So, you’ve decided to self-pub. That’s one big decision out of the way. Now for the next one: The Cover. Others may dispute putting this first on the list of must-dos, but it’s on mine because of the important impact it has on your enthusiasm level. After months or years of slaving over your manuscript, a cover is the first visible projection of what you’re working on. A cover says you’re at the point of launch or soon to be there. It says you’re a legitimate author. As you continue to perfect your book, you’ll find yourself frequently (and fondly) glancing at your cover.
To find a cover designer, look on the web. Make note of the ones who’ve done covers for books similar to yours and evaluate them as you would any other service. Before anything else, you want to know whether they’re versatile in their work or if they recycle the same old themes in cover after cover. Some similarities are good — for example, for books in a series. But most of the time similarities are bad. You’re looking for distinctiveness and unique appeal.
After you’ve whittled down the list, pare it some more by taking a good hard look at each designer’s clients. Have you heard of any of them? If so, that’s a plus. If not, you might want to visit Amazon and see what their pages look like. A nice cover and bad reviews don’t necessarily tell you anything. But it’s a question mark.
Next, examine the designer’s testimonials. Anyone can write a testimonial, a friend, mother, etc. Match the testimonials to the covers displayed (if they aren’t already matched). Throw out the rest. What you’re looking for in the testimonials are reliability, minimum or no corrections, good interpretation of the book’s description, and adhering to any written directions or requests the author made. In addition to liking the designer’s work, you want to know that h/she will be a good match for your expectations. Just saying the cover is great is good news but it doesn’t really tell you anything. Feel free to contact the authors listed under testimonials. You can probably find them on their blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media.
For my first book, I hired a designer who completely ignored the atmosphere I wanted portrayed. “Message From Panama” takes place in a steamy hot jungle country known for its intrigue. The designer gave me a generic techno-thriller cover in shades of grey and white. Because he’d done such engaging covers for several well-known writers, I emailed my description again and gave him a second chance. The second time was perfect. Second chances are solely up to you.By now, you’ve put your compilation of designers through several tests and you should have a short list to contact. Send the remaining designers an email and describe your project. Ask the designer when s/he would be able to fit it in to their schedule. Nail down the price and make sure you know what it includes and doesn’t. If you’re planning to sell your book solely as an ebook, you may want the designer to prepare only a front cover. If you’re going to add soft copy sales, you’ll need a back cover as well. Some designers don’t do back covers so check this carefully. I had a different artist for the two covers. This was not out of choice but necessity. The first designer went South on me.
Two further items. Make sure your back cover designer includes your bar code. And don’t forget your spine art. It should be included with the price.
Note: Think carefully before asking a friend or relative to prepare your cover. You need to view this all important step in the publishing process objectively, something that’s hard to do when the designer is close to you.
Next week: Sorting out the different e-publishers and some hints..
~~ Jane Vasarhelyi