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Creating Your Book Cover

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So you’ve written a terrific book. You’ve edited and polished it to a fare-thee-well, and are ready to send it out into the Big World. But first, it needs a–gulp–cover. Oh, well. People aren’t buying the cover, they’re buying the writing, right? You can just do it yourself, right? After all, you’re pretty artistic. Right?

Wrong. Everybody is going to judge your book by its cover. You have a split second to convince your target buyer that this is her type of book, and that it’s a good one. Guess what does that–or doesn’t? Yep, your cover! Your book may or may not sell with a kickass cover. Without a kickass cover, it’s pretty much guaranteed not to sell.

The tips below, gleaned from ten years in marketing for the publishing industry, helped me create my own covers. I pass them along in hopes that they help you too.

1.     Hire a professional. It isn’t as expensive as you may think. My initial three eBook covers cost me less than $100 per book, a small investment that paid for itself within days.

2.     Choose the right professional. I did a web search to find designers in my genre (Romance), then looked at their websites and portfolios. Who designs covers that appeal to you and make you want to buy the book? When you’ve found somebody whose work you like, ask for a quote.

3.     Know your market. Think about bestselling authors whose books resemble yours. Those authors have succeeded in attracting your market. Look at the covers of their books, and you’ll see trends. (Shirtless heroes? Flowers? An ornate font, or a simple one? Big, bold block letters on a red background, for a thriller?) Copy the links to your favorite covers. You’ll want to share them with your designer.

4.     Define the effect you want to achieve. Your cover is your brand. Even if you only have one book out there now, you’ll want a “look” that people identify with your style. A good designer excels in translating “feelings” into art. This is the direction I gave my own designer (Robin Ludwig): “I want a simple, tasteful, intelligent cover (no half-naked heroes!) Something that still says ‘romance,’ but not ‘embarrassing.’ The books are funny, playful, sexy, and occasionally tearjerking. Not completely frothy, a serious story in there too. I want to convey that–plus ‘exotic New Zealand locale.’”

I also had three books, with more to come, so I needed to tie the covers together. The designer achieved that with the use of color and layout.

5.     Research stock art. You’ll get better results and help your designer if you take the time to find stock imagery that conveys the look you’re going for. I used Dreamstime. The designer used the images I found for Just This Once and Just for Fun, but found different (better!) images for the other books.

6.     Work the design, and get feedback. After you get the designer’s first pass, ask people who have read your book for their reactions, then evaluate the feedback and give ONE response to the designer. If it isn’t quite right, keep working. (It took me three or four rounds to get it right.) Don’t give the designer specific direction (“could you put the title under the picture?”) Instead, try to explain the “feeling” that isn’t quite right (“It doesn’t look playful enough”).

7.     Admire your beautiful book cover! I hope it sells great!

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