First question: Do I need to have a cover established before I start the querying process? If so, how...? I have an idea for a cover but I want to avoid paying someone to do it. I don't know anyone that does graphic art, so... With that being said, I'm pretty handy with a computer and hope to do it myself. I just need to know if it is required and if anyone has attempted to do it on one's own. Thanks in advance.

Next question and this one deals with a bit of a controversial subject but bare (bear?) with me here: Is there an audience for a (romance/erotica/suspense) genre dealing with characters in which belief systems are outlined? In other words, if a character is a non-believer in a book and the plot wraps around that belief, will it be shot down quickly? The book would not be bashing any belief system or favoring any, for that matter, but the conflict (suspense) relies on the differing beliefs in order to drive it forward. I'm currently in stage 4--I think--of editing and need to know this before I continue...

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Okay to answer your first question. I would never recommend you designing your own cover unless you have marketing and or graphic design experience behind you. Your cover is like a movie poster. It needs to convey your story and make your book sell. It requires a lot of research into the market, color choices, picture choices, royalty things etc. A cover is not a simple thing. I've worked with a few people who did their own and each and every time they have to get a new one. There is a lot to consider and it takes a lot of time. I would not pay up the nose for a cover but be willing to spend a few hundred dollars on it in the least. If you know what you are doing make sure you pull photos from Flickr that are licensed for commercial use, then you can use them with-out paying royalites. 

Next if you are just sending out your book to publishers to see if you can get a publisher than you don't need a cover, chances are they won't use the one you supply them anyways. They usually have a go to cover designer that has a specific look for the company and so forth. Just make sure that your book is edited, your query letter is professional and short and to the point and start submitting. Be prepared to send out multiple copies of your polished manuscript. If there is one thing a publisher loves it is a book that is already edited when it gets to them. They will still go through it, but it makes it so much easier to read and it really helps your chances in getting a contract. 

Next if you are doing anything unique the bigger the publisher the better. They are more willing to take on controversial things. Smaller houses that specialize in your area will also take it, however smaller houses that are generic might not want to take it on for fear of lawsuits and or customer complaints. Often times these small houses pull from a very specific customer base that if one gets offended you can loose hundreds of customers, so they are less likely to take a chance. Medium to large publishers are a better shot for controversial subjects or smaller houses that specialize in your genre. 

Thank you so much for the reply. I think my 'perfectionist' nature is holding me up here so I hope to send it out soon. I took editing in college and hold a bit of 'real-world' experience but there goes that perfectionist yet again; telling me to hold up because it can be better. After realizing the way I respond to covers, name appeal, and how in-tune(overly sensitive actually) I can be to a target audience, I had that grand moment of pause in which head-tilting and scratching had me putting the brakes on. 

I've done query letters, also, so I think I have that covered. Unfortunately, I'm poor as a church-mouse so I don't have the funds to pay for a cover; therefore, I go in search for bigger publishing houses in which to submit. Again thanks for your very-much-appreciated response. I live to learn and learn to live.

The previous post is correct. If you are querying, I assume that means you are querying traditional publishers. They do not expect you to design the cover. They have an art department to handle that. In fact, if you come to them with a cover, you will look like an amateur, which is, of course, the opposite of what they want.

I also agree that there is no reason that the belief systems of your characters shouldn't be important to the plot. Of course, you have to know your market. Some combinations of elements may not mesh well, at least in the editor's opinion. For example, a smoking hot explicitly erotic story may not work well if it spends a lot of time focused on the protagonist's deeply held Christian beliefs.

Your advice is much appreciated. I haven't queried yet--but I'm getting there--and am discovering it is rather difficult to meander through this new saturated market. Unfortunately, I'm still at the phase where I'm waking up with dialogue roaming through my head on this same book which is just aggravating but tells my instincts that it's simply not 'there' yet. Then again, maybe I should just tell my instincts to shut up.

Beliefs are prevalent to the suspense and, if taken out, will collapse the impact at the end; so, I have to go with it and see what happens. I'm formerly trained and experienced in technical writing/editing which is messing with me a little (jumping between constructing essays and erotica) and am consistently correcting style and form while resisting a knee-jerk reaction to correct (I totally mean rewriting which I've done three times). Fortunately (maybe I should put an 'un' in front of that), I stalled partway through in every rewrite; therefore, I safely assume that the original is 'it'! 


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