Friday, July 26, 2013

A Self-Publishing Journey: Are You Covered?

NOTE: I’m offering designers a chance to post their details / websites in the comments here. So if you’re a designer, make sure and post your details. If you’re looking for a designer, take a look in the comments over the next couple days and maybe you’ll find someone who can help!

Once the title of your book is set, the next step is making sure your cover is the best advertisement possible for your book.

Because I have a background in marketing / branding, I’m well aware how important it is that the cover accurately represent not only the tone of the book, but also be attractive to the right audience.

The primary factors to be taken into consideration:


-          Must be eye-catching in the small thumbnail format.

-          Must be eye-catching in both color / black and white.

-          The title, currently set as “Shattered”, lends itself to imagery which should get a nod (though literal interpretation isn’t necessary).


-          Teen / young adult audience (Primarily13-18, secondarily 18-35).

-          Genre is magical realism (a form of fantasy), but the book reads like a contemporary. So the cover should appeal to both audiences.

The real trick in meeting even these guidelines isn’t just in identifying them, but in finding the right person to put them together.

I spoke to several self-published authors – some who wished they’d done things differently in the past, others who’ve experienced great success – and the same things kept coming up.

1.      If at all possible, getting a professional graphic designer to put your cover together is crucial. Not only because they’ll probably have ideas you don’t (two heads are better than one!), but also because they’ll be accustomed to working to guidelines. They’ll format a digital file properly to make digital publishing easier, and they’ll know how to compose the cover in a way that’s dramatic and appropriate for the small image.

         a.       NOTE: If a designer doesn’t read your book before designing for you, you’re going to have to make sure you’re very clear about the themes, important plot / imagery in the prose, and, if applicable, colors, character descriptions, tone, etc. It may sound like an easy thing, but if the designer doesn’t know your story it may be easy for them to take the wrong approach. Try finding covers you like that are out there now and work in a similar vein to what you’d like for yours and send the images / links to the designer to review before they start. 

2.      Simple is often more effective in digital publishing. No matter who designs your cover (but especially if you’re doing it yourself), remember: even some of the most dramatic or detailed covers can be very simple. And when you’re working in the very small format of digital publishing, it’s imperative that readers be able to relate to your cover in the thumbnail size. Contrast and colors are easily as important as the image you use. Take a look at debut books selling well and you’ll see that most of them have covers which are simple and striking.

3.      If you’re forced to design for yourself, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It may be that your ideas are brilliant – but an experienced designer, or even an artist or creative friend, might be able to give tips on colors, fonts, or effects that can smooth out or improve on your ideas. There’s no harm in asking. You’re no worse off if there’s no advice forthcoming, or you don’t want to take it. 

4.      If your book is part of a series, keep future covers in mind in the design process. Books in a series don’t need to look nearly identical (i.e. The Twilight Saga covers), but having some kind of theme to connect them is ideal. Whether it’s colors, format, or imagery, try to keep in mind that whatever you use now will need to be the “launching pad”, so to speak, for future covers.

There’s a lot more to the whole cover equation than what I’ve touched on here, but I wanted to throw my initial impressions and research out there for anyone who might be able to use it.

Just for your information, I had initially decided to give a portion of my (small) budget to hiring a graphic designer. I planned to hire the very talented Claire Batten.



+613 6269 2040

+61438 571 624

As you can see, Claire is based in Australia. But one of the beauties of this global market these days, and the ease of the internet, is that it doesn't really make any difference where a designer is located (and in some cases the currency exchange can work in the favor of Americans).

But...I’m blessed to have a very dear friend who is a top-notch, professional graphic designer. She’s also an amazing artist and I always love her stuff. When I went to her, cap in hand, to broach the idea of helping me with my cover, she jumped on the idea before I even got the words out. I almost cried because, frankly, I feel like I’m in more than capable hands (not to mention, someone with staggeringly good taste). She’s going to read the whole book before she offers me any options. And frankly, she’s just downright good.

Her name is Kelly, but I don't want to "out" her without her permission. When we’re working through the cover options I’m going to post them on the blog to get your feedback. You’ll see then how awesome she is! (And maybe I can convince her to let me put her details out there in case any of you want to use her).


So that's it from me!

Your Turn:

DESIGNERS: Post your name, website, and price-range in the comments here.

WRITERS: Do you have experience with designing covers, or going through the process with a designer? Any advice to add?


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