In this era of self-publishing, where anyone can sell their book on Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, etc., it’s important to differentiate yourself from the masses. To separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. A key way to do that, aside from writing a freaking fantastic book and paying for professional book editing, is to have your cover professionally designed by someone who knows what they’re doing. That last part is key and bears repeating in big, bold letters:
by someone who knows what they’re doing
At a recent local RWA chapter meeting, we heard a talk by long-time agent and now publisher, Steve Laube, who discussed the changing nature of the writing industry, including how self-publishing has evolved. He said one of the best ways to shoot your book in its proverbial foot is to have a poorly designed cover. A bad cover can literally kill book sales. He then told us about lousybookcovers.com, a site where folks nominate and weigh in on lousy book covers, pointing out what makes the cover bad, and really…some of the covers featured there are BAD. As in the-feature-image-still-has-the-stock-photo-watermark-on-it bad (FYI, not purchasing the rights to stock photography is not only cheap-looking and unprofessional, it’s illegal).
On the flip side is covercritic.com, the sister site to lousybookcovers.com. At Cover Critic, writers (or cover designers — really, anyone) can submit a cover for critique by not only the site owner, Nathan Shumate, but anyone who wishes to leave a comment. I checked out several of the submitted covers and while I’m not a designer by any stretch of the imagination, I think most of the comments are right on the money.
A great cover is also necessary for traditionally published authors. As the author, you should have input on your cover, even if the publishing house is designing it. Make sure it’s great! Remember, looks sell! You want your book to stand out from all the rest on the shelf (or on the screen), but you also want your cover to clearly indicate to the reader the genre, tone, etc.
So, how do you know you have a good cover? Go into a bookstore or look online at the thousands of book covers in your genre and pick the ones that appeal to you. Make notes about what on the cover draws you in. Is it the color? The typeface? The image? That’s what you’re aiming for.
When it comes to hiring a book cover designer, find out who designed some of the covers you liked when you scouted for your favorites. Those are the people you initially want to contact. Try to avoid using good friends who say they know a little bit of Photoshop and will do it for free. Now if your good friends are also professional graphic designers (or, even better, book designers), then by all means, use them!
Folks may complain about cost (a good custom cover can run you $500-1200, including the cost of purchasing stock artwork and/or doing a professional photo shoot), but there’s an old saying that to make money, you have to spend money, and nowhere is that more true than when it comes to book cover design. You can either pay good money for a professionally designed cover and make up that cost with book sales, or you can save money and design the cover yourself at the risk of little or no book sales. Ultimately, it’s your choice.
So…a little poll. Hopefully you’re game. Be honest with yourself (and us) and answer the following question:
Does a book’s cover influence your browse-and-purchase buying habits?
NOTE: This question doesn’t apply to books you’re seeking out because of good reviews, recommendations, etc. Only ones you’re browsing.
Give us your answer in the comments. One lucky commenter will win a $15 iTunes gift card!
I’m going to take a poll of my chapter mates in my local RWA chapter and I’ll report my findings (and the gift card winner) next week. Good luck!