In today’s world of wikiHow and YouTube tutorials the more hands-on amongst us are becoming less and less inclined to outsource work to trained professionals. If detailed instructions on how to unblock a pipe or grow the perfect lawn are available in just a few quick clicks, why should you pay for professional help?
Unfortunately some problems can’t be solved with a healthy amount of enthusiasm and a plunger.
Admittedly many can. But not all.
Every now and again you’ll need a task completed that not even the most GIF-filled wikiHow article can help with. Removing a lion from your property or hacking into a government database, to choose but two ultra-relatable examples.
For self-published authors, one such task is the design of their book’s cover. ‘But surely I can cobble something together?’ I hear you exclaim. And indeed, if you’ve got an hour spare and ready access to MS Paint, cobble you can. But should you?
Your book’s first impression
What is a book cover? ‘A cover for your book,’ I hear some of you class clowns yell. Sure, but it’s so much more than that. It’s how your book introduces itself to a potential buyer. It’s an advertisement tasked with tempting strangers to pick up your tome and peek inside.
Most shoppers will decide whether or not to pick your book up in less than two seconds. You might have written the greatest novel of your generation, but if the cover doesn’t hint at the story’s magnificence then it is destined to be left untouched, eventually being relegated to the bookstore bargain bin.
A good cover is perhaps the greatest driver of any book’s success. The flipside of this is it can also be a book’s greatest downfall. Unfortunately consumers are shallow, superficial beasts. Your book may well have a great personality, but if it’s wearing Ugg boots and chain smoking it’ll be no match for a piece of trash in a ball gown.
Your book only gets one chance to make a first impression. And it only gets two seconds in which to make it. Looks shouldn’t count for as much as they do in the literary world, but the sooner an author recognises their importance, the sooner they’ll be on the road to success.
The perks of picking a professional
Sure, your book cover is important. But who’s to say you can’t whip up a stunning outfit for it yourself?
Me. I am to say.
Book cover design is more than just an art form. It goes far beyond creating something that looks nice.
A good cover designer will be part social scientist, identifying your ideal demographic and understanding what they look for in a book. They’ll be part market researcher, understanding what potential readers expect from a cover for your book’s genre, and ensuring that the design stays true to the story. They’ll also be part psychologist, finding and exploiting the cover elements that result in the greatest pickupability.
It’s these skills that separate professional designers from amateurs. While the cover that you produce may look good, does it sing to a key demographic, ensuring that the ideal person picks it up? Does it fit with your genre while simultaneously standing out from the crowd? Does it tease at the brilliance of the text inside, while not giving too much away?
If you can confidently answer yes to each of these questions then congratulations, you are some sort of book cover design savant dressed in author clothing.
The truth is that it’s rare for even a professional designer to assertively tick each of these boxes. But the likelihood of a professional doing so is exponentially greater than a self-published author who has 5 Photoshop tutorials under their belt. Sure, your birthday invitations turned out great, but party invites do not a great designer make.
Spend money to make money
Find a mirror, gaze deeply into your own eyes and ask yourself – what are my hopes and dreams for my newly minted book? If the pure acts of writing and publishing it are all that you could ever hope for, then the cover can become an afterthought, and a homemade design may well do the job.
But for self-published authors with loftier goals – those who’d not only like to write and publish a book, but also have someone read it – spending a small amount on a professional cover design is perhaps the greatest investment in your work that you can make.
At the risk of making a sweeping generalisation, consumers are shallow and fickle. They haven’t got the time to understand the intricacies of your book; to appreciate the prose, to grasp the depth and complexity of the story. They’ve got two seconds to spare, and they’re spending that time looking for a book that screams ‘PICK ME UP’.
The reality of the situation can be a hard pill to swallow for self-published authors hungry for success. But thankfully there’s a spoonful of sugar available to help the medicine go down.
A professional book cover designer.