Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Business of Writing: That Thing by which Everyone Judges Your Book #MFRWOrg #ASMSG

The injunction, "Don't judge a book by its cover" was coined by an indie author who slapped together his own cover designs. image 4513435
Silhouette at a Temple (c)2008 by Somyot Sutprattanatawin.

I'm just kidding, of course; the phrase has been around for decades—and the sad truth is that EVERYBODY judges your book by its cover. A great cover pulls in readers; a poor one can drive them away. Please trust me on this point. I've had professionally designed covers that have existed at both ends of the pull-push-reader spectrum.

What makes for a great cover design? That varies by genre, but the most common factors are:

  • Contrast. There is high contrast in the color scheme between the graphic images and text elements (author's name, book's title, etc.).
  • Legibility of the thumbnail. What? The thumbnail? Absolutely, because in forums such as Goodreads, your book's cover will live or die by its thumbnail. To test this point, create a copy of your cover file and import it into, say, Microsoft Picture Manager. Then use the "Resize" option under the Edit menu to reduce it to around 80x120 pixels. If you can still read the title, that's great! And if your name is still legible, that's pure gravy.
  • Unique manipulation of the stock model(s). This is a big point anymore, because there are ever so many books on the market, and vanishingly few models and poses available at the stock-photo sites. Find a cover designer who will go above-and-beyond to make sure that your cover doesn't look like your competitors'. Most of my covers—viewable here—have been designed by Natasha Brown of Fostering Success.

By the way, what does a "temple silhouette" picture have to do with book covers? Nothing, except that it was a cost-free, royalty-free stock photo offered recently by, one of the major stock-photo sites. Other stock-photo sites include:

Caution: In searching for the perfect image for your book's cover, make sure the photo does not come with an "editorial" license; that type of license is only good for non-commercial use, such as on blog pages. My book layout designer at Lucky Bat Books shared a horror story with me: one of her other clients had fallen afoul of the editorial licensing issue for a book cover and was obligated to pay a $1500.00 invoice.

Most of the aforementioned stock-photo sites have a checkbox so that you can exclude editorial-only licensed images from your search results. The license type you do want is "royalty free" (which, BTW, does not mean cost free; it just means that you pay a one-time fee to use and adapt the image however you wish).

The print book's "wrap" cover:

If your publication plan (more thoughts about that next week) includes releasing a print edition, then the wraparound ("wrap") cover is yet another decision with which you will be faced. Natasha and most other book cover designers offer this service as an add-on to commissioning an e-book cover from them, and this is the route I use most often.

Createspace does offer a DIY cover-creation option with several components and choices. Since I needed to create several interim ARCs in the process of evaluating the art placement for my fully illustrated Twain sequel, King Arthur's Sister in Washington's Court, and its spine thickness changed as more art was inserted, I used Createspace's cover creator to take the e-book image and marry it with a coordinating solid color to form the spine and back cover. This option also permits insertion of an author photo on the back—into which spot I placed a different illustration from the book so that I could keep track of which ARC was which during the development process.

I have issues with Createspace's print quality, especially with regard to their cover-printing process and the fact that although they permit uploading art created in the RGB (red-green-blue) color space in addition to CMYK (cyan-magenta-yellow-black) color space files, red-dominant RGB covers look like mud most of the time. However, the fact that I can upload all the interiors and cover changes I wish at no additional charge is a fantastic deal not yet matched on a consistent basis by IngramSpark, my POD company of choice.

IngramSpark limits cover art files to the CMYK color space, thereby sidestepping the RGB issue altogether.

It so happens that IngramSpark is running a coupon special for free title revisions now through November 1st. For more details, please see their website. If the CreateSpace Kool-Aid is starting to gag you too, do give IngramSpark a look. I promise you won't regret it. :)

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