Cover Story

K. L. Schwengel

We all know the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” But what’s that mean to you, a writer? If we’re talking in terms of that picture being your book cover, it could mean the difference between strong sales and weak sales. Which is especially important to the author who opts to self-publish. Competition is fierce and your little thumbnail image is going to be sitting side by side on a web site with other thumbnail images, including those done by professional in-house designers. And though everyone’s budget is tight these days, your book’s cover is not something you should overlook.

A cover does much more than show the title and author of the tome it graces. It is, quite literally, your book’s all important first impression. It should act as an attention getter and encourage people to want to pick up the book or click the Buy Now button. It should jump off the screen and make them pause to look further, not scroll on past. People do buy books based on the cover, especially one that stirs their emotions. And a professional looking cover not only lends a certain amount of credibility to your book, but also increases the perceived value.

So how do you compete with that if you’re self-publishing?

It’s not easy, especially on a limited budget. But it is necessary. And by not putting effort into your covers you’re cheating yourself. How many hours did you slave over carefully choosing each word, making sure your characters and scenes leap off the page to grab and hold your reader until the end? You struggled to make your book something the reader doesn’t want to put down. But in order for them to get to that point they need to first pick it up.

There are ways of getting covers without spending the big bucks, but you have to be creative. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Try contacting colleges specializing in art and design. Seniors looking to build their after graduation portfolio will most likely leap at the opportunity to add some real life assignments to their samples.
  • Contact any local artists groups. Perhaps you could trade cover design for promotional writing. Use the barter system whenever possible. I love the barter system.
  • Put the word out to friends and family, and friends of friends and family. Somebody knows someone with artistic talent and good design sense.
  • Set a budget and put a listing on one of the many freelance design sites. Even there, talented newcomers are looking for a way to build their portfolio.

In all cases, bear in mind, you are the project manager of your cover. Make sure you’re happy with the final product and, most importantly, that it is relevant and appropriate to the story.

A picture is worth a thousand words — a well-designed book cover can be worth a thousand sales.

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