Hello Lifers! Today, we're diving into the world of book covers. Yes, we're told not to judge a book by its cover, but let's be honest, we all do it. And it makes SENSE to do so. Otherwise, we'd spend our lives "getting to know" a tiny percentage of things (most of which would be time-wasters).
Judging a book by its cover is reality. So a compelling cover can be the difference between a potential reader picking up your book or passing it by.
"A book cover is the first handshake between the author and the reader."
A book cover is more than just an attractive image. It's a visual representation of your story, a promise of the journey that awaits inside. It's your book's first impression, and as we all know, first impressions matter.
A well-designed cover can evoke emotions, hint at the genre, and even suggest the quality of the writing. It's a psychological game, Lifers. A well-designed cover is a symphony of elements working together to create a visual representation of your book. It's not just about being aesthetically pleasing, it's about communicating the essence of your story to potential readers.
First off, a great cover can evoke emotions. It's a visual trigger that can make a potential reader feel something before they've even read a single word of your book. For instance, a cover for a horror novel might use dark, eerie imagery to evoke feelings of fear and unease, while a cover for a romance novel might use warm, soft colors and intimate imagery to evoke feelings of love and longing.
Secondly, a well-designed cover will hint at the genre of your book. This is crucial because it helps attract the right readers. Each genre has its own visual language, as well as a written one. Not knowing how to create an effective thriller cover will subliminally signal to thriller readers that you are someone who doesn't understand them or what they love. Conversely, by aligning your cover with the visual cues of your genre, you can attract readers who are likely to enjoy your book.
Third, a well-designed implies quality of writing. A professional, polished cover signals to readers that the same care and attention to detail have been applied to the writing. On the other hand, a poorly designed cover screams, "I don't care about your time, Dear Reader! I'm in this for ME!" That's a turn-off in writing, just as much as in any other endeavor. (I'm looking at you, Girl I Dated In High School!)
Now, you might be thinking, "I'm creative, I can design my own cover." And while it's true that some authors have successfully designed their own covers, for most, it's a DUMB MOVE.
For the same reason you wouldn't ask your five-year-old friend to write your book: that kid don't gots the skillz!
Designing a book cover requires a specific skill set, including expertise in typography, color theory, and graphic design principles. It's not just about creating a pretty picture. It's about creating a design that communicates the essence of your book and appeals to your target audience. Given the choice between "great art" and a cover that sells my book effectively, I'll take the latter every time. But that kind of thing isn't an accident--it's the result of skill, carefully applied.
"Investing in a professional book cover design is investing in your book's success."
Commissioning a professional designer can be a game-changer. They bring expertise, experience, and an outside perspective. They know what works and what doesn't in cover design, and they can create a cover that stands out in the crowded marketplace.
Again, it's a bit like dating in high school. You're looking for a match - someone who understands your vision, resonates with your style, and has the skills to bring your ideas to life. Plus, when you start, you're probably going to make some really dumb choices.
Here are some concrete steps to help you find your perfect match.
1. Know your genre
Before you start your search, it's important to have a clear understanding of your book's genre. Different genres have different conventions when it comes to cover design. Look at the top-selling books in your genre and note what stands out to you about their covers. This will give you a sense of what readers in your genre are drawn to. You're not making the cover yourself, but you have to know how to convey what you need--and recognize when someone's giving you just that.
2. Start your search
There are several places you can look for a professional book cover designer:
Design Marketplaces: Websites like 99designs, Reedsy, and Fiverr allow you to browse portfolios of freelance designers, see their rates, and even host a design contest where designers submit their designs based on your brief.
Social Media: Platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn are full of talented designers showcasing their work. Use hashtags related to book cover design to narrow your search.
Author Networks: Other authors can be a great resource. Ask for recommendations in author groups on Facebook or Twitter, or search online forums.
Your friends/references: Ask everyone you know. If you sorta know an author in your field, reach out and simply ask, "Don't want to bother you/waste your time, but who did the cover design for [Title]. It's great!" Most authors will be happy to share that info...or, even better, you can just buy the book and check the copyright page for info on where the cover came from!
3. Vet your candidate
Once you've found some potential candidates, it's time to do a little detective work.
Check Their Portfolio: This is one of the most important steps. Look for designers who have experience in your genre and whose style resonates with you. Don't go for someone "looking for experience" with nothing to show for it. Every pro--even a brand-new one--will have samples to show off. If they don't, they're not ready to work yet!
Ask for References: A good designer will have no problem providing references. Reach out to these authors and ask about their experience working with the designer. BE SPECIFIC. Ask what the process was, and SPECIFICALLY ask if there were any problems.
Communication is Key: Your designer needs to understand your vision. Do they ask the right questions? Are they open to your ideas? Good communication is crucial to the success of your project.
Remember, Lifers, finding the right designer might take some time, but it's worth the effort. A great book cover can attract readers, set the tone for your book, and even boost your sales. So take your time, do your research, and find a designer who can help you create a cover that truly represents your story.
A great book cover can attract readers, set the tone for your book, and even boost your sales. While it might be tempting to design your own cover, hiring a professional designer is usually the best route to take. Unless you are an EXPERT in the areas needed to create a good book cover (typography, graphic design, market understanding, to name a few)--or willing to become one (that's the route I took, spending MONTHS in 8-hour-a-day learning to amp up my cover game)--it's best to hire a pro.
Remember, Lifers, your book cover is the first handshake between you and your reader. Make it a good one.
I'm Michaelbrent Collings, an international bestseller and produced screenwriter, as well as a multiple Bram Stoker Award and Dragon Award finalist, and maker of a fair-to-middling chocolate chip waffle.
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