It may also be another way to find an artist who’s style works for you to get a custom cover – someone who has experience with book covers.

    Personally, I’ll judge by book covers, but also by title so font counts for a lot. Colour as well. I kinda prefer art to over-photoshopped composite photos, though I’ve seen some amazing work in the latter and some terrible examples of the former, so… I think KC hit it spot on when she said you’ve got to look at current trends. If a book I loved has a certain style of cover I do find that I’m more likely to pick up another book with a similar cover in the hopes that it will be a similarly great story.
    That said, whatever cover you get for this one, I’ll buy it. I’m loving The Queen’s Gambit so, thank you!

  23. You’ve got some lovely action between Samara and Valentin. I would like to see them facing off with each other, each with some emblem of their rank, and I’d like to see a space ship, a bridge, or an alien planet/moons in the background. Thank you for posting these. I’m loving every installment.

  24. Like you, I am influenced by covers of new authors. My favorites could be dressed in paper bags and I wouldn’t care.

    Still, I prefer pretty covers, as in artistically pleasing. Someone else mentioned Grace Draven’s covers. While that genre lends itself well to those types of covers, space not so much. However, Rachel Bach’s Fortune’s Pawn series had simple, yet compelling covers for space. Also Ilona’s Sweep in Peace series had fantastic covers.

    I really liked the idea someone else mentioned of having a competition from fanfic. Their art is often much better than what ends up on many covers. Perhaps it is because they are talented AND they care about the story and characters.

    However you choose, best of luck to you! I’m looking forward to seeing your results.

  25. I usually focus on the eyes of the heroine. I think the eyes should reflect the intelligence, world weariness.. i dont know…. a knowing gaze… since its Samara a knowing direct gaze focused at the reader. It shouldnt be empty eyes. Loose dark clothes.. something the original Samara would wear. A small female athletic assassin comfortable in her own skin. No acrobatic pose please. And a weapon of choice a small knife..or a stunner… the grip should be correct and strong. All these against the backdrop of her planet Arx. I dont know if i am making sense.

  26. for me the the cover catches my eye, but if the synopsis doesn’t sound good, I put it back. I’m also fine with minimal art – makes me curious and I usually pick it up.

  27. For new Authors unfortunately the cover will influence me a bit, though often it has to do with how polished it looks. If it’s well designed with no character but with an interesting title I’ll read the blurb. If there’s some kick butt people on it with a good title I’ll read the blurb. If it looks really generic and overly simple I wonder if much time or thought has been put into the book and may take a pass if something else catches my eye more.

    I’m not sure if you saw this, but Ilona Andrews posted a link for Doris, the woman who does her innkeeper covers. She has some prefab covers for sale that you can adjust, and maybe she can do a variant if you are able to contact her. May be a good resource for reference if nothing else. Andrews has a couple posts about the woes of book covers :)

    http://www.ilona-andrews.com/something-for-everyone/

  28. Good cover art is done by someone who has not only read the book, but also loved it. You can tell immediately when an artist just didn’t care about a book. If they loved it, then they want other people to read it. I am hugely judgmental of cover art. I hate models that look nothing like the character, not even as they are described. I often hate photographic covers, I prefer illustrated ones. Covers with a sense of mystery are excellent. Especially once you’ve read the book and then discover the meanings of symbols or clues on the cover. If you need someone to do some illustration with armor, I can give you my brother’s details. He is a graphic web designer, but his real passion lies in graphic novels and in particular, armor.

  29. As you are a friend of Ilona Andrews I am sure you know the story of the first model for the Kate Daniels series. She wasn´t available any more so they had to change “Kate”. So that´s one major problem with stock fotos / real people.
    However the Innkeeper series of IA have wonderfully drawn pictures on the cover. These you can design with the artist yourself. I would think these would give you more possibilites as you also write a series, so you have more than one front cover to design.

  30. I like more drawing covers in general, especially if there is a caracter represented. Generally drawings are more close to the description given in the book than any person you could hire to take a picture. (Sorry hope you can understand it, my english is still not perfect haha). I don’t like when it’s real person posing for a cover, the book lose a great deal of mystery, the worst being when the main “couple” of the book is represented in a “sexy” way. Sometimes it doesn’t represent at all what the book is about, I mean, sometime the story is more than just a story between a man and a woman. There is so much more thing to be said about the caracters than just “they end up as a couple”. Your story is much more than that. Personnaly I like the covers that makes me wonder, that are mysterious, you don’t know just by seing it what it might be about. So you come close, start to wonder and end up not being able to get out of the library without the book haha.
    Sorry that was long haha

  31. Thank you all for the thoughts and suggestions! Unfortunately, I have to balance the desire for great cover art with the economic reality of selling a novella from an unknown, first-time author. Hopefully I can find the sweet spot that works for both issues.

    And I’ve realized that no matter what I do, some of you are going to end up disappointed, so I’m girding my loins now for the eventual cover reveal. :)

  32. I hate to judge by the cover, but I definitely do. I almost didn’t read Ilona Andrews’ “Burn for Me” because the cover and title did not appeal to me. I did read it and it is one of my favorites. I’ve often wondered if people who read it based on the title and cover were disappointed because I felt it did not match the story.

  33. Covers don’t make or break for me, I read the first pages to decide. Having said that I’d suggest either profile or back view of Samara. I like the back view because you could then turn her and reveal a bit more of her features with each book (if you wanted to do so.)

    Based on what you’ve written so far, I think the scene where they flee and jump off the building toward the invisible ship would be great – could look like they are falling into a dark lit city.

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