I finished a book several months ago. When I reached the end I wanted to cue in applause and hire a marching band. Of course, I didn’t do either of these things. Instead, I started looking for an agent or publisher. The search was discouraging because I kept seeing the phrase, “Not accepting new work.”
In these tough economic, times many publishers have gone out of business. Small publishers are joining with other small publishers just to survive. Since I’ve been a freelancer for more than 30 years, I know something about the book industry. My chances of finding a publisher were slim, so I turned to self-publishing.
A local graphic artist had designed several book covers for me. He is talented, savvy, and I respect his work. When I received the cover, however, it wasn’t what I expected. I think of my book as an educational and motivational guide for women with heart disease. His cover made my book look more like a sports book and less like a women’s resource.
To understand our different perspectives, I started reading about the symbolism of book covers. Joel Friedlander writes about this topic in “Book Cover Design and the Problem of Symbolism,” posted on The Book Designer website. According to Friedlander, bad covers have poor font choices, confusing graphics, colors that don’t work, meaningless stock photos, and too much copy.
Nonfiction books like mine can have more copy, Friedlander continues, but the author has to be careful. “One common cover design error you may not have thought of is particularly difficult for many authors to overcome: they know their own books too well,” he writes. Was I guilty of this error? After thinking about this question for two days, I realized our different approaches were probably based on gender.
Friedlander lists the pluses of good book cover design — simplicity, a limited amount of type, and a clear message. Another article by this graphic designer, “Top 8 Cover Design Tips for Self Publishers,” offers clear suggestions for an eye-catching cover. If you are agonizing over a book cover now, his tips may help you make a choice.
- The cover should have a principal focus.
- Make all the design elements count.
- Avoid a white background. Use color and texture instead.
- Your title should be large, especially if the book is electronic.
- The font should be easy to read.
- Your cover image should clarify the content.
- Stick with a few colors.
- Look at lots of book covers before you make a final decision.
I considered these tips and realized my first cover photo choice was the best. The interior of my book will have two photos to delineate the sections. I checked my options again, eliminated one, and substituted another. Then I emailed all of this information to my graphic designer. The last two sentences of my email: Hopefully, the
se suggestions will meet with your approval and you can follow my logic trail. Thanks for your patience.
A book cover can make or break a sale. Before your book comes out, make sure the cover symbolizes the contents, the idea you have lived with so long, and worked on so hard.
Copyright 2013 by Harriet Hodgson
Harriet Hodgson is the author of 31 books. Her latest releases are “Happy Again! Your New and Meaningful Life After Loss” and “Help! I’m Raising My Grandkids.” Please visit her website and learn more about this busy author and grandmother.
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