Choosing the cover for a book is a really big deal.
It is the primary marketing tool that remains with the book at all times… at least until the kids rip it off or hopefully it falls off from being read over and over. Despite the old idiom, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, people do.
Readers take under 3 seconds to decide whether they are going to spend any time with your book based solely on its cover. So, it must spark interest. It must be attractive enough to look like you cared, that you took the time to think about it. Because a sloppy cover promises a sloppy book and who wants to bother with that?
Still, a beautiful cover can be a liar. Mass market paperbacks have professionally designed covers that promise a lot but when you read them, all they are is pulp fiction. Go figure. I realize this has become a given. Large publishing houses have established this as their product standard and people just accept it without considering the disconnect.
But what about independent authors?
Cover Sample 1
We do not have brand standards or marketing teams and we are expected to compete with all the other books on the shelf that do. Like all small businesses, the one advantage we have is to offer unique, quality products that the mass market will not support. So, how do we come up with a cover that tells the story of our book in under 3 seconds?
Some of us are foolish enough to believe we can do it ourselves. We have software to thank for this. Photo applications that automatically correct for shitty lighting. Graphic design software that comes with stock photos and stock layouts. It’s an easy 1-2-3 click and you have yourself a book cover.
But I’m here to tell you: it looks like it. Those stock photos bear only an implied relationship to the content of your book. It is difficult to wedge a very specific vision of a book into a set marketing image that was designed to be generic.
I think in terms of how much time someone is trading me for my book. Time, not money, is the most precious resource we have. And we trade our time for money every hour we work. How can I convince someone to trade me the hours of their life spent reading and working? That has real value. I need to promise what I offer has real value in return.
So, I chose to hire a graphic designer. I personally know several of varying style and experience. And it holds true that the more experience they have, the more expensive they are. This is an important factor for the budget conscious (reality check: there is no money in writing).
Cover Sample 2
But an additional consideration that influenced my choice was whether my graphic designer would want to be associated with the project. My book is an oddball, I will admit it. They might do the job as a favor to me but not include it as part of their portfolio. Reputations matter when you are an independent contractor and maybe a collection of anti-affirmation feminist snark isn’t really your thing.
I chose Alex Niece, the son of a friend who is a recent college graduate in graphic design. He’s done work for breweries, a CBD distributor, and a toy company among others so I figured he might be receptive to Book of Snark. He was responsive, professional, and provided an accurate quote for labor costs. He also listened to what I wanted.
It is good practice when working with a graphic designer to identify books on the market in your genre that have covers that speak to you and provide them as a starting point. I sent him a sample and based on this, the first cover Alex provided was exactly what I asked for. It gave me pause.
It is true that basic layout and shapes cannot be copyrighted but compilations can. And I realized what I asked for was too close a match to a publishing house cover and could potentially infringe on copyrights. So, I encouraged him to open the flood gates, to be as creative as he wished so long as it appealed to a female market. And when I saw the first version of what would become the final cover, I laughed out loud.
It is very much a ‘lady book’.
If you asked me ten years ago what I envisioned my first published book would look like, the cover would not have a rose theme. But as it turns out, I love it! Book of Snark is a spoof on ‘lady books’ and this cover is the first joke out of the gate. It tells the story of my book in under 3 seconds.
Thank you, Alex!
If you are an independent author looking for an affordable and professional cover designer, contact Alex Niece at: https://alexnie.myportfolio.com/
-Copyright C.M.Mounts, September 2020