Alongside Createspace, Ingram Spark is one of the more popular print on demand publishers available to the indie author (and small publisher), with connections to all of the major book retailers in North America, The United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand (along with countless online connections too) it’s easy to see why so many authors choose them to publish their book with.
They also give you more options when it comes to the specific format of your printed book (other than just a paperback), they offer 29 different trim sizes for paperbacks alone and 14 variations for hardbacks, going from 4” x 6” to 8.5” x 11” in trim sizes, you’ll also find that they offer their hardback designs with a choice of either a laminate cover or a cloth bound cover with a dustjacket.
Ingram tailor their services for the type of book that you’ve penned, so an author who’s created a graphic novel with have an option that’s specifically for them and differs to that of the writer who has created a book destined for the business world or school class room.
When getting your cover ready for use there are a couple of things that any designer needs to take into account, firstly (and this is an obvious one) the color model you create the cover in should always be CMYK, if you have added any spot colors these should be converted (without transparencies) into CMYK, the same goes for any files which have been created in RGB. The other element is the ink levels, the requirement is for no more than 240%, but these can be easily changed in Photoshop.
When it comes to the cost of using Ingram, unlike Createspace there is a fee involved, Ingram charge a setup fee of $25 for an eBook or $49 for print (they also combine the both for $49), you also find that the average cost per book (when you take your royalties into account) stack better for those who publish with Createspace in comparison to Ingram.
However, with the marketing options available to you via Ingram along with their extensive channels to sell your book, Ingram Spark is still worth a look and for these reasons has a loyal section of authors and publishers who continue to use their services.
The planning which goes into the design of a book cover may surprise many authors, but it is something which needs to be meticulous for a great design which is true to the book itself, and this planning starts with gaining a complete understanding for the concept of the book. The concept is normally summarized by the author’s synopsis (something that normally only goes out to agents or publishers), this information includes the essence of the book and so the most important aspects, the alternative is reading the entire novel to gain this insight.
With most authors the timeframe doesn’t allow for the reading of the book, the same goes for your designer, they will also have a full workload and so reading an entire novel and then having drafts ready within a week or two can be a big ask. Having said this, we have read chapters of novels to gain a thorough understanding of the work, but this has been two to three chapters at most, the more detailed information coming directly from the author.
The information within a synopsis will usually break the book down into one to two pages, giving the reader a full idea as to the book’s content, conclusion, concept and details of characters within, however, for a designer the detail regarding specific scenes and characters may sometimes have to be fleshed out a little further to ensure a match with elements of the design.
Once the book cover designer understands the concept and details of the book they will need some of the technical info regarding the actual publication, this will be in reference to the size of the book, expected page count and chosen publisher, the more information here the fewer changes later.
It’s at this point that the designer has all of the information needed and can start to work upon the actual drafts for the book cover, but even so, they may not touch Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign for a day or so. The first stage will be to work on the concept for the drafts, this is usually done in rough so that ideas can flow and evolved into designs which best capture the essence of the book.
For ourselves we like to pick apart the brief and look for the key areas within the book’s concept, these areas are then worked upon with brain-storming sessions, here we take many ideas and condense them down into rough sentences and sketches, this can take a day or two per cover but it is a crucial element within the design process and one which we always adhere to.
Once the book designer has at least four conceptual ideas then the design process begins to take further shape, the rough sketches transfer to computer and their transformation takes place using Photoshop, this can sometimes be a lengthy process but one where the creativity of the designer shines.
A single draft from concept to presentation can take several days to get ready, but this will depend upon the requirements of the brief, if the cover needs more hand drawn art work then this single draft can take four to five days to get ready (from start to finish and including concept, research & development).
It just goes to prove that a book cover design is more than just an image with words, many hours of work and creativity will go into each and every design, the front page of each book you have ever read will have gone through a very similar process, one which is there to make the book the star of every shelf.
The main element within any book cover design is always the image that you choose to represent your idea or concept for the book, having said this (and I know what some may be thinking) there are of course books which have covers entirely made up of text and nothing more, but even so, you could argue that it is then the text which becomes the image at this point anyway.
The point I’m making is that any book cover design will need a focal point to draw in the viewer and portray a message in a clear, concise and effective manner. And this will vary from genre to genre, each individual section within the literary world will have its ‘standard’ (and to some degree, expected) format when it comes to the art work upon the front page.
For example, probably the worst genre for this is erotic literature, most books play on the exact same theme for their covers, if it’s a book aimed at straight women the cover will normally have a shirtless guy, and if its target audience is straight men then replace the shirtless man for a woman wearing very little. The covers are very blunt and ‘to the point’, but when you think of a high selling and successful book within this field then the first erotic book that most people could name is Fifty shades of grey.
One thing that the designers of the Fifty Shades cover got very right was understanding that the audience is far more sophisticated, much of the readership of that particular book would have been turned off by a clichéd cover with semi naked people upon (these books were being read in offices, subway trains and lots of other public places), so a subtle cover gave the story more credence as a novel, it showed that it was something which offered more than just cheap thrills.
So, the concept which is used to represent your book needs to run a little deeper at times than just adhering to dictated clichés, you should target the audience and take into account the trends within your own specific genre but at the same time ensure that the impression given by your cover professionally represents your work.
And this is where the fine line is, the book buying public have never had so much choice when it comes to buying a new title, the moment you scan the pages of the online book stores you see just how many new books you have to choose from. So, what do most people do? We scan quicker and quicker through the selection available, we overlook (what could be great reads) quickly and move on to the next based upon a very fast assumption made about each book.
This means that you need an eye-catching focal point, something to stop the viewer and make them look further, a design which looks both professional and gives a clear message, because once you have them reading your blurb your chances of gaining a sale increase dramatically.
A professional book cover design is that first step in gaining the trust of the viewer, it shows that you respect your work and that the pages within the book are well written too, and if you have spent weeks, months or even years writing the book you owe the same respect and dedication for its cover.
Your book cover design is the first layer of advertising that a reader will see when browsing the book store or searching through the countless pages of Amazon, it becomes the very face of your book and the tool which will either entice the individual to look further or move on to the next title upon the shelf.
Add to this the sheer volume of new titles being published daily (at last count it was 1,200 per day in the USA alone) and you can see just how big your competition is. We also live in an age where information is very quick to hand and the senses are bombarded with so much choice and distraction with each look upon the internet, what this means is that people skim through information, when given a large choice people have become very quick to ‘swipe’ past and move on to the next, therefore having a book cover design which captivates immediately is crucial to any author.
So, what does this mean for the writer who wants to publish their new book and at the same time ensure that a wide audience gets to buy and read it? It means that a business-like approach should be adopted in the preparation of your book and (most importantly) its publication along with launch.
A professional approach will include many things for the author, it will include lots of proof reads, professional edits and then more proof reads, formatting to ensure a professional interior and of course your book cover design and advertising. But the most important element comes from within yourself, it is your mindset, the way you think about the preparation and launch will lead to a successful book.
Many authors adopt the same mindset as if they were launching a small business, now this may seem like an odd approach but it’s one that works, attention to detail and a determined attitude will drive an author to seek out a great finish for the interior and cover. However, it is tempting to rush the launch, you’ve spent weeks, months and even years in writing the book, once the final words have been typed so many are too quick to publish at any cost. Again, don’t rush, launching a business when you’ve the foundations, systems and infrastructure in place will lead to a successful venture and the same goes for your book!
Getting the cover your book deserves pays, it shows that your work is professional and shows the reader that it is in the same league as anything from the major publishing houses, it also helps with tie-in advertising banners, posters, postcards, websites and social media posts, a professional book cover within these adverts leaves a good first impression and sells.
The fact that a book cover design is there to sell your book should always be remembered, getting too personal about it can lead to a cover that is busy, misleading or even off-putting to the reader. Yes you should always have a connection with it and it should have elements from the books concept which leave an impression, but if you keep in mind what its primary job is then you will find the path to a successful launch a lot easier.