Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Behind the Scenes: Book Cover Design

I'm starting a new series showing some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of publishing my book. Whether you're interested in publishing your own masterpiece or just curious about how I did it, I hope you'll find it interesting!

Behind the Scenes: Book Cover Design

Design a Book Cover That:

1. Immediately grabs a viewer's attention
2. Communicates the book's genre and what the book is about
3. Looks professional

Kick-Off Your Book Cover Designing Process:

1. Research the market. I browsed Goodreads and Amazon for books similar to Confessions of a Paris Party Girl, then pinned covers to a private board on Pinterest. This allowed me to view all the covers at once and see what they had in common. After pinning 20+ covers, I found common themes I was drawn to. If you don't have a Pinterest account, you can set one up quickly or just copy and paste the covers into Word. The key is to be able to see everything all at once.

2. Determine what speaks to your target audience. While my book is technically a memoir, it reads more like chick lit and my primary audience is female. I felt a pink cover with a touch of sophistication would speak directly to my desired readers, letting them know it's a fun book taking place in one of the fanciest, schmanciest cities in the world.

3. Work with a professional designer. Depending on your budget, there are a few ways to do this. I'm lucky enough to have an amazing graphic designer colleague who did my cover in exchange for Starbucks and eternal gratitude. To limit what I asked of her, I mocked up my ideas first so that she didn't have to start from scratch. If you have the budget, definitely hire a professional. If you have a friend who is a truly good designer (try to see samples of their work before you get stuck in an awkward situation), pay them or bribe them with beer. If you have a very limited budget, search for pre-made book covers - many are inexpensive and I've seen some surprisingly good ones out there. No matter what, unless you're a designer yourself, don't try to do the entire thing on your own. There's a 99% chance it will come off as amateurish and turn readers off before they have a chance to find out more.

Don't believe me? Compare these two images and tell me which one is more eye-catching and professional:
Mock-up book cover for "Confessions of a Paris Party Girl" by Vicki LesageProfessional book cover for "Confessions of a Paris Party Girl" by Vicki Lesage
My original mock-upProfessional cover design
I'm guessing you picked the one on the right. See why it's important to get an outside, professional designer?

3 Wrap-Up Tips for Designing Your Book Cover

Already have a book cover or are in the process of designing one? Here are a few final tips to leave you with:

1. Ask for feedback. Show your samples to friends or post images on your blog and have your readers comment (or vote, if you have several options to choose from).

2. Visualize it in "real life." What will it look like on Amazon or an email newsletter? Take a screenshot of an Amazon category page or a BookBub daily email and superimpose your book cover on it. Is your cover as high quality as other books you see? If someone were to scroll through a list of books, would yours stand out as awesome or amateur? When the cover is resized to super small (which often happens when websites and newsletters feature your book) is the title still readable? Does your cover make a strong impression?

3. Take a break. Step away from your cover for a few days, then look at it again. Does it convey what you're trying to convey? Can you easily recognize the genre? What type of reader would be attracted to this book? Are all the fonts legible? If this was someone else's book cover, what would you recommend they change?

Think You're Ready?

eBook Cover Design Gold Star Winner, "Confessions of a Paris Party Girl"What makes me an expert? Well, I'm not an expert but I do get lots of compliments on my cover. But perhaps the biggest compliment of all was winning a gold star in The Book Designer's cover design contest! Joel Friedlander is one of the top voices in book cover design and self-publishing.

If you think your cover has what it takes, I encourage you to enter his contest. But I strongly advise browsing through a few previous contests to get a feel for what's a good cover and what sorts of things could be improved before you submit. Also, be prepared that if your cover sucks he won't mince words telling you so. That's a good thing - better that you know and improve than limp along with a crummy cover - but get a thick skin first!

There's a wealth of information out there on fonts, styles, genres, templates, and more. Use them! Hopefully this behind-the-scenes look at my experience gets you headed down the right track. Good luck!

A big thanks to my cover designer, Clara Vidal, and also to my mom, Elle Marie, who helped with various iterations of the design including the final tweaks to make it the right format for publishing.

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Escape to Paris

Vicki Lesage, Author