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The Do’s and Don’ts of Cover Design: Publishing Lesson #1

A good cover can make or break a book, especially for on-line buying. In a bookstore, most books are racked spine out, so author name sometimes means more. Readers can pick up your book, thumb through, get a feel for story and writing and then decide. On-line, readers see your cover. It has to say, “buy me, I’m a good book” to the reader. If it doesn’t, why would they take the time to possibly download a sample, or even look at product description? The changes in publishing have given the author many great opportunities and self-publishing is a viable option. However, self-publishing requires the author to make a few major decisions, and one of those decisions is cover.

You have a couple of options. You can do it yourself or your can hire a cover artist. There are many programs out there to choose from. There are many do it yourself programs, free programs, even programs that come with your computer that can create cover design. Even Word has the capability of designing a basic cover, but will the cover be good enough to invite the reader in?   The question you have to ask yourself is it worth your time and energy to do it “right”. Hiring someone to do your covers can run as low as $50.00 and as high as $600.00.

This is not an easy decision, especially when you factor in other costs that go into making an eBook available to the reader. We made the decision to invest in the proper tools to do it ourselves because we had the design background, and the technical ability. We purchased the complete InDesign package from Adobe ($1,299.00) partly for the ability to create covers for on-line purchasing, but also because it made it much easier to create the full-jacket cover for our print-on-demand books and for web design.

Even with the proper tools we made a few cover mistakes along the way.

Publishing Mistake #1: Always Judge a Book by its Cover.

This cover sucks. Actually, every single one of the original Atlantis Covers was a disaster except for Assault on Atlantis, which remained almost identical as the original. So why does it suck and why did it make sense to change?

First. It’s too dark. I don’t mean color scheme because you can have a black cover that isn’t bad, but this cover lacks contrast. The color scheme is too similar. The letters and background blend together. If you have a dark background, you want letters that stand out. If you have a light background, you want letters that will pop.

Second. Do you know what the object is in the background? I know Bob does. I’m not going to tell you. You all can guess. Though, if you read the book, you probably know. Point is, what does this cover mean to the reader? I say this cover almost says pass me by.

Third. Logo. Wow. What were we thinking? I know we thought we were being brilliant when we put our very first logo on all our covers for them to stick out like a sore thumb. For those observant readers, you will notice here at Write It Forward we now have a new header. That look will be added to the Who Dares Wins Publishing website. I’ll get into that change in another publishing lesson. The point here is that the logo adds absolutely nothing to the cover. As a matter of fact, it takes a way from the already bad cover, making it worse.

If you were in traditional publishing it would be too bad, suck it up, go promote it’s the only cover you’re going to get. If you had hired someone, you’re be paying them to redo it. If you did it yourself, you’d be redoing it.

So what is best? I recommended if you don’t have the knowledge of basic design and design programs (for example how layers work) then hire someone. It’s why I do the covers and Bob doesn’t.

Publishing Correction #1.

The content of the book has not changed. However, the cover changed drastically. Why is this a good cover?

First. It has contrast. The color of the letters, while still complement the background, are bold and pop of the page. The background is vibrant and alive. It’s inviting. It doesn’t look dark and drab and boring. Yet, it is a very simple cover. Simple is often better.

Second. The cover says something about the book. Actually, it says something about the entire series, which involves the Bermuda Triangle, the Devil’s Sea and other strange and eerie places. It invites the reader to take a look inside and see if they are interested in the content. This is critical regardless of whether you are in a store thumbing through all the books in this particular section, or browsing on line trying to find a good read. A good cover can make or break you. We found when we changed the cover, our sales improved.

Third. No distracting white rectangle that means nothing to the reader.

While editing this post, I realized this cover still has one minor flaw. Every thing is centered. We’ve learned that alignment is another aspect you need to consider when designing a cover. Is it time to change it? No.

Publishing Lesson #1.

There is a time when it’s best to leave well enough alone. For a long time the first cover was it. It wasn’t until I had finished with the 6th and final cover in this series that we realized we had a problem. Not all of the books were in print at that time. We knew that it would cost us to make the upgrade and the book had already earned out and beyond. Our business had grown and we had a different set of tools to work with, specifically InDesign by Adobe which allowed me to create covers that I didn’t have the capability before. After much discussion, we began the revamping process. It took at least 6 more tries before we got to this one. Change was necessary, and unlike traditional publishing when it comes to covers after book release, non-traditional publishing allows us to make this change. However, timing is important as well as not rushing things. We had to get it right, and this time we did.

This brings me to a question for all our readers out there. The Bodyguard of Lies cover has gotten some negative feedback. Some readers thought the cover was boring. Too simple. We were aiming for simple and we wanted it to match the Lost Girls cover, which so far, I haven’t heard anything negative regarding Lost Girls. So my question to you is, is it time for us to change this cover? Don’t hold back. Tell us what you think.

Write It Forward!

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