Book covers are like titles and marketing. They are necessary to the finished product and necessary for the writer to develop. First, no one is going to read your book and make the perfect cover for you. You are the most knowledgeable source for your work and only you will be able to put together an idea that will capture it in a single picture--usually with help. When you finish your work: fix on a title (as described below), work up your marketing materials, and then put together a rough idea for a cover. You can see the process at www.ldalford.com look in unpublished novels. You can check the secrets pages for each published novel to see the process the covers went through.
Don't expect artwork unless you are willing to pay a lot for it or you are a best selling author. You can do it yourself, but unless you are really good (I mean a professional who sells or has sold or been trained or won real awards) don't even think about it. Many people who think they are great artists can only produce junk. As a matter of a fact the number of rotten writers is directly proportional to the number of rotten artists. Most of the time, you aren't both, but there are rare exceptions. The artist who did some of my artwork is also a writer, and she is an awesome artist.
Expect the publisher's cover department to put together photos, writing (fonts), and backgrounds to make your cover. This is a very cost effective means to make a cover and is the most common today. You can do it as easily as they can. The trick is that they have much better equipment, photos, fonts, software, etc. at their disposal. All you have to do is search the web or clip art to find the approximate photos that match your ideas. You put them together and send the idea to your publisher.
Generally, your publisher's art department will use your ideas to come up with a great cover or a couple of covers for you to choose from. If you look on my site at www.aegyptnovel.com under secrets, you will see the cover proposal I sent, their proposed covers, and the final design. You can find these for each of my published novels. You can also look at my new novels to see my rough cover proposals.
Sandi Andrews of the Book Club Network www.bookfun.org wrote this about a couple of my covers:
Because I have both Centurion and Aegypt in front of me, I’ll address your question first. Perhaps it would help to understand the progression that led from not being familiar with your work to actually buying two of your books.The shortest answer is this site. The longer explanation starts with your friendship with Bruce. Because he posted in the discussions here, I became aware of him and his work. I checked out his website and online retailers to discover more about his background, books, and what others were saying about his work. Garnering enough information to justify a purchase, I ordered two of his books. By the time I was not very far into the second book, I determined not only did I enjoy his descriptive style and well researched content, but the man definitely had something to say that was worth my time to read and ponder. I then purchased the third book in his series and continued some exchanges with Bruce. In one of them he mentioned your friendship, suggesting that I might be interested in your book, Centurion, so I repeated the research process focusing this time on you and your work.What Bruce did not know was that if my father had not insisted that my undergraduate degree be in Finance, I would have pursued a course of study that would have led to a career in Biblical archaeology. The fact that I spent the greater part of my London vacation this past February at the British Museum underscores my interest in the subject matter of your books. I ordered both Aegypt and Centurion.So after that long winded aside, the answer to your primary question is that I think the covers of your books are both appealing and appropriate. The photo of the centurion on the book with the same title is riveting. My eyes immediately locked on the statue’s eyes which appear to be focusing on something or someone that is causing inner turmoil. The cover poses unspoken questions compelling a potential readers to seek the answers inside. Once the cover had my attention, I reread the back blurb which I had previously read online and then flipped through the pages to read a writing sample. Satisfied that I would enjoy the book, it was placed on my “to be read soon” stack. BTW, thank you for the Lexicon at the back of the book…it will help my understanding and limit interruptions to research terms online.The cover of Aegypt needed the blurb information on the back to clarify the time period of the novel but it is still compelling enough that I would have picked the book up in a B & M. Because I purchased online, the other pertinent information was visible with the cover for the purchase decision.
You have not only caught my interest because of the archaeology aspect of your writing but I think my husband will also be reading your work especially the sci-fi. He may already have read some of your air and space related articles in some of the aviation magazines he receives. Early in his career, Pete worked at both Carswell AFB in Fort Worth (where he first learned to fly) and at McClellan AFB in Sacramento where he worked on software for the FB-111A.So… is our inclination to explore your work based upon your covers alone? Probably not, but I do believe the covers would not repel anyone except those with no imagination or little interest in historical novels.As an experiment, I might present a sampling of some books for the club members to indicate their first reactions to the various covers.