Let us all, please, take a moment, and acknowledge that we undeniably, unapologetically, most often unconsciously, judge a book by its cover.
“We’d all like to think we don’t judge a book by its cover, but we do,” notes Renee Barratt. “It’s the first representation we have. It’s a sign of what’s inside. We look at the cover, then read the blurb, then open the book, then buy the book. It’s a staging thing. It’s easier to sell a not-so great book with a great cover, than a great book with a not-so-good cover.”
Barratt is founder of The Cover Counts, a firm that designs book covers for both traditionally and self-publishing authors. She has been a graphic designer for 20-plus years and a book cover designer for the last five, both for traditionally and independently published authors. Prior, she earned her graduate degree in education and served for many years as a teacher. Her warmth and care carries through to her current line of work. “I love my job so much more since moving into the book design field,” says Barratt. “I love books. I love authors; they’re the best group of people.”
Barratt’s website boasts a quote by Wim Hovens: “Good design is in all the things you notice. Great design is in all the things you don’t.”
We asked Barratt to share her top tips for self-publishing authors as they reach the book cover design phase. Her advice follows:
1. Find the designer that’s best for your book, regardless of price. “I know it can be an expensive venture to self publish… but wait, save, and choose the designer by how well you think that designer can represent your book. It’s not about the best you can afford right now. It’s like those TV commercials selling engagement rings: the engagement ring should be three months’ salary. I think a lot of authors rush in. Authors can think of this as their own engagement. They should think: ‘I shouldn’t mess around. I must present my book with the very best diamond that I can. ‘”
2. Listen to the cover designer. “If you choose wisely, they have done all the research—they’ve studied the psychology of colors, and what works in the genre. Let us do our work; it’s what we’re good at.”
3. Sometimes simplicity is best. “It’s not necessary to recreate a scene from a book; it can be confusing to readers. It’s important to represent the book, not recreate the story. Be simple and strong.”
4. Know your own aesthetic. “Look at what’s out there. Look at what’s selling out there. Look at the bestselling book list. Browse those successful authors in your genres so you can know what will sell your book.”
5. Recruit someone whose opinion you trust to help: This should be someone “whose job isn’t to be nice to you. Same thing with the reading of your book. I have people in my life who know the industry, who I can say, ‘What do you think about this?’ If someone is not willing to say, ‘start from the drawing board,’ they are not right to be judging your work.”
6. Be aware that the cover design needs to work well for an ebook too, for a thumbnail size. “Rarely, these days, is an author, publishing a book just in print.” Make sure the design is readable in the smaller size you will be using online.
Gabrielle Orcha is an intern at BlueInk Review.
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