We all judge books by their covers, it’s human nature to do so and why advertising works so well on us, after all, if advertising didn’t work, then all of the products in your local supermarket would be in plain packaging (it would be far cheaper for the manufacturers).
But advertising, packaging and book design works because it targets our emotions, there’s a saying in sales that ‘you don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle’, because if you advertised just a raw steak it appeals less favorably to our senses than the same steak just cooked, still sizzling and on a plate ready to be eaten, think of the last TV ad you saw for any major restaurant to confirm their method, you’ll also see the same in banner ads on line and in print too (and for every product).
So, having a plain book cover with just the title upon doesn’t work, or does it?
Well, in some cases (and when done right) it can work, the issue is that the bookstores are incredibly crowed, and every publication is shouting loudly to be heard, so in order to stand out from the crowd, doing what is different can actually work. However, being plain for the express reason of cutting corners and costs normally leads to a book cover design that won’t work hard enough for the author.
Remember, the express goal of your book cover design is to sell the book.
When you look in a bookstore at the rows of front pages, think of how long you spend viewing each one, now think of how long you spend looking at book covers when browsing through Amazon’s bookstore, because it’s a lot less time (and this is where the majority of your sales will normally come from). Your book cover will be either dismissed or accepted by the viewer within a fraction of a second, if it doesn’t look professional the viewer will make the same judgement call about the inside matter and very quickly move on to the next title.
A professional design for the advertising of your book isn’t just for the wish list, it’s a must if you want to compete in bookstores (both online and in the real world).
Your book cover design will need to project a message to its intended audience, you’ll need to ensure that it’s appropriate for its genre, has impact and relevance for the book itself. A lot to ask in one image but it is something that book designers achieve over and over again.
Understanding the genre is important, specific genres will normally adhere to specific styles of design for advertising, this is because of our relationship and association to certain elements. For example, if you place an image of a sword within a cover the association will be with violence, fantasy, fiction etc. On the flip side, if you were to place an image of flowers then the mood swings to romance, love, passion, peace etc.
Being aware of our association to elements and their link to the messages you want to say about the book is important, this is something that most designers spend hours brainstorming when working upon the drafts for a new book cover design.
Along with these specifics within the design are the colors chosen for the cover, this can seem a little obvious (if you see lots of pink you may assume it’s either a romance or ‘chick lit’). However, there are psychological reasons for color selection. This is something that advertisers know only too well and use all of the time, for example, using the color red encourages excitement, passion, danger, decisiveness. Whereas black represents sophistication, security, power, elegance. The colors chosen for a book cover have a far deeper meaning than you may realize and should be chosen wisely.
Once you know what colors, subject matter and elements which need to go into the cover, you should also consider how much you place within the design. As mentioned earlier, your cover will only have a split second to grab the reader’s attention, but there is always the temptation to fill the cover with lots of detail about the book. You will need to condense the focal point of the book down to one or two elements, trying to tell the entire story upon the front page will lead to a design which becomes overcrowded, when in doubt, leave it out.
A great cover design will help sell your book, but remember, there is a lot more than just putting a title upon a stock image, with thought and creativity you can have a great design which promotes your work and catches the eye of your reader.
Organizing a book cover and formatting are two important parts of your publication that can overwhelm many authors, the fact is that you’ve written a great novel, spent weeks, months and maybe even years in creating a manuscript and now the next stage in publishing stands before you, making it look good.
So, what’s the best way of formatting and book cover design? Well, there are plenty of services out there offering both and you can also do the job yourself. However, unless you are proficient in applications like Photoshop, InDesign, Quark, Scrivener and many other great tools, I would look to use a professional to do the job for you.
Both book cover design and formatting are tasks that can be organized separately, there are plenty of companies who offer both services independent of the other and will get great results too. You will also find that more authors seem to be happier in formatting their book themselves, and in some cases using specialist software (both on and off line), you’ll also see that if you use a publisher like KDP, your Word document can transfer quite well to their publishing platform (however, even with Word you can do more than you may realize in formatting the manuscript prior to upload).
However, you still need to keep in mind the presentation and design of your book’s interior, uploading a manuscript directly from Word to KDP is of course doable, but if the justification and line spacing is off, the titles are on the wrong pages or the chapter headings are laid out badly then you do your book an injustice. You can save a few bucks doing it yourself, but is it really worth it?
Book cover design is a little different, this is more so for printed book covers and especially for those who print their book through Ingram Spark. The sizing and layout for a printed book has to be very precise in order for the edges of the spine to line up with the folds, have the copy placed within the margins and centered, to have bleed areas, fonts embedded, correct color profiles and the correct dpi.
There are several applications that can be used to create book covers, but the overwhelming industry leader is of course by Adobe, we always use Photoshop and InDesign for all of our book covers and would recommend it over and above all others (again, it’s what most professional companies within publishing use). So, you could download these applications yourself (they usually have a seven day free trial), but without any knowledge of the software you will need to study in order to use them.
The choice that many will have is over time and effort, how long will it take you to become proficient in these applications and how much effort will you need to invest?
If you are setting up as a publisher who does everything in-house, then maybe learning all aspects of the software needed could be a wise investment of your time (be aware though, even most small publishers outsource these tasks to professional services, we complete work for many indie publishers ourselves). If you are publishing just for yourself, then it is far more cost effective (both in time and resources) to use a professional service instead.
It’s clear that all great authors take their work very seriously, they also know using others to assist in their publication is normally the best course of action too, knowing where your strengths are and where you should use others is an important part of any endeavor.
They tell us never to judge a book by its cover, that we should look past the artwork and carefully crafted design to better see what the content of the product is, however, this is easier said than done. We are (whether we like it or not) easily persuaded by advertising in all of its forms, this is why companies spend billions every year on selling us their goods online, in print and upon the screen.
Book cover design is no different, when placed upon a shelf or on the screen of your favorite eBook store your book is just one title in amongst millions of other books, all of which are trying to catch the eye of the buyer and convince them to stop and take a closer look
And this is the deal with choice, when you have so many options to choose from (and keep in mind that there are over 2,700 new indie titles published on average daily) your reader has a lot of book titles to look at before they decide upon their next read, so they become quicker in accepting or dismissing what’s in front of them. So, if your book cover design doesn’t grab their attention, forget it
Choice is of course a great thing, but because there are so many books to consider, you naturally scan the shelves quicker than if you only had ten books to choose from
When you look at the major publishing houses and their approach to book cover design and advertising, you can see that they clearly take this very seriously. First of all, they have a great deal of money tied up in each book that they publish, so ensuring that the publication is a success is paramount. They also understand that advertising works, your initial perception of the book will either cause you to want to find out more or move on to the next.
The big publishing houses also have a large budget and normally a team of designers at their disposal, they plan professional campaigns and great looking materials to support each book. The challenge for indie authors is that these books are your competition, so if you publish with a cheap looking cover your work will stand out in an unfavorable way against them.
You will need a book cover design that looks professional if you want your work to be considered in the same light, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars, but keep in mind that an unprofessional book cover will make the buyer assume that the contents of the book are just as unprofessional.
So, you’ve completed your manuscript, hours, days, weeks and months have gone in to it, but is it ready? For most authors being so close to their work makes it virtually impossible to look at it from an objective position, the phrase, ‘not being able to see the wood for the trees’, springs to mind.
You could persevere regardless and publish without having the book looked at, for some authors this may work, but for many it doesn’t, when the first genuine reviews hit the book’s Amazon page it can be shock. Suddenly the ratings start to come in as threes, twos and even one star, this can be depressing for any author and make you question why you wrote the book in the first place.
However, for 99% of authors their early drafts are full of errors, issues with the structure, the plot, the book’s flow and so on, but with review and editing, a manuscript can go from mediocre to outstanding.
So why doesn’t every author get their manuscript looked at by a professional?
This can be for a number of reasons:
But ask yourself these questions, why did you write the book? Do you respect your readers? Is this a vanity project? Would your favorite author cut corners?
When you get to the end of writing a manuscript it feels like you’re in the final stages of completing a very long journey, you’ve been going for miles and just ahead you can see the finish line. But although this is a common mindset to find your self in, you need to pace yourself and realize that completing the manuscript is just stage one.
When you view publishing you need to look at it as an on-going journey with your book, one that keeps going for years. So, once you have the manuscript completed you need to understand that it is not immediately ready for publication.
So why should you use an editor?
As we mentioned earlier, publishing is a long-term game and some elements within this will take time, but then most great things do. If you can look at the journey of your book as something that will blossom into a work of greatness over a timescale which may be a little longer than you first thought, you will be on your way to publishing the book you always wanted, your readers will thank you!
They say that within us all there is a book waiting to escape, but out of the seven billion (and counting) people upon this planet it is just a few who actually achieve publication, now, of course if you were to expect every single person to write a book it would be a crazy notion, many don’t have the inclination and so many are not even in a position to be able to do so. However, if you’re reading this post then you are luckier than many, you have access to the internet and more than likely have the resources to communicate to the wider world.
So, if you are sat in front of a laptop, desktop, tablet or even just a cell phone and want to see the realization of your dream of writing, you have to ask your self one question, what is stopping you?
For many of us we tend to forget just how lucky we actually are, we may have a job, a house, electricity, clean water, food, security, health, freedom and access to resources that only decades ago could only have been dreamt of. Yet, we bitch, whine and moan about how we never have the time or just don’t have the tools we need to create.
Remember, Shakespeare created plays which are still reenacted around the world today, he had no electricity or easy access to the resources you have, the same goes for Charles Dickens, yet most of us have heard of his work and his novels still delight and entertain a modern crowd.
The reality is that we have never had it so easy to create, you have more power, education and inspiration at your finger tips than any other generation, so again, what is stopping you?
Maybe you don’t have time?
And I get it, we are all busy, there are a million things we need to do and countless commitments we need to keep, but look at your day, no, really, look at it. If you were running your day like you would a business could you streamline elements? Could you find a spare thirty minutes per day or even weekly to sit down with your notepad and pen or laptop? If you wanted to write as badly as you need to breath, you would find a way, even if it meant your book took several years to complete, you would find a way to complete it.
Once more, what is stopping you?
Unless you have been given an advance by a large publishing house (and in this case you are probably a full time author anyway) you only have the deadline that you set yourself, and this is a very important element of writing to understand, it is not a race. If you are struggling to write, try not to make things even harder on yourself by sticking to an unrealistic time frame, if you need to take twenty four months or longer, do it.
Look at your week and find where you have some spare time, it may only be 30 – 60 mins per week, but when you look at this over the course of a year it would give you up to 52hrs, if you could manage just 30 mins per day five times a week then you would have 130hrs per year just to write. If you still don’t think you can spare time, add up how much time you spend checking social media and watching TV (just one hour each day is over 45 working days per year – based on an 8 hour day).
If you only ask yourself one question today, ask yourself what is stopping you?
Back in 2007 Amazon launched their Kindle platform and since then publishing has never been the same, eBooks have gone on to be a vital point of entry for many authors and they’ll continue to do so, but traditional publishing (that is publishing in print) is still strong and numbers continue to grow for the format. So, although some authors may start off in eBook alone, they will soon expand their offered formats into print too, which makes sense if you want to reach as big an audience as possible.
But why do some authors only publish as an eBook alone? Well, the digital format is normally a quicker route to market, making the book cover requires less technical ability than that required for a cover made for print, you can sell a digital book easier from your own website and the overall costs in production of an eBook tend to be cheaper. It’s essentially a great way of dipping your toe into publishing without spending a fortune.
So why go over to publishing your book in print? The book buying public seem to be falling back in love with traditional printed books, the figures show a steady decline in eBook sales and steady growth from printed formats. A recent survey showed that 39% of Americans say they only read printed, 29% say they read both formats and only 7% say they read just digital alone (25% saying they’re non-book readers - statistics from Pew Research), so not publishing in print does exclude a large chunk of readers.
Publishing in print does require a little more in the way of ‘set up’ in comparison to an eBook, the formatting (although it can be done through KDP) is better when completed by a professional, it can take a week or two to complete but the effort is worth it. There are plenty of services available to format printed books, some of which are self-service options which you can do completely online and others which will require downloading specific software to do the job for you (the likes of InDesign or Quark Xpress are two good examples of formatting software).
With formatting your own book for print it can involve a steep learning curve, if you have never used InDesign/Quark (or any of the online tools) then you may want to take some lessons beforehand, if you plan to publish many books and want to micro manage every aspect of your book’s production then this could be a good thing, if not, then we would recommend getting a professional to complete the task for you, it will be easier and a great deal quicker in the long run.
The resolution of the book cover will also need to be sharper for print, the pixels per inch (PPI) or dots per inch (DPI from print) for an eBook cover is a standard 72 DPI, with your printed cover the resolution needs to be at 300 DPI, so using high quality images will ensure a smooth print.
The book cover design layout is also far different from that of an eBook, you need to design for the back page, spine and the front page, what’s more, the layout will also need to have a bleed area which extends outwards on all four sides of the print, this area gets trimmed off in production to ensure that there are no white lines running down the sides of the book cover.
Again, as with book formatting this is something that you’ll need specific software to complete and there will be another steep learning curve if you want to create a printed book cover for yourself, realistically you may just want to use a professional, as before, it’s quicker and much easier.
So there are several things you’ll need to take in to consideration when planning to print your book, but there are lots of people who can help you with these elements (we of course design book covers from start to finish and even convert existing eBook designs to print), printing your book as a paperback or hardback is quite straightforward and well worth doing, it will certainly help you to reach a far larger audience.
Book marketing has become more commonplace for the self-publishing author than ever before, with so many new authors launching titles every day it’s clear that you must have a plan in order to reach an audience (and sell more copies of YOUR book).
This can seem daunting at first but there are plenty of things you can do in order to stand out and promote your book. Here are 18 tips you can use to market your book and self-promote.
Get on to it NOW – The earlier that you can start the process of self-promotion the better, you may be at the editing stage right now, or half way through writing the first draft, it doesn’t matter, what matters is that you understand how important it is to make a start early. Most of the social media channels will be saturated with other authors, also SEO for your website (if using one) is a long-term game, the earlier you start the more followers and site traffic you’ll have.
Get organized – Planning for your book’s success is the first step in promotion, you should work out a timeframe as to when you’ll launch and the stages which you’ll need to cover to get there. Understanding what help you’ll need (as in editing, publishing and design) will enable a clear path to publication and its timeframe, once you have that end date in mind you can plan back from it with your promotions.
Have a budget – This is going to be something that you need to be honest with yourself over, how serious are you about the launch of the book and how much do you want to invest into it? Many authors approach this element like that of a small business, creating an affordable budget for advertising which they then monitor and stick to, again, plan what you can afford (you can always increase/decrease this at a later date if needed).
Who is your audience? – One of the biggest mistakes any author can make is in believing that their book is for everyone, the simple truth is that it isn’t. And it’s a great thing when you realize this, it means that you don’t have to try and market to a massive audience (an audience who only a small percentage will be interested). So you need to understand who your readers are, be honest with yourself and just market to this group, there are over 2,500 books published daily, so unless you have millions to spend on advertising you would not be able to reach everyone even if you wanted to. Be Specific with your audience.
Who are you? – Write a bio for your website, your book (if applicable), social media, seller’s page in the online book stores and any other platform that allows. You want to connect with your reader so make sure you use a photograph (and not a pouting selfie taken from your iPhone either). You don’t need to write more than a couple of paragraphs, but it should give an insight and help your readers see you at a personal level, people buy from people they like.
Book cover design – Yes, we were bound to say it, but people do judge a book by its cover, we are all predisposed to make quick decisions based our initial perception of anything we look at, this is why advertising is such a thriving industry. Your cover is the face and advertising of your book, people will assume that it reflects the quality of the interior, if you have an unprofessional cover they will think that the pages within must be the same.
Have an author’s website – Getting a website as an author is easier than ever, there are lots of click and drag services available which will make the process so much easier for you, we have a great article on this here.
Email lists – Once you have a website, create an email list, again, there are plenty of mailing list services you can use (popular choices are the MailChimp and AWeber). You will need to give your reader something in return for their email address, so offering a free first chapter of your up and coming book, or an eBook version of one of your earlier books are great ways to increase your list.
Start a blog – If you can use this upon your website then great, if not, there are services such as Wordpress which offer pages you can use to blog from. Write about information that is relevant and always write for your reader (not just to advertise). Over time this will help to build a following and interest in YOU as an author.
Have links – Make it easy for your readers to buy a copy of your book, embed links into your website and social media posts.
Social media – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all free to set up, so you would be crazy not to use them, just ensure that you maintain a consistent look and set them up as separate ‘author’ accounts (keep your personal ones private – as you are building a brand as an author).
Use social media – It will only work if you use it, engage with others (in a positive manner) and post elements that your followers will find genuinely interesting, do not constantly spam people.
Advertising on Social media – You can advertise on social media and most platforms do this very well with incredibly specific targeted ads (this is a far better way than boring your followers alone with spam). It enables you to set exact budgets with great controls over how much you spend and who sees the ad.
Give your book away – eBook promotions through KDP are great and certainly help to increase the awareness of your new book, you can run them for several days and then promote accordingly.
Have book signings – they do take some planning but they can really help, speak to your local small book stores and see if this is something they’ll help you with. You can then promote on line several weeks in advance, make sure you have plenty of books along with promotional materials to highlight yourself and give away.
Guest post – If you have a particular insight to a subject you can guest post for someone else’s blog, the only thing you’ll ask for in return is a link back to your site or your book’s sales page, you would be surprised how many people are happy to have someone else write great content for their blog/website, just ask and be polite.
Book/writer’s fares – these pop up all over the place and are normally well advertised in advance, there will more than likely be a fee if you wish to have a stand set up for yourself, but they will get you in front of an important audience.
Reviews – Having reviews for your book is so important, but can be quite hard to come by, there are services that will do this for a fee, or why not run a free offer on the eBook version of your work and then promote it to all of your friends and family asking for a review once they’ve read it.
If you’re an indie author you’ll have a good understanding of just how much work goes in to publishing and then promoting your book, recent reports also show us that self-publishing has increased year on year, and there are now 2,000 plus books being self-published each an every day in the USA alone.
As an author you will find yourself in a very crowded market place (and one that continues to grow), so marketing your book and having a platform to reach a larger audience has never been so important.
The platforms that the majority of authors will initially use will of course be within social media, creating pages through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are most author’s first steps, the great thing is that they are free to set up, they’re established (as in, most people will have access to these platforms and know how to navigate them) and they have some great options to promote and use paid advertising.
But social media should not be your only tool when it comes to promotion, having a presence upon a platform that you can control to a greater level and is completely branded to match your books and you as an author is crucial. It shows that you are a serious author and that your book should be viewed in the same light as those from the bigger publishing houses.
Remember, these big-name books are still your competition, if your branding/theme/design of your book and its advertising looks cheap and poorly made, people will make the assumption that the content of your book is just the same.
Of course, these big-name authors all have websites and before you go off and start yours it’s worth checking out their sites first. Stick to the authors who you admire and preferably are within the same genre that your book is written in. A couple of hours research first will give you a good idea as to the standard your website will be judged against.
Okay, once you have viewed several professional author’s sites you may think to yourself that creating a website that looks that good is out of your skillset, or that you don’t know how to write code and wouldn’t know where to begin, or that you may not have the budget to pay a designer and web developer to build a website for you. Don’t panic! There is a way you can get a great website and not have to pay a fortune, hire a developer or learn how to code.
There are plenty of build your own website services available now which take the hassle out of creating a website, these tend to be based on using pre-designed templates where you drag and drop elements into the page to personalize to your own taste. They are incredibly easy to use, cheap, reliable and enable you to have a profession looking website with a domain name unique to you. What’s more, you can also have an email address which is just as professional (not the usual firstname.lastname@example.org).
Your website will give you the option to engage deeper with your readers, you can promote offers, downloads and events, it will give you the opportunity to host your blog and also give another way for your readers to contact you (should you wish), your website should be a platform to promote, inform and engage, all of this within a professional environment which highlights you as a professional author.
So, the next step is looking for a service to build your website, here are three of the most popular website building services that you may want to take a look at first.
*Prices correct at time of publication
It’s become very clear to see that the trend for publishing your book in audiobook format is gaining momentum, with global sales of audiobooks increasing in 2017 by 22.7% (in 2016 their sales had increased on the prior year by 21.5%), it’s obvious that there is an opportunity for the author and/or publishing house.
The statistics of these sales are quite interesting too, they show that 54% of listeners are under the age of 45 and tend to listen to an average of at least 15 audiobooks per year, they were also reading a small amount of physical books each year too (great news for the author). The most popular genres being Mysteries, Thrillers, Suspense, Sci-Fi and Romance.
So, publishing in audiobook format makes complete sense for most authors, it enables you to reach a growing audience who is also happy to buy and read physical books, as well as consume more audiobooks than most read in an average year.
What is also great about the audiobook is that there are less of them than printed books, which means you have less competition, this for the indie author is a great news.
Right now this format is still something which many self-publishing authors dismiss, their objections being around how to actually create one, most people won’t have the time or inclination to read the book themselves and won’t know how to technically create the audio format either.
If you are a little more tech-savvy then you can of course record yourself reading the book, for some listeners this makes the whole experience of your book far more personal, this can work very well for non-fiction but can be harder for books with a large volume of dialogue.
The downside to recording the book yourself is that unless it’s recorded to perfection it can come across as slightly cheap and in the worst case unprofessional.
But there are services available which can do all of this for you, the most popular one being from Amazon called ACX, here you can get everything you need to turn your book into an audio and for far less than you might expect.
The timeframe to record your book will vary depending upon the voice artist who is reading your book, ACX give an average of 9,300 words per hour, this means that a 300 page book could take between 9 – 11hrs to actually read, on top of this will be the edits and engineering of your book, so you may wait a couple of weeks before you have your completed audio ready for publication.
As we mentioned earlier, this format is currently sill growing at a very fast pace, lots of the big-name authors and their publishing houses have fully embraced audiobooks and now self-publishing authors are doing the same. It seems to be the same position publishing was in when eBooks first came out, the early adopters run with the format and technology first, then others follow.
There are certainly plenty of opportunities for the indie author in this space, some great services to get you up and running and a market place to sell to, if you are thinking about converting your book to audio maybe now is the time.
Once you have completed writing your manuscript you should look at having a professional editor review it, this is a stage that some indie authors overlook, sometimes for cost reasons and in others for over confidence. However, being so close to a volume of writing can lead to a blinkered view with regards to the flow, construction and fine tuning of the work.
A good editor is not there to be a negative over-user of red ink, they should be able to help you in polishing your work to a higher level and thus give your book the best chance of shining when it’s published.
Well first of all you need to understand the different types of editing services that are normally on offer.
Developmental Editing, this looks at the overall book itself and is more of a full-on edit, the book’s structure and narrative will be edited along with analyzing and critiquing the narrative, plot, pacing and so on.
Copy Editing assesses the grammar, punctuation, consistency and overall mechanics of your book.
Proofreading is normally the next and the last stage in checking that all issues have been found and highlighted for correction.
Which type of editing service you choose will be down to your timeframe and budget, but we would recommend that you plan ahead and ensure that your book is looked at thoroughly.
Once you know what type of edit you need you should start to look for editors to work with, but keep in mind doing the following:
Here are three of the more popular and highly rated editors that have great records and are chosen by a large number of professional self-publishing authors, you may want to check them out first.
Book cover designers.