Never Judge A Book By Its Cover – But You Always Do!

In May and June this year, I had the very interesting experience of getting a book cover designed.

Why did I decide to do this? Well, at the time I had almost completely made up my mind to go down the self-publishing route and I knew that, if I was going to put any money into that venture, it had to go on the book cover. The cover is the first thing a reader sees and, regardless of the old adage, it matters a whole lot:

1) If a book’s cover looks cheap or poorly produced, that will turn the reader off from the outset, leading them to think that perhaps the quality of the cover reflects the quality of the content inside.

2) Unless the book is packaged in the right cover for its genre, the reader won’t be able to tell that it’s something they want to read. After all, you wouldn’t put chocolate cake on a dessert menu and couple it with a picture of a cheese board, would you?

So I set about getting a cover designed for my first novel, A Class Apart, with the aim of acquiring a high-quality book cover that conveyed the genre as historical romance.

Before I go any further, however, I’d better tell you that I’m not going to disclose the finished product just yet! After I had arranged to get a cover made with a particular design company, I actually received some very positive feedback from a professional editor on the manuscript for A Class Apart and for my series as  a whole. This piece of encouragement means that I am going to hold out a little longer in the hope of making success in the traditional publishing world before committing to self-publishing once and for all. Hence, I won’t show the cover at this point in time because, if I do eventually self-publish, one of my marketing strategies will be making a big deal about revealing the book’s cover ahead of its release date. It would kind of deflate the impact if I’ve already allowed it to be seen prior to that…

I can still tell you how I went about it though. First of all, there are some free cover design websites out there. Canva was one that I tried, except I soon realised that it would not suit my needs. Its stock images would be good for a book with a more contemporary subject but historical romance is quite specific and I could not find anything on Canva which I felt would be a good fit.

So I decided I would approach a cover designer instead. The first and only designer I talked to was Andrew Brown from Design for Writers – I had heard his name mentioned at a Self-Publishing Day at the Irish Writers’ Centre in January and I had also seen an ad for Design for Writers at the back of Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard.

Andrew’s initial email responses to my query were so pleasant and accommodating that I didn’t even consider anyone else after that. I could tell that my book was going to be in very capable hands.

It was a fascinating process. A project was set up online where I answered a list of focused questions relating to the book: its themes, setting, target market, physical traits of the main characters, etc. After I had addressed all these points, Andrew was able to use the material to come up with an appropriate design.

We explored two different versions, the second of which I LOVED at first sight. It clearly expressed historical romance and I thought it would fit in really well on a bookshelf (virtual or otherwise!) with other similar titles. Once the cover image and title/author’s name were in place, it was necessary to come up with a tagline. I needed a very short sentence which could sum up the idea of the book and hook the reader in so they would want to read it. I settled upon this:

Society said they shouldn’t fall in love…

Andrew inserted the tagline into the cover and then the design was complete. I was thrilled with it! There was something very special about seeing my name on the front of a novel, even if it hasn’t been published yet. I decided to just order the ebook cover for now, but there is always the option of going for print (to include a spine and back cover) in the future.

I have to say that I cannot recommend Design for Writers highly enough. From the start to the end of the process, Andrew and his wife, Rebecca, were extremely friendly and professional and they delivered excellent results. If I find myself in need of covers for the other books in my series, I know I will not hesitate to avail of Design for Writers’ services again.

So, after all that, I am going to tuck the cover away for a little while until I see what happens in my progress towards traditional publishing. I shall keep you posted!

To all you writers out there, have you gone through this experience yourselves? How easy or hard was it for you to settle on a cover for your book? Do you find that the cover design has an impact on sales?

To all you readers, how important is the book cover in terms of your reading choice? Have you ever read a book where the cover did not suit the content at all? What strikes you as a good cover?

I look forward to hearing from you!

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