Authors are an intelligent and creative breed, weaving words into works of art that entertain and inspire. Most authors, however, are not artistically inclined in visual media. This is where things can get tricky when you are looking to self-publish a book. Not only does your cover design need to be stellar to market your work, but you need to understand how to use various computer programs to make your end product look professional. This can be a hefty task for someone who is unfamiliar with programs outside of a word processor.

In our media and technology-crazed society, many people have some modicum of knowledge in the design department. Everyone and their brother has a pirated (and usually outdated) version of Photoshop and knows how to bump up the contrast of a photo or crop it down to a desired size. But is this limited ability sufficient for laying out the only imagery that will accompany a book you’ve put so much effort into? Unless you’re the rare jack-of-all-creative-trades, your best bet is to work with someone who designs for a living, specifically someone who specializes in book and e-book layouts.

Many self-publishing services offer online design programs to help you set up a cover and formatting for your completed written work. While these can be useful for a particularly computer-savvy author, the output is typically very generic and doesn’t catch the eye. You must keep in mind that the cover is the first and only image a potential reader will see, even if you are only publishing your book digitally. If your title is illegible and the graphics don’t stand out against the thousands of other covers listed on a sales site, what would motivate a reader to click on your thumbnail?

Another problem that a professional designer can help you troubleshoot is formatting. If you’ve spent months writing your masterpiece, it would be awful to have a snag in the book’s formatting where pages are misaligned and the actual writing suffers for it. Professional book designers are aware of how to create various files that will translate to any format, whether it is an e-book or a final copy going to a printer.

Especially when dealing with print, the guidance of a pro can help you avoid dozens of common mistakes. Errors in pagination are not uncommon in self-published books, and this can be distracting to the reader and even make your completed book look excessively amateur. Do you know the difference between designing in CMYK and designing in RGB? CMYK is intended for print, RGB for digital. The subtle differences can drastically effect your final product, but a designer knows how to work with both and create a polished piece. Similarly, do you know how to efficiently use print templates and bleeds? If you can’t confidently answer “yes” to these questions, you should seek the services of a professional so that your book’s appearance doesn’t suffer.

In the end, the most important role you play as the author of your book is just that: authoring your book. Leave the aesthetics to someone who is trained and experienced in creating visual art so that your written art can stand out on its own. Not only will it alleviate unneeded stress, it will give you a professional-looking product that is beautiful and thus more marketable than one created on the fly.