There's an old saying that "you can't judge a book by it's cover". Which is nonsense or at least mis-phrased. People judge everything by the cover. The cover of your book makes a promise to your readers as surely as your first few pages do.
Images have power. I've bought books purely for the cover art. Check out the cover art for the Amber Enchantress (art by Brom). How cow, I scooped that bad boy right up. The book itself? Eh. A 'C' at best*. But it got me to pick up the book.
The same is true for bad art. I can't tell you how many books I haven't read because the cover didn't appeal to me. Scroll through the lists of self-published books on Amazon. Go ahead. This post will be here when you get back. Ok? How many of those books would you be interested in reading more about? Some might have a snazzy title but way, way too many of these self-published books have bland, photoshopped art. Say what you want about the John Locke books, the covers catch the eye. I have no idea what that model and that photographer got paid but I hope it's a lot.
So, for Smooth Running, I want an eye catching cover. Just the two main characters forgrounded with a backdrop of magic-haunted Seattle. Now, how am I going to do it, since I can't draw circles let alone attractive people? That's the puzzle. I'm going to try www.elance.com and see what kind of artists are willing to bid on my work contract. Backup plans include searching Deviant Art's site for artists I like, trying the Art Institute in Seattle and if that doesn't work, I'm going to find an indy writer who's cover art I like and pester them (politely) to find out who did their art.
I'll keep you posted on how it goes.
*It feels like they bought the art then tried to write a book around it, instead of the other way around.