Why is good cover design so important for self published books?


When I decided to self-publish my book, there was one major thing that was really, really important to me: I didn’t want my book to scream “Self-published! Self-published!”

Why?  Because in the past (and to a certain extent now) the phrase ‘self-published book’ was equal to the phrase ‘really unequivocally awful book’.  People would write a book in a week, slap some kind of flimsy excuse for a cover that they designed themselves on it, upload it to a print-on-demand site and expect everyone to sit around and be impressed.  There is a reason that traditional publishing takes time and it is because things like editing, formatting, cover designing and so forth all take time to perfect.

Things have definitely improved now in the world of self-publishing.  There are writers out there who are treating it as a business and taking it very seriously. They write and revise their manuscripts (and have various people check to make sure their writing is not completely awful!) They hire cover designers, editors, formatters and proof readers to produce the best possible product that they can. This effort and attention to detail has contributed to significant improvements quality of self-published titles and there are now lots of books out there which look and feel just like their traditionally published counterparts.

And I want my writing to be associated with the latter, thanks very much.

So, when deciding where to spend money when going ahead and printing my book, right up the top of my list of priorities was cover design.  Sure, sure, we all know that we shouldn’t judge a book, but people will often be compelled to take a closer look at a book (or not) based on the cover.  I know I’m guilty of this. It is really important to me that people want to pick up my book (or, let’s face it, we are talking online bookstores here, so it is really important to me that people do a virtual ‘pick up’ of my book by clicking on it) to take a closer look.  It is these people who might then become readers.

In the TED Talk below, cover designer Chip Kidd talks about how he creates covers that really embody the text they envelope.

This talk is absolutely worth watching for three reasons:
1.  He talks about how he designed the iconic cover for Jurassic Park and Michael Crighton’s response to it, which is pretty awesome.  Who doesn’t love Jurassic Park?
2.  Kidd identifies that the responsibility of the cover designer is threefold – to the reader, to the publisher and to the author.
3.  He uses Haruki Murakami’s book 1Q84 as an example of how even a book on a crazy topic can sell with an intriguing cover as part of the overall marketing plan.

As of yesterday, the cover for Diary of a Penguin-napper is complete.  Finished.  Ready to go. (I definitely did a little dance as I approved the final proof) And I will be revealing it to you shortly …


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