One of the biggest mistakes self-published authors make is to take the appearance of their books for granted. Although it is true that one cannot judge a book’s contents by its cover, the reality is that people often do just that.
As a self-published author, one of the difficulties you face is the too-often-justified stereotype that self-published books are of inferior quality in both the writing and its aesthetic appearance. Self-published authors frequently design the covers themselves with little knowledge on how to, or in many cases with little consideration for, creating a cover design and interior layout that projects a professional, high quality image to the potential reader.
Of course finances, or lack thereof, frequently plays a huge role in the quality of the book’s presentation, leaving authors no choice but to attempt to do the design work themselves. It is best for authors to get professional help with their covers, such as those offered by our sister site, Cover Designs Online. However, if you must attempt to design your cover yourself, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Familiarize yourself with what a professional book interior looks like. This may sound obvious, but I don’t know how often I’ve helped format manuscripts which showed the author’s complete lack of knowledge on how a book actually looks. We tend to not pay attention to such details as readers and therefore take these details for granted when creating our own books. But as self-publishers, you MUST pay attention to these things and strive to come as close to professional quality formatting as you possibly can. Your success very much depends on it.
- Keep it simple. If you are doing your own cover, but have no design skills, it’s best to keep the design as simple as possible. It’s far better to have a cover that may not stand out but isn’t a liability, than to have one that stands out in its unattractiveness and thus becomes a huge liability. Your writing is what will keep readers coming back for more, but your cover is your potential readers introduction to your work. Make it count.
- Remember that legibility comes before aesthetic appearance. One of the things that absolutely screams amateurish design is a book title written in a hard to read text font, or whose color too closely blends into the background color or image. Nothing looks “good” if it’s difficult to read. You really do need both some knowledge, skill, and a natural eye for aesthetics in order to create an effective design, but if you are lacking these, then keep your design as simple as possible so that the potential book buyer won’t be turned off by the cover design. Although, admittedly, a plain cover can be off-putting to many as well. So just do the best you can with what materials and skills you have available to you, but don’t over-embellish unless you know what you’re doing.
- If you or a friend, relative, etc is going to design your cover, make sure you or your designer knows the specific requirements of your publisher or printer, and knows how to adhere to them. I’ve run into countless situations where very nice covers were designed with absolutely no regard for the specific technical requirements of the printer or publisher. Even design professionals struggle with this because Print-on-Demand publishing is, in essence, a dumbed-down process which doesn’t require many of the technical details that a higher-end printing/publishing process would.
- Use a program suitable for graphic design. Many authors use programs that are familiar to them, such as MS Word or MS Powerpoint, however, these programs are not designed for creating graphics, do not have the facilities to export the things you create at print-quality levels for images, and in general make things harder to format and align properly. There are many free programs on the Internet, such as the powerful program GIMP, which are great at creating such images, but the learning curve can be fairly steep.
These are just a few of the things you must consider if you attempt to design your own cover. But whatever you do, never take the appearance of your book for granted. An appealing cover doesn’t guarantee sales, but a bad cover can guarantee you will lose sales. Give your book the best chance at success by providing it with a quality cover and interior layout.
– Greg Banks, freelance graphic designer