Got It Covered? What Self Publishers Need to Know About Ebook Covers

oday, I’m happy to share this excellent guest post by graphic designer, GX. Most writers are good with words, but not too many are also good designers – some are, and I envy your many talents! When it comes to a good cover, many writers thing something like, “Eh, the story is the important part. I’ll just throw something together for a cover.” In the post, GX explains exactly how that line of logic is fatally flawed.

Prior to the self-publishing revolution, authors had just one task: to write. Once the book was written, the publishing house took care of everything else: the editing, the interior design, the exterior design, the printing, the distribution, the marketing and publicity.

And authors paid dearly for all that stuff – not directly, of course, but through the minuscule royalty rate they received. Even now, most traditional publishers only pass on to their authors a maximum of 17.5% of the retail price of the ebook – compare that with the 70%+ you can earn via Amazon KDP or Barnes and Noble’s Pubit program.

These days, Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, Kobo and Apple take care of your “printing”, distribution and sales and, through their web pages, to a greater or lesser degree, they also help with publicity. Of course, if you still want to print physical books you could try a service like Printivity for the task, but either way you’re still responsible for editing and proof-reading, formatting and – most importantly – making sure your book has a great cover.

As a self-publisher, the most important and powerful weapon in your sales and marketing arsenal is, without question, your ebook cover. It’s the first thing the potential reader/buyer sees; before they’ve even read a review or even the author’s name, they’ll have seen the cover. And it better be good because – to paraphrase an all too true truism – you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Curious about the story? Me too.

But what is a “good” book cover? Is it one that tells you everything you need to know about the book? Is it one that’s “arty” or “fashionable” or one that simply looks like a lot of other covers?

Well, no. Your book cover has a very specific function. And, despite what you might read elsewhere, that function is NOT to tell a story, show off your intellectual credentials or creative abilities or display your refined and/or expensive taste. No, your cover’s function is simply to draw sufficient attention to your book that a casual browser will STOP for a moment and take a second look.

That’s it. That’s all. Because if they don’t stop to take a second look, they won’t buy your book.

But if they do…?

Unlike reading a synopsis (which might take a minute or two) a cover takes no more than a second or two to assimilate. That’s all the time you have to do one thing and one thing only: convert that casual browser into an interested party.

Stop! Look.

Most likely, the first time a buyer or reader sees your ebook cover it’ll be about the size of a postage stamp, perhaps backlit on an iPad or laptop screen, and it’ll be fighting with dozens of others on the same page for attention. So, how do you compete with all those other books? How do you make sure your ebook is the one that people are drawn to?

Easy. You ensure your ebook cover is EYECATCHING and ATTRACTIVE. Attractive as in, it attracts people. And that’s it. If you get a casual browser to pause for an instant because they like your cover, you’ve done your job. Should the cover suggest genre? If it’s a genre book – a thriller or romance – then that won’t hurt. Should it suggest tone, perhaps? Again, that’s a nice-to-have. But these things are irrelevant if your cover looks like it was designed by the five-year-old son of your best friend who, you’ve been assured many times, can do wonderful things with a set of crayons and some fingerpaints

It amazes me how often I see book covers (sometimes even ones designed by professionals) that are bland or boring or dull – indistinct imagery, washed out colors, small, overly ornate illegible fonts, poor composition… I’m just as horrified by the D.I.Y. covers that look like an explosion in a font factory. For the inexperienced designer there are hundreds of potential areas for disaster. As ebook covers are a relatively new phenomenon, even traditional book designers may not get it right. Hardcopy books are designed to be picked up in a bookstore and examined: if they’re lucky enough to get a window display, then their sheer size will make anything on the front cover visible. But if you’re looking at something that measures barely an inch by an inch and a half at low resolution, then you’d better be sure people can SEE it.

As a self-publisher you are not just competing with other self-publishers – you’re competing with thousands of traditionally published authors, most of whom will have entire design departments dedicated to making their books look good. Your book has to stand alongside the very best of them.

One of the great benefits of the self-publishing revolution is that start-up costs are low. However, many authors make the mistake of thinking they can save money by “doing it themselves”. But, just because youcan do everything yourself, it doesn’t mean you necessarily shoulddo everything yourself. You’ve almost certainly learned how to use a comb and a pair of scissors at some point in your life,

Eye catching AND attractive

and you could probably save money by cutting your own hair, but most people go to a professional to get it done because they know they’ll get a better job and they’ll end up looking betterthan if they did it themselves.

So, sure, you could buy a stock photo and add some text and you’ll have a book cover. But is it really good? Does it look professional? Eye-catching? Attractive? Unique? Will it help sell your novel

Unless you have some considerable design experience, you’d be best off leaving it to the professionals. Unless you really are cutting your own hair to save money, youcanafford a

This cover fits so many stories.

professionally created ebook cover. And a good cover is an investment: it may help sell more copies of your books, and that will generate more income. A good cover can pay for itself many times over.

And for those who claim that they can’t afford a professionally designed cover, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. In fact, it needn’t cost more than a decent haircut. And it’ll last a lot longer.

As a self-publisher you have a couple of choices when it comes to getting an ebook cover from an outside provider: you can pay for a custom designed cover, whereby a graphic designer or graphic artist will create a cover specifically for the book based on information provided by the author. This is the “made-to-measure” option and usually comes with a “made-to-measure” price tag, but the author ends up with something custom designed to fit their book perfectly.

Alternatively, you could purchase a pre-made, pre-designed or “ready-to-go” ebook cover. This is more like the “off-the-rack” option, with commensurately lower prices, but there is no loss in either quality or professionalism. At Graphicz X Designs we also guarantee that all ready-to-go ebook covers are one-offs, for the purchaser’s exclusive use. So, even in you can’t run to a custom design, you still get something absolutely unique.

Colorful, pretty, and fits any number of tales.

But, you may be wondering, how can that possibly work? How likely is it that I’ll find a cover that suits my book? Well, “very likely” is the answer. As I mentioned, an ebook cover doesn’t have to tell the story within: it has to be eyecatching and attractive. It can suggest the tone of the book, and it might help – particularly with genre fiction – if the cover also reflects the genre: romance, sci-fi, thriller etc. But there are also plenty of bestselling books out there with covers that have little or no connection with the contents. Covers can also be abstracts, patterns, or just non-specific. Once again, as long as it’s attractive enough to make the browser stop for a moment and think: “hmm, that’s interesting” or “that’s intriguing” or even simply “ooh, I like that!” then the job is done.

There are a number of companies on the web offering pre-made covers: at Graphicz X Designs we currently have over 350 ready-to-go ebook covers in a multitude of genres and designs from just $30, so there may well be something that suits you perfectly. And if not, there’s our custom design service starting at $200. We’re also here to answer any questions you might have about ebook covers – and that costs nothing at all!

Whatever choice you make, remember that you’ve put a lot of your time, energy and effort into writing your book and, before you send it out into the great outdoors, at the very least it deserves to be properly dressed!



Twitter: @graphiczxdesign

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