shutterstock_233915920It’s always interesting when we get feedback from self-publishing authors. In most cases, it’s along the lines of “Wow, great work! Let’s go with it”. Sometimes it’s “Almost there, is there any way you could change this to non-important detail to match my personal preference?”. These responses are all fine, and we can accommodate those. Ultimately, the cover will come out looking great, attractive to potential readers/buyers, and if they’re in the target market will convince them, at the very least, to read the blurb on the back cover and hopefully buy the book. Occasionally we get feedback like “I love this aspect about draft one, and that element from draft two. Can we combine them?”. That also works and, unless they are two incompatible drafts, will too result in an effective cover that sells books.

Those 3 types of feedback are common to around 90% of cover projects for self-publishing authors. Interestingly, examples one and three above are the kind of feedback we get from 100% of the projects we work on for our traditional publishers (HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster and Becker&Mayer!). There may be a few additional tweaks, but that’s how most of our cover design projects work.

Sometimes, however, there are self-publishing authors that provide feedback that is clearly and completely wrong. They want changes (or concepts) that would destroy any realistic chance of their book being looked at or bought by a reader. Or they feel that their writing experience of one book makes them more qualified to determine the aesthetic qualities of a book jacket than a designer of over three thousand covers. Some self-publishing authors have a “vision” of their cover that is not matched by a professional cover designer with years of experience in creating covers for bestselling authors around the world. Does that mean their vision is wrong?

Yes. It does.

It’s like eating only your mom’s food your entire life, then deciding to pay a world-class chef to serve you their award-winning signature dish, and then telling that chef that they are clearly not a professional, sending that dish back, and then providing them with a recipe for your mom’s meatloaf and saying “I want that”. Sure, the dish may not be to your personal taste, but that doesn’t mean your mom’s culinary skills are superior to the chef, or that all those experts who decided his dish was award-winning were wrong. It just means you personally don’t like it. So, should the chef then just serve you meatloaf, even though you’ve paid for a superior dish?

Similarly, when an author rejects drafts as being “unprofessional” or asking for changes that will clearly doom their book sales for eternity, what does a cover designer do? We are paid for our professional expertise and experience in designing book covers that give a book the best possible chance to be purchased by a reader. What happens when we are asked to put together a cover that WE KNOW won’t do that? Is the customer always right, even when it’s clear they aren’t?

There’s a reason why traditional publishers are prepared to pay more for cover design. It’s because they know they are paying for a professional service. They can look at the cover for what it is – the packaging that will entice a reader to pick up the book, click on the thumbnail, or make a purchase. They trust that packaging designer will use their expertise to create the right package for the product. For traditional publishers and professional authors, it’s not a personal project. It’s not about their ego. It’s not about their feelings. It’s about getting the best product out to market, and it’s about recognizing that when it comes to the VERY important cover, that the cover designer knows best.

So what happens when the author disagrees with the cover designer? For us, it’s pretty simple. We know what works. We know what sells. We have created hundreds of bestselling book covers, our work has been on the New York Times and USA Today and Amazon bestselling lists too many times to count. We have won MANY awards for our work. But if you don’t want our expertise, experience or advice, then don’t hire us. Sorry it didn’t work out, your refund will be processed immediately.


Leave a Reply