Cover Design – Planning

A cover is one of the most important marketing tools for a book. Humans are visual creatures. We love color, movement, action, mood, shadows, and shape. Each of us is personally drawn to a different combination of the above.

But for book covers certain aspects seem to work more consistently. Hehe, for the most part. There is always an exception for every rule.

And this is an area where authors suddenly have a lot more control by going Indie. I’ve read a number of books where the cover had nothing to do with what was inside. As a reader I was very disappointed, as the cover helped make the sale (I’ve had this trouble with back-of-the-book blurbs before, too).

Some have argued that covers don’t make as much difference in the e-world as they do in a bookstore. After all, most ereaders are still black and white and when you start reading you typically don’t see the cover anyway. Besides, a reader can’t touch it.

Evidence proves otherwise, and for a very good reason. The same reason they are so important in a bookstore: visibilty.

If the book isn’t visible to the potential buyer then the book is unlikely to sell. It doesn’t matter if they can’t touch the cover, they can still SEE the cover. As I said before, we are visual creatures, and that fact should not be underestimated.

There are two main ways to find a book on online stores: browse and search.

Both methods will typically result in a display of grids consisting of the thumbnail of the cover, the title and the price. Those three things must push a potential buyer to the next step, which is to click through to the product page where the book description and sample might incite them to buy.

So, cover is still just as important in the ebook world as it is in the physical book world. In the initial steps of browsing or searching, the cover, title, and price are going to combine to create interest. The general buying public still very much ‘judges a book by its cover’.

Those who ignore this generally pay for it in loss of sales. For fun, google the bet J.A. Konrath made with Lee Goldberg on the importance of covers and titles. It was a bet Lee was happy to lose.

I wanted to make sure the cover for “Night of the Aurora” represented the interior of the book, so that the reader had some idea of what they were buying. But at the same time, it needed to be enticing.

Not easy things to balance.

Then I made a list of the major elements of each of the books. Did anything in that list make sense for a cover?

The mental images started popping up. Some I tossed aside as too complex. Some would take too long. I needed images that were somewhere in the middle, but still represented what the books were about.

The above step is important, even though to some it might seem silly. You wrote the book, you obviously know it. Right?

Well, yes, in a way. But some of the elements might be lurking only in your subconscious. It doesn’t do much good back there. You can’t pull it out and play with it when it’s back there.

It needs to be brought into your conscious mind. Only then do you truly see it, can the rest of your mind play with it, can it become an active part of the design.

Making a list can help bring the things lurking in the back of your mind to the front of the mind where they can actually be used.

From previous research I knew of several things that have worked well for Indie Authors/Publishers:

* Clear and striking main image with only a few main design elements. Know and play up the focus of the cover.

* Sharp colors

* Clear typeface for both title and author name

* Author name should be large, to help build the author name brand.

* Shrinks down well to a thumbnail with title, author name, and graphics still easily seen.

* Avoid white backgrounds (The cover won’t show up well in the searches as a thumbnail).

With the above as a base, I started off with research. I pulled up the ebook categories I mentioned before and made notes on the top 100 paid listings.

Any themes present? Subject matter? Colors used? Any colors not seen? Design elements that appeared used more than others, or that caught my eye and held my attention longer than a brief scan? Typeface? How did the title and author name stand out?

Whether doing your own cover art, or hiring a contractor to do it, all of the above is important. A graphic designer doesn’t have time to read all of the books he/she designs covers for. They need good information from the author in order to do a good job on the cover.

That means the author needs to have some idea going in on how they want to market it. Answering all the questions up above (and more) so they can articulate to the designer what they want from the end result will result in a good cover with a minimum of frustration and money.

The more information you are able to pass on, the better chance the designer has of hitting the mark.

NEXT: The Cover Design

“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!
I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

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Cover Design - Planning

2 thoughts on “Cover Design – Planning”

  1. Great article. Looking forward to the next part. 🙂 Feel free to visit my blog and comment on my latest attempt at a cover.

  2. I’m waiting on my first ordered cover and I have no idea what sort of concept that he’ll come up with. Fortunately he asked all the same questions you have here, plus I like the artist’s work, so I’m not too worried.


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