Its the Chicago Auto Show- the largest auto exposition in North America. All the biggest auto brands step up to the plate with concept cars that make the black-tie audience drool. Sleek lines, metallic paint, the latest tech.
Then a debut car manufacturer comes forward with his ground-breaking concept. It looks like this:
Do you think hed be taken very seriously?
The publishing industry has changed dramatically over the last few years. You no longer have to have the backing of the worlds big publishing houses to have your work seen by the masses. This has lead to some truly inspiring success stories. I mean, what budding writer wouldnt want to achieve the success of Hugh Howey, E.L. James, and Colleen Hoover?
Unfortunately, many self-published authors are stepping up to the plate with products that look just as laughable as Mr Debut Car Manufacturers DIY concept car. Instead of drawing readers in as a moth to the flame, were sending them scurrying away like rats at a dump fire.
So why IS a professional-looking book cover design SO important?
Book Covers Sell Books!
You cant judge a book by its cover.
Weve heard it ad nauseam.
Maybe thats true (sometimes), but in the real world we constantly judge based on appearances, whether or not we should. And before you tell me that Im not giving enough credit to readers, its been repeatedly proven that the vast majority of readers do indeed judge a book by its cover.
A survey by The Book Smugglers had very telling results. When readers were asked whether a books cover played a decisive role in their decision to purchase a book, 79% of those surveyed answered yes. The same survey showed 40% of those respondents claimed that a book cover is often the only motivating factor in deciding whether to purchase a book.
If you were to rock up at a job interview, would you wear scuffed sandals and ripped jeans that expose half your butt-crack because you believe a future employer should look past your appearance to your true nature?
Of course you wouldnt! At least not if you actually wanted to land that job.
Amazingly, this is exactly what most indie authors do, despite the evidence they shouldnt.
According to a survey conducted by one of the industry heavy hitters, less than HALF of all self-published authors hire a professional cover designer.
Daggy jeans and sandals, anyone?
Of course, some new authors come to their senses, scrap their DIY covers, and put a professionally designed cover in its place. The ProActive Writer Blog points out that this alone is worth an 18% spike in sales.
Lets grab our calculators for a minute. Suppose your book has modest success and youre selling 1,000 copies per month at a price of $2.99 with a 70% royalty. If your cover design is poor, or even average, missing out on 18% of your potential sales means youre giving away $377 per month in additional royalties! Over one year, thats $4,521 not exactly chump change.
As much as we like to think that our readers will judge our work solely on its literary merit, the reality is that your books appearance will make a difference in what you sell.
FYI, you can get the full Taleist Self-Publishing Survey from Amazon.
Protect Your Reputation
If a good cover design sells books, then it follows that an ugly cover design will interfere with selling books. As if all the lost sales and unearned moneywerentbad enough, a cover design that sucks also makes a long-lasting bad impression about you thats awfully hard to live down.
Your audience isnt made up of average consumers. They already know that the booming growth of the ebook industry has flooded the market with lousy books. Maybe theyve even downloaded a few to their Kindle or other ebook reader device. Once theyve been burned a couple of times, they learn to look for something all those books have in common. More often than not, that something is bad cover design.
You dont want your writing lumped in with the amateurs and scammers, who are inundating the ebook market with low-quality writing in an attempt to make a fast buck.
Think of all the famous actors whose reputations cratered after accepting a bad movie role. For example, ask Kevin Costner how long it took him to fight his way back to respectability after starring in that infamous turkey, Waterworld. (Some unkind critics would say hes still trying to fight his way back!) Turkeys have a way of hanging themselves around your neck.
A professional cover design is reputation management for you as an author. It pays for itself, not only with your first title, but for all the other books youll write and publish in the future. Readers will recognize your good name.
OK Is Not OK
Have you thought about whether youre a professional writer or an amateur? Do you think it matters?If youre not sure, ask some readers which type of author they would rather read. Nobody is going to say, I prefer amateur writing over the work of a professional. When they think of amateur fiction, they think of laughably bad plots, unbelievable characters, and trite themes. In nonfiction, amateur writing means untrustworthy information and a structure thats so hard to follow it makes your eyes glaze over. Lousy grammar and punctuation are also hallmarks of amateur writing.
Guess what else is a sign of an amateur writer? Yep a book cover designed by an amateur.
An amateur writer is not something you want to be, and you dont want to be mistaken for one, either.
If youre still working on your first book, dont let your inexperience or your lack of a track record in publishing make you feel inferior. Right this moment, put on the mantle of the professional writer. Resolve that from now on, youre at least as good as every other writer out there, and youre going to take action on that belief. Let your belief in yourself as a professional guide your decisions about your publishing career. A book cover thats merely OK is fine for an OK writer, but its not good enough for a pro. OK writers are not who readers are actively looking for.
The Company We Keep
Authors who self-publish their work are called self-publishers, or independents (indies for short). The explosive growth in ebook readers and tablets has spurred a corresponding growth in independent publishing.
Unfortunately, any time theres a boom in a business sector, theres bound to be some bad apples attempting to hitch a ride. Independent publishing is on the verge of having a reputation problem because of all the hastily written books with lousy book cover designs that have invaded the marketplace.
For the first time in publishing history, theres no gatekeeper. You are in charge of all the decisions about how to design, sell, and market your book all things that traditional publishers used to do for those talented enough (some would also say lucky enough) to land a contract.
Right now, independent publishing could go one of two ways. If the market continues to become more saturated with lousy, ugly books, then readers will refuse to buy them, and the occasional self-published gem will get ignored right along with all the rest of the garbage. On the other hand, if indie authors step to the plate and make a commitment to releasing only the very best product, then readers will support them by buying their books and telling their friends about them.
Youre an indie author, and with no gatekeepers in charge, youre the one in control. The decisions you make about how to package your product affect your future, and also the future of the indie publishing industry as a whole.
Its like having your own business scratch that, you do have your own business. Happy customers mean success and more money, not only for you, but for your fellow indies who are struggling to overcome the stigma of self-publishing.
Dont be part of the problem! When you refuse to be an amateur by making your books professional inside and out, youre supporting the viability of independent publishing in the future.
When Good EnoughIsntGood Enough
Suppose you find a friend or online provider who knows a bit about Photoshop and agrees to design you a cover at a budget price. Is this good enough?
There are a lot of amateurs out there doing cover design, and sure, their work might be better than something thrown together for $5, or something you tried to design yourself (unless youre a professional designer, of course).
The problem with hiring amateurs is your competition.
Theres so much eye candy in the big book stores- online or brick and mortar. A reader who goes shopping for some ebooks to download is bombarded with titles to choose from. As an indie, youre competing with mainstream publishers who have design budgets in the five figures for a single title. Youre also competing with your fellow indies who have decided to play to win by investing in a professionally designed book cover.
Where does that leave you and your good enough cover that you ordered from a friend to save some money?
Its so incredibly hard to stand out in the online ebook stores nowadays if your book cover is only average. The increased competition brought on by the mind-boggling growth in the ebook market really has upped the ante its becoming more and more difficult to get noticed. A few years ago, good enough might have worked, but thats no longer true.
For example, do a search in the Amazon Kindle Store for public domain literature. Because these books are public domain, the publisher cant make money on them. With no profit to be made, professionally designed book covers in this category are the exception, not the rule, and some of those covers are, frankly, butt-ugly!
Now compare the results of the above search with my Pinterest board, where Ive pinned a huge collection of book cover designs and other graphic design pieces that I think are just amazing. My Pinterest page is where I go for inspiration. When I want to create a really stunning book cover for a client, something that will pull a readers gaze away from all the other bright, shiny objects on the shopping page, I look to the best of the best.
Look What I Read!
While Im talking about Pinterest, I think I should mention the social media factor in book cover design.
An amazing book cover not only sells books in an ebook store, but its more likely to garner some social sharing action on visual networks like Pinterest and Tumblr. Im not the only person who shares book covers on Pinterest. Most people who admire (and stockpile) brilliant book covers arent even designers. How would you like your book paraded in front of hundreds- possibly thousands- of social media junkies?
And when a reader shares a book in one of their social network feeds, what usually shows up most prominently? The book cover. If you have a terrible book cover, folk might be more reluctant to share with their friends (who wants to be seen as the person who reads amateurish books?), or at least opt-out of having a thumbnail included, which makes that social share practically invisible.
Awesome covers get shared more. See for yourself.
Book Covers As Advertising
Anyone who has been an indie publisher for long will tell you that its hard to promote a self-published book. Traditional publishers have all kinds of resources at their disposal that you just dont have. You dont have a team of traveling salespeople promoting your book to wholesalers and bookstore owners. You dont have co-op advertising agreements, and you dont have enough money to buy reviews in the high-end review magazines.
What you do have is your book cover. With one look from a reader shopping for that next ebook download, youve leveled the playing field between you and the big boys. A professionally designed book cover is one of the most powerful pieces of advertising you can buy for your book, and should be part of your overall marketing strategy.
Do Whats Best For Your Book
The only people who recommend the DIY route for all authors overwhelmingly belong to one of two categories:
They stand to make money from you avoiding the professional route. Either theyre trying to sell you a piece of cover design software, or theyre selling you some sort of course in cover design. Theyre going against common advice because they want to take your money.
Theyre newbie authors (or writer wannabes) who have amateurish cover designs, and think their minute success is the best they can hope for. They dont know any better.
Im not recommending professional book cover design just because I happen to be a designer. No, having a great-looking cover design is one of those things that people across all fields agree on. Writers, editors, marketers, book retailers, and readers all encourage new authors to put their best foot forward. Make your book look amazing, and youre one step closer to achieving literary success.
Do whats best for your book, and your writing journey. Look for a good company that does web design in Cincinnati.