Darling Indie: how concept art can help authors sell books

An eye-catching fantasy landscape—how art can help you market your novel

Don't judge a book by its cover

But of course, we do judge books by their covers. The art on the cover of a novel is our first imaginative connection to the world and characters that lie within those pages. It can have a significant impact on how the story will play out in our mind's eye.

And images are ever important in online marketing. (More on this in a minute!)

Artist: Elisabeth Belsher--Fantasy art for authors to help market their novels

I had a thought recently—when I land a publishing deal for my current work-in-progress, I would like to hire an artist to do a series of illustrations of scenes and characters, which I would then use in my social media feed, newsletter, and Facebook ads.

Then I had a second thought—why not recruit amazing artists ahead of time and bring this service to the clients and associates of the Darling Axe?

Commissioned art particular to a story or fictional world will help draw in readers who would otherwise gloss over a line quoted out of context or even a marked-up Twitter card for a book review.

What I've learned from Facebook's advertising AI

If you design an ad on Facebook that runs too far afoul of "what works," the ad bots will sink your advertisement, which means far fewer people will see your ad per dollar spent.

For example, if you make a Facebook ad with your book cover, the ad bots will detect that there is text marring the image, and the ad bots know that images covered in text "look like advertising," and that is one of the best ways to make people ignore your ad. Therefore, if you use an image with even one word on it, your ad will sink and you will have wasted your budget.

I learned this the hard way. But weirdly, it was a lot of fun. I never thought I would like advertising, but I find it can be an interesting exploration of the human psyche. Let's say I'm creating an ad campaign for Query Quest, our querying course. First, I check out free stock image sites for photos or illustrations that in some way convey questing or hunting or searching for treasure. I download anything that catches my eyes, especially with contrasting colours.

Then I go onto the Facebook ad manager and create an ad with all of the images I downloaded and several options for text/wording, which appears alongside the image, but of course the image itself is just a nice image. I publish the ad campaign, then wait and see what happens.

The results are almost always a surprise. 

First, the ad bots decide for themselves which of your photos is most likely to catch a scrolling eye. I'm not sure exactly what their parameters are, but they are definitely keen on bright, clear, and colourful images, especially with contrasting colours like orange and blue. They start sending your ad variations out, and they definitely play favourites. And they are usually right in choosing what will attract the most interest.

This image is one of my favourites. It's from Adobe stock, and the artist is Grandfailure. I think it's a fantastic piece of art, and the Facebook ad bots agree. Time and time again, this image comes out on top, or very near the top. But the bots and I don't always agree. Sometimes they choose my least favourite image, and to my surprise it usually does well. Sometimes they ignore a photo that I think should be a clear winner, in which case I turn off all the other ads to force the one image into use. Sometimes I'm right, but usually I'm wrong.

Character sketch by Elisabeth Belsher

The point is, great images catch the eye, and they are crucial in pulling in more customers in the very competitive world of online book sales.

Artful Marketing for Authors

The Darling Axe is launching a new project—Darling Indie. 

Character art by Brooke Emily

I am very fortunate to have already found two amazing artists to help kick off this new site and service: Brooke and Elisabeth. I will be helping clients with social media coaching, and they will be creating custom art for authors who want to level-up their platform and bring their novel to life on social media.

There is an array of services listed on the site, but ultimately all projects are custom projects, so the first step is a short discussion about your marketing plans. We work with all traditionally published, indie, and self-published authors.

If you'd like more information about how art can help you sell your novel, swing by for a chat at DarlingIndie.com.

 And make sure you check out their portfolios! Brooke and Elisabeth are both amazing, and their different styles can be adapted to suit your project's needs.

A scene from Sparrow War by Brooke Emily

 A scene from my manuscript, The Sparrow War, by Brooke Emily. The other images above, apart from the fantasy landscape, are by Brooke Emily and Elisabeth Belsher.

About the Darling Axe

Our editors are industry professionals and award-winning writers. We offer narrative development, editing, and coaching for every stage of your manuscript's journey to publication.

Work with a professional fiction editor from the Darling Axe: manuscript development and book editing services

Book a sample edit with a professional fiction editor from the Darling Axe: manuscript development and book editing services

Darling Axe Academy – Query Quest: a self-paced querying course

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