Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tips from the Pros: Designing your book cover

Guest Post
Welcome Lisa Hainer of Lionsgate Book Design who discusses cover art

Designing your book cover.
We have all seen a ton of badly designed book covers even from major publishers that cause us to pass up that book right away. That is not what I want for your book.

So, whether you hire a graphic designer to do the cover of your book or if you attempt to design the cover yourself, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering what kind of image you should have on the cover.

  • The best cover design is the one that tells me what is promised on the inside. A book cover is like a movie poster advertising a movie; it can be a teaser to communicate a mystery about your story. It can raise a question that your book answers, or it can be show exactly what they will find on the inside.

  • Figure out WHO your demographic is: Basically, WHO is it you want to read your book and who will be helped the most by it's contents. This will help narrow down the artistic style of your cover. A book on safe dating will likely look different for a teen reader than for a readership over 40. 

  • Identify with where your readers are or where they would WANT to be, as in the case with any kind of help book. For instance, a book on abuse could show an abused person still in their trauma or it can show a person in a healed state. It can show the light at the end of the tunnel as a symbol for the hope your book will bring. You have to choose which state you want to appeal to your reader.

  • Keep it simple: A book cover is not a huge poster; you can't fit a ton of detail on a 6 x 9 area. Don't try to show every aspect of your book in one situation. I designed a book cover showing good and bad and America in the middle (flag) but the author wanted pathways into dark woods and other paths into rolling meadows, with vultures in the trees of the dark woods and eagles in the "happy area" and it got to be as much as you would put in a movie scene. Usually good design has ONE overall element of importance. So only show a FRAGMENT of your concept.

  • Identify good design: Good design is always good design and it's nearly impossible to teach it in a short space, so look at book covers on sources like Amazon to see what types of covers fit YOUR eyes, and send as many samples to your designer. Identify WHY you like them, and then try to copy them. 

  • Make sure your headline is easy to read:  If the picture is light and your type may have to be in dark ink. If the image is too "busy," you're going to have to find a way to separate the headline from it in a simpler space or with shadows under it. So first, figure out what is your main element--pictures or text--and don't allow both to have equal importance.

  • Choose great colors: there are more than 4 colors in a color palette. Try not to use primary colors but make use of the millions of others that may seem more grayed back or toned down as you strive to make all of your elements pleasing to the eye.

  • Thumbnail Readability: Make sure your book is readable when it's only 2 inches large on your computer. Your book will be amongst many others on the Amazon catalog or other print distribution catalogs. Again, one main element should be the attention getter.

  • Ask Potential Readers: Test your book cover design on friends, local bookstores, colleagues, other writers, local book clubs, libraries, and even your own family. But beware that some people give opinions just to give them and not all critiques are valid.

  • For my Christian clients, I tell them to "ASK DADDY." Yup, go to the Lord and pray on it. Pray before you talk to your designer, during and after as He is the master designer and knows exactly who He has already appointed to be ministered to by your message, having given you the message in the first place (hopefully).

In the end, don't attempt your own book cover unless you have successfully commissioned yourself out for the marketing purposes of paying clients and have had successful sales.

Just slapping an image on a cover with a headline will not make an interesting cover nor does it mean the marketing point gets to the right demographic. 

PLEASE see a professional for this task and save up the money when you start writing your book to do so.

Doing your own book cover is like trying to operate on yourself. I've seen many an author pride himself in his own cover work even though his book has not made the sales he was hoping for, and he's wondering "why?"

Look at the portfolios of your prospective designer and make sure you would want to buy his/her books. Help your designer out by browsing the stock photo sources listed at ***. They are are mostly under $20 and a book cover license usage is in their standard license fee.

Purchase images that are 300 dpi and the size of your cover.

And look for our article next month on hiring a designer and what to be concerned with as far as commissioning artwork, who owns what and how to get the best cover from them.

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