Indie Tips Friday: Designing your front cover

blogging-bonanza-bugI’m celebrating the countdown to launch on May 5 of Church Sweet Home: A Renovation to Warm the Soul with a month-long blogging bonanza, which means I’ll be blogging here every day this month about my book, about memoirs in general and about the launch.

On Fridays during this crazy blogging bonanza month, I’m writing about different aspects of self-publishing. Let’s call this Indie Tips Friday. Having self-published three previous books and helped several other authors publish their own works, I have a little experience to share with other aspiring publishers. Today we’re designing your front cover.

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Let’s begin with some unsolicited advice: just because you’re self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to design your own cover.

Lots of authors do, though, and it’s not always a good look.

If you know something about design and about preparing files for print, designing your own cover might work for you. But if you don’t, hire it out. Invest in yourself by investing in a book cover designer (check out Fiverr for a reasonably priced freelancer). Or contact me; maybe I can help.

If you’re going for it, here are my six top tips for self-publishers to creating a compelling book cover:

  1. Look at competitive titles in your genre: Go to the bookstore and flip through the entire bookshelf. Your cover needs to make sense in your genre to you set the right expectations for your reader. Ultimately, distinctive is good, but if you’re too weird, you’ll confuse potential readers.
  2. Subscribe to The Book Designer blog for his monthly EBook Cover Design Awards where you’ll can see great covers and disasters. Pay attention and learn.
  3. Invest in the best image you can afford: Whether it’s a photograph or artwork, the main image on your cover needs to evoke emotion and tell a story–specifically, your story. Stock images, particularly free ones, aren’t going to set your book apart from the other millions available. In the past, I commissioned an artist, I hired a photographer, I purchased quality stock art (with the rights to use it widely) and with my current book, I heavily doctored a photo I took myself.
  4. Contrast and simplicity are necessary: Potential readers are probably flipping through a hundred titles online. You want to catch their attention in a split second. If you’ve complicated your cover design with a blurb or an unreadable secondary title, most readers will just skip over your book rather than spend time deciphering it. Edit, edit, edit.
  5. To indicate you authored the book, all you need is your name. “By” So-and-So is a dead giveaway for a self-published book.
  6. Run a couple of designs by your friends or fans. Offer a free book to one of the commenters. Readers are a great sounding board.

Here’s a look at the art I chose for my latest book:

Little Church on the Corner

The original image was poorly lit and had a lot going on. But it reflected the content of the book: Renovation of an old church.

Watercolor Steeple

I cropped, filtered and recolored the most emblematic part of the image: the belfry. The paint splat evokes “renovation.”

CSH Book Front Cover Only

The final product is eye-catching and easy to read. If you use a white background like this one, be sure to create a border for online display.

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