While we have always been told never to judge a book by it’s cover, it is the absolute first thing we do when we pick up any title from our local bookstore or library. Some books have such iconic imagery, that they are recognizable to everyone, even those who have not read the book themselves. For example, The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, or The Catcher in the Rye. An author can only hope that their book becomes famous enough to gain this kind of cover recognition. A great cover will not make a book great. A book that is already great however, deserves a an equally great cover.
In self-publishing you get free reign over what your book’s cover will look like, something that many traditionally published authors could only dream of. This may seem like a blessing, but it is also a curse. With this much power, as they say, comes great responsibility. Too many self-published authors have floundered in the face of this task, making it a stereotype that most self-published books have silly looking covers. It is your job to end this stigma!
As you go forward in designing your cover, there are a few questions to ask yourself: What genre is your work? Do some research to determine the kinds of covers that are typical of a book from your genre. For example, a mystery novel may have equally as mysterious imagery on the cover; such as a photo of a foggy lighthouse or an eerie graveyard.
1. What kind of mood are you trying to set? In addition to imagery, color and font can be game changers on this front. If your book is about murder and intrigue, after all, you would typically not want to use pastel pink with a swirly and childish font.
2. Do you want to include photography? You may want to show your reader an image of something mentioned in the book. Perhaps an image of a necklace, or the eyes of your protagonist that were written as a very specific color. Your cover can be a fantastic visual aid. If you do plan to include photography, ask yourself the following. Do you have copyright free material to use, and/or have you purchased the rights to said copyrighted images?
3. If you do not wish to include photography, what do you plan to use instead? Paintings, collage, and other art forms may be utilized as an intriguing substitute. This is where working with freelance artists and designers can really come in handy.
To avoid having to answer some of these difficult questions, you may want to hire a professional designer to assist you with your cover. This can take away the pressure and ensure that your cover art will be of high quality (depending on what designer you hire on, of course). Hiring a well-known designer can give your book more recognition; typically, if I recognize the art on the cover of the book, I am more likely to flip it over and consider reading it. However, using an artist that is relatively unknown can be a great way to help a fellow creator. You never know, that up and coming artist you’re working with may be the next Picasso!
A few tips to consider:
- Be sure that any and all imagery you use is royalty free, or that you have legally obtained the usage rights to your images. The best way to avoid this problem is to either hire someone to take your images, or to take them yourself.
- All images you use should be high quality. This means high definition, professional images. If you are taking your cover photo with the camera on your phone, this would not be considered high quality – so if you are taking your images yourself, be sure you have the correct equipment to do so.
- Stay away from including pictures of people you know. Sure, you may enjoy seeing the shining face of a relatives or friends on the cover of your book. However, others may not feel the same sentiments.
- Symbolism can be used so that you can demonstrate what your book is about without literally showing your audience. This can prevent spoilers, as well as inspire anyone who picks up your book to want to read your work. For example, if your book is about someone who is a liar, you could have an image of a pair of jeans that are on fire (as in, liar liar pants on fire).
Please, do your great book justice! Give your great book a great cover!
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