The second question I received from an aspiring author:
2) who to go to to design the cover art
This is dependent on your genre, but there are lots of cover artists out there if you're willing to spend some money for a quality cover. If you have some decent creative ability, you can design your own using a good photo design program (PhotoShop or PaintShopPro or something like that). You can buy stock art from places like Dreamstime or Shutterstock (and there are others) and add your own fonts and cover copy, etc. I've used Adobe Indesign (if you plan to put it out in paperback) to design some of my covers, but the last several books I put out were done by The Killion Group, which specializes in romance novels. A mystery author friend of mine uses Dave Fymbo and there are forums, like the one at Goodreads, as well, where you can find cover artists.
Cover artists will charge you anywhere from $50 to $200 (and some go much higher) depending on if you only want a thumbnail for an e-book or an e-book and print cover, etc.
Keys are to make sure it is readable at thumbprint size - You want people to see/recognize your name and be able to read the title, and you want it to look professional and provocative, something that makes a reader want to pick up the book, and that speaks to the genre represented. Covers distributed by the major publishers are more genre-driven than they are story-driven. They want the first impression to speak to what type of story lies inside rather than a true representation of the characters (although in my mind, its nice when you can match both).
Go to your favorite book seller and research the covers in your genre. See what they look like so you have a good idea of what the market is showing today and how you can adapt your cover to fit in (while standing out!).
As mentioned last week, I've taken what I've learned at conferences and inside the industry, but authors tend to fly by the seat of our pants. There are rules to follow, and guidance on genres and what works and what doesn't, but at the end of the day, you need to appeal to an audience.
Next week's question - how to get to the final product.
Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas! And if you want to know the background of my Christmas story, MIST ON THE MEADOW, I'm guest blogging over at Long and Short Reviews Winter Blogfest. Stop by for a chance to win!
(oh, and I designed this cover, with a photograph from a friend!)