It is often said that we should never judge a book by its cover. It’s lovely sentiment that should be applied to many situations in everyday life. However, the unfortunate reality is that, when taken literally, this simply is not true. We should judge books by their covers. Here’s why…
Regardless of our feelings towards the cliché, the truth is we all do have certain predispositions. When was the last time you purchased and read a book without looking at the cover, name or receiving a recommendation? This is your opportunity to make a judgement about me because I can quite smugly say it probably hasn’t ever happened.
Covers sell books. That’s the simple reality of it. A book’s cover is what grabs the reader’s attention, makes them see what literary deliciousness you have to offer and encourages them to buy it. Blogs and books are different kettles of fish, but something about the title or thumbnail brought you here, did it not? Without a good cover to your book, it’s unlikely you’ll be discovered. That means less moolah for you, my friend. Especially when you’re starting out as a struggling, self-published author, your books’ cover designs can make or break your chances of success and discovery.
Will you walk with me, for a minute or two, through this lush meadow of assistance and orchard of knowledge? I know that didn’t go so well for Adam and Eve, but I’m not some serpentine embodiment of evil; I’m just a nerd trying to help. Anyhow… I’ve got five reasons that you should hire a professional cover designer, and I think you’ll find ‘em mighty useful.
1. They have the experience needed to create something amazing
While it can be tempting to design it yourself — or ask your mate who got a B in GCSE Art — to crank out a quick cover, this won’t get you the best results. Sure, you wrote the book; you know its themes and contents best, but that doesn’t mean you know how to make a superior design. Professionals are just that. They’ve accumulated the qualifications, skills and experience needed to decimate such a sensitive artistic project over the course of their entire lives.
They’ve done what you need doing perhaps dozens of times. They’ve dedicated years to creating the simply stunning artwork that adorns the bestsellers’ list and inject every hour of the creative process with enthusiasm and talent.
Of course and by all means, offer suggestions and tell them the themes and book content you’ve become so acquainted with. They’ll need that insight to create a truly relevant and powerful front cover. Just keep in mind that the author’s primary job, into which all possible effort should be funnelled, is writing. To attempt to do more can subtract from the words within the book, which — once opened — is the only thing the reader need be aware of.
If the cover is a musical performance, what would your audience find most impressive? And more importantly, what would they pay for? Put yourself in their position. Would you rather enjoy an orchestra of expert musicians and professionals, oblivious to its subtle mastery, or watch a one-man-band try to replicate it in their dusty garage? I know which one I’d prefer.
2. You’re getting more time and money, with less strain
Writing an entire book is no easy feat in and of itself. Far from it. The design process alone can take several months of planning and researching, not to mention the countless coffee-fuelled evenings spent tapping away in a darkened study… You really need to take a load off. Hiring a professional will save you so much time and anguish in the big picture, as well as the short term. Torturing yourself over every single, little, minute detail of the cover is just more heartache you could do without.
Though the writing process is different for everybody, some of my pals from Book Printing UK reckon a book’ll probably take you anywhere from 6 months to a few years, start to finish. It’s a daunting concept. Getting a pro to lift some of that weight from your weary shoulders definitely won’t hurt you, and will go a long way to saving you time, effort and money.
Figuring out exactly what you want your cover to show and then building it from the ground up can add weeks, if not months, onto your creative marathon. As well, this will only serve to drain you of the artistic energy vital to writing your masterpiece of a novel. Interesting visuals and clear information are some of the most important aspects of any form of marketing (and yes, this includes your cover) as they influence and intrigue customers the most, so making sure your artist puts in the effort for a quality product almost guarantees more impressions and potential sales. Who doesn’t like more success?
Trick question; you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. Next!
3. You know what you’re getting into
Think of it this way: you go to a company or individual who offers to do the covers for you. They name their price, show their previous work and give you a time frame in which you can expect to have some drafts drawn up. You know exactly what to expect in terms of pricing and quality.
Some research and a browse through your artist’s portfolio are necessities to ensure you’re going to be happy with the end result. This will represent your book, brand and authoring identity as a whole, as well as rake in the cash. It’s got to be good enough for both you and the designer before it can be good enough for consumers.
To do this, it is imperative you’re communicating with your cover designer. Get them to send you updates throughout the process. Make positive encouragement and constructive criticism towards ideas or drafts very clear. You absolutely must make sure you’re getting the best product you possibly can, which still satisfies your creative wishes, and stays within your budget.
While a yearly 230 quid for Adobe InDesign trickling down the drain might make an utterly delightful sound, it’s not practical unless you’re also in the competitive marketplace of cover design. Don’t get confused; know what your precious money will buy you. For example, Spiderwize is a package-based publishing service that basically gets you the whole caboodle for one set price, but right now we’re just interested in their cover designs.
You pay upfront, and just like that, you’ve got one-on-one communication with a personal, professional cover artist. You can see their previous work on book covers, you know that the price isn’t going to change and so you’re all set. You know exactly what you’re in for, in terms of quality, timing and price. And I don’t think you should have it any other way.
4. Do you really know best?
I hope you’ll forgive my presumptuousness and offhand attitude with the subtitle there. See how it was snappy and grabbed your attention, but still conveyed the main idea of the upcoming text? That’s exactly what your book cover will need to do with its title, imagery and any other text that may appear on the front. I said it before and I’ll say it again: hired professionals know what they’re doing and they’ll do it well.
A book’s cover has to tackle several incredibly important jobs in a very small space and window of time. From the second your novel comes into view of a potential consumer, your cover needs to be bringing everything it has to win ‘em over. It needs to catch their attention, intrigue with an interesting title and appeal to their brain aesthetically; all of this information needs to be presented clearly and artistically. This couldn’t be more important than in an eBook cover as your cover artist has a very limited workspace and a very fast-moving, competitive display position.
On the Amazon website, a page contains 20 eBooks and the thumbnail for each cover is a mere 104 by 160 pixels. To give you a sense of scale, the average monitor these days displays webpages in 1920 by 1080 pixels. That’s not a lot to work with. So your cover artist needs to get clever, and they certainly will. They know the tricks of the trade. Keep it quick and easy. As a rule of thumb, there shouldn’t be more than 20 words of text on the front cover and there shouldn’t be too much colourful and complex imagery.
Really break it down to basics? Large, legible fonts; short, snappy subheadings; contrasting/complimentary colours; simple and clear visual design.
Take a look at the best-sellers page on Amazon or any other eBook store and I can guarantee those cover artists utilise those techniques. Professionals know that the covers need to be visually distinctive, whilst not overly complicated. Real pros implement this subtle mastery without even a second thought, and while it’s great to be aware of just how their covers are so damn effective, I feel more comfortable leaving this task to the masters.
5. It gets you what you actually want
And they might be able to show you what that actually is. Starting out, many authors either have a basic idea of what they want for their covers or none at all. A cover artist can help you realise the potential you’ve got going on with your novel, especially if they’re able to read through your manuscript and draw inspiration from the text (however, don’t expect that from everyone; only the most dedicated artists offer this).
Even if you have an exact and extremely specific idea of what you want for the cover, you probably don’t have the tools or knowledge of how to convey it in a way that does the concept justice. Cover artist, anyone? Maybe the concept designs will show you something even more artistic, minimalistic, or just plain better your original idea. They’ll get you through your list of ideas and preferences to make sure the end results not only look as incredible as they deserve to, but that it makes sense on the market. Or should I say, makes cents. Ha. I’ll bet 20 you’ve heard that one before.
When I said you’d be getting ‘what you actually want’, I think we both know I mean money. Call me a cynical, capitalist Scrooge, but at the end of the day we’re not writing this stuff for nothing. Your cover needs to catch the eyes of readers and, in a swift stroke of aesthetic genius, convert them into customers. The design needs to be simple, clear and captivating. Use your covers to stand out from the crowd, because your crowd is about 20,000 other novels just begging to be bought. If your novel is or will be part of a series, establish a basic format or colour scheme future covers can follow to show readers that there’s more worth buying after they read the first. You’re getting the money you want from the cover you want. Get people to see, get people to click on or pick up and get people to buy. Covers sell books, after all.
It’s as simple as that, really. Even more so if you take my advice and hire a professional to do the work for you. They have the skills and experience, and you know what you’ll get out of the deal while being spared any additional torment. Not to mention you’ll make money — and even save some, in the long run — just for getting the help you need to make a superior product. Alright, I know it’s not going to be a trouble-free and instantaneous job, but getting the help of pros who have experience and skill will go a long way into turning your storm-battered voyage into smooth sailing.
That being said, the choice and options can be a tad much, wouldn’t you say? That’d be like me asking you to pick the book you’d most like to read without being shown any covers. I hope you can appreciate how important they are; without the cover, people won’t read the title, then won’t pick up or click to read the blurb and ultimately won’t buy the book.