As always, I write these posts more to help you as well if you are stuck at what to do at this stage of the game.
The first part of my process is research. I go to Amazon and look at the covers of books in my genres. What do they look like? What do they evoke in a potential reader? What is the tone? What is close to the idea I have in my head? Is there a comparison?
I think it goes without saying that this also makes sure I have the genre correct. You would be surprised at how many authors don’t get this right. A real simple way to do this is to search for a book that is similar to yours and see the genre category and sub-category it is listed in. Read the description which will narrow it down even further and validate you have the right genre category. Write them down. The more precise, the better. Mike Alvear has a great way on how to do this in his book Make a Killing On Kindle: The Guerrilla Marketer’s Guide to Selling Your Ebooks On Amazon. I have four genres: urban fantasy, superheroes, contemporary fiction, contemporary fantasy.
Doing this will also point you in the direction of whether or not you’ll use photos or illustrations for your book cover. This makes a difference because it signals what audience you will be attracting. You may even consider doing two editions with two different covers for two different audiences. For me, I’m going with an illustration first for my contemporary/urban fantasy crowd. However, I will also have another book cover which I will test for my mainstream/contemporary fiction crowd. My book fits well in all of them. Testing will find out which one it does the best (R.I.U. Citizens get to help me with my cover so make sure you sign up to receive emails for it).
Take a long, hard look at the book covers, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Which ones are you attracted to? Why or why not? What is eye-catching about them? Specifically look at the quality and style of them, especially the good ones because this is the caliber of quality fans will expect. Look at the example above of Joker’s Wild. That art is good. Real good. Mine has got o be just as good. In the very least, it shows I’m serious about my work and I am.
This research also let’s me know my competition as well as open myself up to an opportunity to be exposed to a new author who writes the same kind of material I do. That can lead to some good things in the future, the least being you find a gem of an author to entertain your free time with.