Covers are an exciting milestone in the publishing process -- a chance for authors to celebrate, and often, one of the few times we have some control over the event (even if we can't control the cover designs themselves).
But for many authors, it's hard to know what to expect, much less where to start. So I've put together some information gathered from years of watching colleagues handle their covers, my own ongoing experience as a debut, and YA Highway's history of hosting reveals for others.
If you just need hosting suggestions (or really like to look at covers), scroll down for helpful lists that will be updated as suggestions arrive and time allows. And fellow authors or publishing pros, feel free to offer your own advice in the comments!
"Do I have to have a cover reveal?"
It depends on your publisher. If they've offered to handle it, great! Let them use their connections on your behalf.
However, many publishers are now moving away from the reveal, or asking authors to handle it themselves. Although the posts get a lot of clicks, they don't necessarily translate into sales, which means some believe publicity/marketing's hours are better spent elsewhere.
"How do I set up a cover reveal?"
First, ask your publisher for guidance, on both the "where" and the "when." They may have helpful suggestions, and if they have specific expectations, better to know up front. Some recommend hosting reveals on your own website, to draw traffic and recognition to your home base. Others prefer the perceived stamp of legitimacy that an established site confers. Some prefer that your reveal wait until after buy links are live, but sometimes this can conflict with the goal of giving readers a truly "first look" at the image. Some prefer to reveal a cover early, to build its recognition; other prefer to wait until close to the book's release date, to maximize on excitement.
Depending on your plans, your pub may also need to seek approval from another department. For example, if you're using the website of a bookseller with whom your publisher has a business relationship, they may need to check with accounts and legal first.
Then, consider your goals. Book blogs, your publisher's marketing force, special focus sites, debut groups, and major media all offer various levels of access and exposure. Are you in a hurry? Smaller sites will be better able to work your feature into their schedule. Going for maximum exposure? Major media is an obvious choice, but you may need personal connections. Want to reach a target audience? Look for sites that cater to your demographic.
A reveal on a small site can be a big deal. Some have multiple social media presences and will share your reveal there to increase their reach. You need to do the same, of course -- spread the word on your accounts, and ask friends, fellow debuts (current or years' past), your agent and publisher, and any other signal boosting connections to do the same.
Make sure you're prepared. Your host will give you specifics, but in general, they'll need a good quality image of your cover, plus your headshot, your bio, a short summary of the book, and links to purchase as well as to your internet presence(s).
Boost traffic with extra content. An interview with you, your cover designer, agent, or editor can draw attention, as can a short post about your inspiration, journey to publishing, or an excerpt from the book (especially if it's a first look). ARC giveaways are usually popular -- and if you don't have copies to offer, you can always try swag, bookmarks, posters, or other related items. Giving away other people's titles is another way to boost views (and a nice way to support other authors), but make sure you ask those authors' permission to avoid giving the impression that they've endorsed your book.
Remember that traffic pays your host. Most sites will host for free, but they rely on advertising/sponsors for funding. Clicks to their home base pay the bills, so teasers are okay, but don't share the full image of your cover elsewhere until their requested exposure time has elapsed -- usually just a day. (Note: YA Highway is a volunteer-run, self-funded site, and our only "payment" is visitor eyeballs on our own covers when they click through to see yours.)
"This sounds like a lot of work."
There are companies that will do the legwork for you, for a price. Some authors are thrilled with their services; others have found the experience disappointing, so ask around for recommendations. (This is not an area I know well, but if you have a post with tips, please link it in the comments.)
"Do I have to pick just one site?"
Depends. Some sites (like us) prefer exclusive content. Others are willing to participate in a "blog tour"-style reveal, in which multiple sites share the image on the same day. These are often accompanied by a giveaway, in which each site offers a chance to win. (This type of reveal is often organized by an outsourced company as mentioned above.)
On the upside, this strategy can get your cover seen by more people. On the downside, people who follow more than one of your chosen sites may get an overdose, which can be a turnoff to readers.
"So who will reveal my cover?"
Below is a list (in progress) of sites that host cover reveals. All feature YA and/or MG; many also spotlight kids, New Adult, and adult books. (There are many more options not listed here for the latter two categories.) I cannot confirm that all these sites take pitches, but I've linked to each site's contact page when possible. Some sites may prefer that contact come through your publicist, but few have specific guidelines clearly posted.
"I'm still confused."
I've also included a small list of "how to do a cover reveal" articles at the end.
"What if I just want YA Highway to host?"
If you fit the requirements below, send us an email at yahighway dot gmail dot com, and we'll get you set up.
"My site isn't listed or has incorrect info..."
Please email yahighway dot gmail dot com with "Cover Reveal Resource List" in the subject line. Thanks!
Book Blogs and Websites
Barnes & Noble Teen: YA
Book Riot: YA and adult
The Book Smugglers: YA and adult
Bookish Fangirl: YA
Cuddlebuggery: Considered on case-by-case basis
Forever Young Adult: YA
From The Mixed-Up Files...: MG
GayYA: YA books with major LGBTQIA+ characters
IceyBooks: YA and adult
Kidlit411: Kids and MG
The Kidliterati: YA and MG
LGBTQReads: Exclusives only; all age groups and formats with LGBTQIA+ content
Me, My Shelf, and I: Kids, MG, YA, adult
Middle Grade Minded: MG
Mundie Kids: Board books through MG
Mundie Moms: YA
Mundie Moms Grown Up Book Reviews: New Adult and adult
Nerdy Book Club: Kids, MG, and YA
Operation Awesome: YA, primarily for personal contacts
Pop! Goes the Reader: YA and MG
Project Mayhem: Traditionally published MG; indies by member referral
Publishing Crawl: YA, possibly others
Rich In Color: YA by/about POC or people from First/Native Nations
RT Book Reviews: YA and adult
Teen Librarian Toolbox: YA and MG
YA Books Central: kids, MG, YA; indies welcome
YA Buccaneers: YA and MG
YA Highway: YA and MG. Exclusives only, for authors with PW publishers, as schedule allows
YA Interrobang: YA
Watch. Connect. Read. aka Mr. Schu Reads: Kids and MG (scroll to bottom for contact info)
We Need Diverse Books: YA and MG
General Media Sites
Happily Ever After at USA Today
The Mary Sue
The Young Folks: YA, occasional MG and adult
(Click here for a handy map of Big 5 publishers and their imprints. You can see smaller presses' organization with a PM membership.)
Penguin Random House:
First In Line
This Is Teen/I Read YA
Simon & Schuster:
The Swanky Seventeens
The Sweet Sixteens
The Fearless Fifteeners
The Lucky 13s
Your local library or bookstore's website
Exclusive reveal to your newsletter subscribers
Most cover reveal posts seemed to be geared toward indies, so depending on your situation, keep in mind that your mileage may vary with each link.
"Art of the Cover Reveal" from Penguin Random House
"How to Do a Cover Reveal" from Light Messages
"Generate Excitement with a Cover Reveal" from Training Authors
"9 Tips to a Successful Cover Reveal Campaign" from Jolly Fish Press
"Marketing 101: Cover Reveals Done Right" at Aurora Publicity
"Seven Tips For a Successful Cover Reveal Contest" at Inkspot
Feel free to leave tips and tricks in the comments!