Investing in an eye-catching book cover

This post is the fortieth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

Last week, I discussed two components of your book cover – the title and your author name (and whether a pen name would be beneficial.) Today, I want to cover the designing of your book cover.

The cover of your book is probably one of the most important decisions you will make. It doesn’t matter if you have a great story if no one is willing to pick up the book or in the case of e-books, click on the image. The cover is the first thing your readers see and is where they decide if your book is worth their time to even read the book description.

Things you want in a cover:

  • Simple, easy to understand
  • Having an impact or something that grabs the reader’s attention
  • If it is for an e-book, make sure it looks good at thumbnail size.

Things to avoid:

  • Too many things on the cover/clutter
  • Bad layout where title and author names are in bad location or size. (If you are famous, your name could be bigger than the title but typically you want the title to stand out more than your name.)

Now you may already have an idea about what you want on your cover, but if not, you may want to visit a book store or browse Amazon to see what style of cover grabs your attention.

If you have the resources and the know-how, there is nothing wrong with creating your own cover if it looks professional and is eye-catching. But most authors are better off if they let an expect design their cover. There are a variety of different designers out there offering a wide variety of cover designs.

To find a list of cover designers, check out this list on Smashwords. From there, you can look at each designer’s portfolio and pricing. (Some of the more popular ones have really long wait lists for covers!) The process will go easier if you have an idea of what you want on your cover,  but if you have no clue, most designers will be able to show you a few options based on your story synopsis or sample chapters.

Unless you are going to pay someone to draw your cover, most designers are going to be working with graphics and stock photos. If you want an idea of what is out there, check out stock photo sites such as istockphotodreamstime and bigstockphoto.

There are even designers that have pre-made covers that they just drop in your title and name. I am not saying these are bad if you just happen to find something that fits your book perfectly but in general, I would rather have something designed specifically for my book.

Take some time to look at covers of popular books and find out what you like. Think about what you think will entice a reader to pick up or click on your book. And then take the time to create a profession design or have someone do it for you. The time and effort that you devote to designing your cover will definitely pay off in the end.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

Publishing a book: Part 3 – Self-publishing an e-book

For the past two weeks, I have been discussing publishing your own book. The first week I covered traditional publishing and what steps you would need to become published through a book publishing house.

Last week, I discussed the options of self-publishing a physical copy of your book. This week I want to focus on the steps to publish an electronic book (e-book).

Of course step number one is to have a well-written novel. I am assuming any editing or polishing has already been done at this stage, and you are ready to publish.

Cover

HILL_KILLING_DEPTHSOne of the most important aspects of selling your book is to have a good, eye-catching cover. Even though this will be online instead of a brick-and-mortar store, many readers select their books based on appeal.

While some authors are skilled enough to design their own cover, I would highly recommend that you have a professional do it. And go to one that is going to custom design a cover for your book rather than just one that will take a stock cover and add your name and title.

Book Blurb

Just like paperbacks have descriptions on the back cover, your e-book will need an enticing blurb. This is the second most important aspect after the cover. Your cool, awesome cover made the reader click on your book link. Now it is up to the book blurb to seal the deal.

Please take a lot of time when writing the blurb. Don’t just jot down something quickly. Go read book blurbs and decide what works. After you write yours, polish it just like you did your novel. It needs to shine!

Content

There is much more to having a novel than just the story. You need front matter (cover page, copyright page and perhaps a table of contents or dedication page) as well as the back matter (a biography and list of other books you have written and perhaps even an excerpt of another book).

Formatting

This is one of the trickiest parts of preparing your novel for publication. Both Amazon and Smashwords (e-book distributors) offer steps to format your book for their publication. My suggestion would be to follow Smashword’s steps first. It clears out many of the problems that you didn’t even know existed. If you aren’t completely savvy in the ways of computers, please elicit or hire help for this step. Formatting effects how your novel appears on e-book readers so it is an important step in allowing readers to enjoy your writing.

Distribution

Once you have a properly formatted book, you are ready to self-publish it. And to begin, you should start with the largest e-book retailer out there – Amazon.

Kindle Direct Publishing is Amazon’s platform for self-publishers. They offer step-by-step instructions on offering your book on their website. You have the choice of either 35% or 70% royalties based on the selling price of your e-book. If you approve it, your book will be sold in all markets from the UK to Japan and Italy as well as the United States and Canada. They also offer a program called KDP Select which where you exclusively allow them to publish your book. It is up to you to decide if being only found in the largest e-book retailer will benefit you more than having your book available at ALL e-book retailers. (You can opt to do KDP Select for a limited time.)

Smashwords offers a way to publish your work with many distributors from Amazon to Barnes & Noble and iTunes and many other retailers. It can save you time from having to do each distributor individually though since you are paid through Smashwords instead of directly from the other retailers there is a slight lag in payment processing. (I use Smashwords for all the retailers except for Amazon.)

As I said earlier, Smashwords had the best walk through in getting your manuscript ready for publication. It strips down most of the formatting and ensures that your novel will look good on multiple e-readers. And I love that you only have to do this once to show up on several major e-book retailers’ websites.

Once you have completed all these steps, you are a published author! With that begins the fun of marketing your books.