Why authors should never design their own covers (Without help).

Guest post by Mark Ecob

Dear Author,

That picture you’ve taken from Google with the 12pt Comic Sans you’ve put on it in Word will not help sell your book, and have you seen Kindle Cover Disasters on Tumblr?!

Designing covers without help is NOT an option.

You’re not a cover designer, just like I’m definitely not a writer. But you still need a cover for your book, that you’ve spent all those late nights and weekends on, before you let it out into the world for all to see.

Independent publishing is huge, and there are myriad options available to you for effective design, to suit all purses and personalities. You can use platforms like Lounge MarketingWhitefox and Reedsy to find a designer direct, you can get lessons on how to do it yourself from the lovely people at Books Covered and you can get all sorts of useful advice from forums like the Alliance of Independent Authors. So if you’re serious about giving your book the best chance of success, research it and spend a little money on it (or a lot if you want) and employ a professional.

If you ask a designer to create your book’s cover, look at their portfolio, speak to them on the phone and ask any questions you need to. A good designer should answer them as well as produce stunning visuals. Why not ask a few to quote? Take your time on deciding, and when you have, let the designer lead you. Would you tell your mechanic how to fix your car? Not if you want it to run, you don’t. You see, we’re a bunch of image and typography geeks who’ve been putting faces on books for (too) many years, and what’s more – we love it. Trust your designer to design.

We all work in different ways, as do publishing platforms, but here’s a quick idea of how it might go.

After we’ve agreed ‘how much’ and ‘when’, I’m going to ask you to fill in a brief. It asks lots of questions about your book, from simple stuff like size and copy, through to market positioning, audience and tone of voice, stuff you might not have thought of just yet. If we have time, I’m going to read your manuscript, more often that not I’ll sketch something on the pad I keep by my bed at 2am by iPhone light.

When you send back the brief, we’ll chat on the phone so we can both get a lay of the land, and then I’ll go away and make some covers for you. You’ll usually get at least three to choose from in an email. Then, you should do a shelf test – show your partner, a friend, your editor if you have one, it’ll help you understand why you like one and not another. Above all, don’t react straight away, sleep on it before you reply.

Don’t worry, you’ll get a few chances to change the design, this isn’t a dictatorship. I’ll always listen to you, a happy author is as important to the cover design as my Wacom tablet. Once we have the right one, and if you want a print edition, we’ll build the rest of the design working in the same way, preparing artwork specific to your printer.

I’ve never met an author who hasn’t valued the input of the right designer. Of course, it’s not always perfect, but if we both stick to what we’re good at and work together, there is no reason why your book shouldn’t get the cover it deserves.

Very best wishes,

The Cover Designer

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