Book Cover Design: DIY

Previously we discussed two possible options when it comes to book cover design for your self-published book. The first option proposed was the DIY option, where you design the cover yourself. This option is more complicated and time consuming than hiring a designer to create a book cover for you. While it certainly isn’t impossible to create a great cover yourself, it is probably best to steer clear of this option if you have never dabbled in any kind of design at all or if you’re unwilling to spend time doing research. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s dive into the DIY option. 

Step One: Brainstorm Ideas for Your Book Cover Design

The first step is brainstorming ideas for what your cover should look like. You may have a strong idea already or you may be entirely clueless. Either way, I urge you to take time and study other book cover designs of best-sellers that specifically match the genre or tone of your book. If you wrote a murder-mystery thriller, look at other books that are traditionally published within that genre.

Angel Wings Book Cover DesignPay attention to the general style of fonts used, the color palette, and the overall feel. These will vary widely between book subjects. A self-help book cover will be different from those of romance novels. Even if you do have a strong idea of what you’d like to present on the cover, take into consideration what other novels are doing. Remember, the main point of the cover is to bring in an audience that wants to read what’s inside. Your cover needs to quickly convey what kind of book it is through its visual language.

Step Two: Find a Graphics Program

The second step is finding and familiarizing yourself with a graphics program that suits your skill-level and needs. If you have access to Adobe Photoshop or InDesign, then those are the preferred industry standard for designing graphics and you should be all set. However, these can be expensive options for a single project. It is worth considering other options, since there are many programs out there that are cheaper or, better yet, completely free! 

If you have experience with design and using image editing software, try programs like Clip Studio Paint, GIMP, Procreate, or Krita. You may need to supplement these programs with things like stock photos or fonts. However, you need to keep an eye on their usage rights.  

If you’re less experienced with design, it might be preferable to choose a program that comes pre-loaded with tons of templates, fonts, and stock images that make designing a cover less of a headache. Try programs like Canva, Adobe Spark, BookBrush, or Placeit. These are only a few of the available options and a quick search will lead you down the path to finding the best fit for you.  

However, most of these programs, aside from InDesign, are not suited for typesetting. If you’re planning on working with the interior of your book yourself as well, InDesign may be worth the investment.

Step Three: Consult with Your Publishing Platform

Doug Wood Book Cover DesignOnce you’ve come up with the idea for a design that is both aesthetically appealing and tells people about your book at a glance and you have a program of choice that you plan to use to bring it to life, it is important to consult with your publishing platform. Wherever you choose to publish and sell your book from, whether it’s solely digital or from a print-on-demand publisher, these platforms usually have specifications that you will need to follow concerning image dimensions, file size and type, and color profile. Keep these in mind when creating your design. 

Best of luck on your journey designing a brilliant book cover if this seems like the right path for you! However, if all of that was entirely overwhelming and you’re considering exploring the second option of hiring a designer instead, we will be talking about that in-depth soon as well!   

Designing a Book Cover: DIY vs Hiring for Self-publishing Authors

If you’re familiar with the concept of self-publishing, you’re also probably familiar with some of its criticisms. It’s not uncommon for someone to scoff at a self-published book on sight and label it as unprofessional, or a work in progress- even if that isn’t true at all. If you’re planning to self-publish a book, those kinds of reactions might make you nervous. You most likely don’t want to invoke that kind of disdain from potential readers. So, how do you keep an audience open-minded when they can be predisposed to making assumptions about self-published books? Design a professional book cover.

Designing a Book Cover

The key is to make your self-published book look professional at first glance. The old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover” is great advice when it comes to the metaphor for how we should treat other people, but when it comes to actual books, people do judge them by their covers. That is why it’s so important to get your cover right. In a world where tens of thousands of new books are self-published annually, there’s no faster way for people to make the snap decision to swipe left or right. Your book cover’s quality needs to reflect the quality of its contents, so you can attract the audience who will enjoy all of your hard work.

When you begin thinking about your cover, there are essentially two options: you can give yourself a DIY project or you can hire a designer to make the cover for you.

You may know yourself well enough to already have an idea of which one will suit you better, but there are pros and cons to both when you’re considering your options for designing a book cover. This is just a quick and dirty guide to helping you make the initial choice.

The DIY Option

This option is more complex. You will need to find a graphics program that suits you- there are plenty out there that are low-cost or free. Some web-based services even provide premade templates to follow that can make the process simpler. Making your own cover will involve a lot more of your time. You will need to handle all of the steps from doing the initial design thumbnails to formatting the image properly for print. On top of that, these things will require research, especially if you’re a total newcomer to digital design. However, there is a positive side- the result will be a lot more cost-effective and it is completely customizable. If you have a strong vision for what you want your cover to be and are willing to do the legwork, this could be a very rewarding option.

Hiring a Designer

The initial step for this option might take a little time, but once you’ve found a designer that fits your budget and style, the rest of the work will fall on them and you can focus on other things. All you need to do is message them, discussing the project and their rates, until you find someone who meets your needs for designing a book cover. Expect to pay a minimum of $750 for an original design that doesn’t follow a template or use stock photos. Despite the downside of being more expensive, this option can save time and stress, leaving you with a more professional, eye-catching book. 

If one of these options interests, you- great! We’ll be going more in-depth into both of them in future blog posts, so keep an eye on this space! Until then, please check out our Not-so-Sexy Side of Book Publishing blog to learn about the technical parts of publishing that will help prevent you from missing out on opportunities. 

Taking Advantage of a More Equal Selling Landscape for Indie Authors

What do all independent authors and publishers want most?  (Okay, other than an Oprah recommendation or a New York Times book review.)  Book distribution to booksellers.  But what if all of a sudden there are no bookstores and all publishers, indie and traditional, are vying for the same online sales?  It’s time to step up and take advantage of a more equal selling landscape for indie authors.

The Advantage for Indies

Indies have had to come up with ingenious ways of marketing themselves online for years.  While traditional marketing departments have certainly been utilizing digital marketing tactics, indie authors have developed their skills without the benefit of a big brand behind them.   And, in most cases indies aren’t promoting dozens of books at one time.  In an age where specificity, target audiences, and niche development are key, indies have the edge.

Also, from what I’ve been reading even after things “get back to normal” there may still be distribution problems such as supply chain issues, printing delays, and paper shortages while manufacturers and distributors try to stabilize their workforce and operations.  If you haven’t considered that this could be the time to take advantage of a more equal selling landscape for indie authors, start now by optimizing all of the aspects of your publishing and marketing tactics.

Five Things for Your To-Do List

  1. Book Product Presentation:  How does your book look?  Is your jacket professionally designed?  Is your interior designed?  Do you have a standard copyright page?  Did you have your book copyedited? Proofread?  Make sure your product can stand up to a traditionally published book as far as the quality is concerned.
  2. Website/Social Platforms: If you don’t have the money or time to revamp your entire website.  Or if your site already looks fabulous the way it is, make sure you have your new book on a page with all the requisite “buy” links and a synopsis.  Also, check all of your site’s social links to make sure they are working.  So many times I’ve gone to a website and tried an Instagram link and found it broken.   Be ready for any traffic you’ve generated to have a good experience and these basic things will go along way toward making that happen.
  3. Content Marketing/Social Media:  Go back to the basics of managing your shared media by posting at least two blogs per month and sharing on social media.  Facebook/Instagram at least twice a week and Twitter at least once a day.  Engage with followers and do a Google search every day on your topic/theme to see if there are any articles, quotes, or related content you can post in real-time.  Everyone loves to have their content retweeted or commented on, so be a friendly social user and engage, engage, engage.
  4. Bloggers/Podcasts: Reviews and interviews are still happening on these venues, even during this national emergency.  However, you should check the websites to make sure they are still accepting review copies the same way.  Some places may need you to contact them first and then send an e-galley to minimize contact points.
  5. Traditional media: If you have a topic that relates to what is in the news, can support a current story, or offer something new and credible, then, by all means, ping some journalists and producers.  But if you aren’t sure you should, don’t pitch people.  Also, subscribe to HARO so you can get a list of different stories/sources the media are working on.  You can respond directly to the HARO links to present yourself and your work.

To read more about the changing face of publishing today, check out these two articles:

New York Times, March 16, 2020

Interview, Nathan Bransford and Mike Shatzkin, April 1, 2020

Good luck and stay safe!

 

Claire McKinney Launches Plum Bay Publishing, LLC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PUBLICIST AND NOW A PUBLISHER

Veteran New York Book Publicist and Entrepreneur Launches Indie Press

May 21st, New York, New York, after over twenty years working as a publicist and book marketer in New York, and as the owner of her own public relations agency, Claire McKinney enters the growing independent book publishing community with the launch of her new company Plum Bay Publishing, LLC.

“Since starting my own public relations business in 2011, I’ve been impressed by the number of great writers whose books are not being published by the bigger houses,” says McKinney. “My goal is to provide a transparent environment for authors and retailers that allows good, quality books to enter the marketplace at competitive prices and discounts.”

Plum Bay Publishing will publish traditionally and cooperatively depending on the needs of the authors and their books. Their intent is to create a model that allows for printing and warehousing books for the trade, while allowing online retailers that work directly with indie presses to order via print-on-demand. Currently, the Plum Bay list consists of six titles, two of which will be published this summer. Their goal is to publish up to 20 titles per year.

“I love this business,” McKinney says, “and I feel that I need to do my part to preserve its integrity and to bring qualified, untapped voices to readers.”

For more information, visit www.plumbaypublishing.com or call Keely Flanagan at 908-955-7580.

Book Expo 2018: What’s Trending for Independent Publishers

Javits Conference Center, where Book Expo 2018 took place!

A few weeks ago, I attended Book Expo 2018 in New York City.  It was my first visit in two years, having missed the Chicago show of 2017, and I was struck by the size and quiet on the floor.  The Expo may not have the same value as it used to for traditional, mainstream publishing. However, in the continuously emerging indie publishing industry there is a lot to see and learn.  Here are some of the things I brought back to share with the indie world—authors, publishers, and those who serve them.

1.BISC Book Expo 2018 Bar Codes:  I recently heard from some book professionals that it was imperative to have a price in the bar code on the back of a book.  I took the question to the highest authority on the subject at the BISG (Book Industry Study Group).  His answer was that the bar code is the identifier for the book, generated off of the ISBN and nothing else should be displayed in or on it. He mentioned that there is discussion in the industry about not putting prices on books at all.  What other product comes with a price engraved on itself?

2Independent Publishers Group Logo Book Expo 2018Distribution:  POD (Print-on-Demand) is used by many businesses in the indie publishing world, but this method often makes distribution to brick-and-mortar stores difficult to achieve.  I spoke with several different distributors at Book Expo 2018, including IngramSpark (a POD distributor) to find out how an indie publisher might be able to work with them.  In general, distributors are looking for publishers who release at least ten titles per year.  While there are exceptions to every rule, the increase in small publishers has encouraged companies to be more efficient and choosy about which ones they represent.  A few distributors to mention are: NBN; Consortium; Independent Publishers Group; and Baker and Taylor.

3. Fulfillment Options: Many indie publishing companies are selling books through multiple channels.  IngramSpark/POD is one channel, but you can also order copies in quantity and set them up for fulfillment by a third party.  One of these is Amazon Advantage.  The shopping cart on your site can link to your Amazon Advantage account, which allows you to have copies stored at an Amazon warehouse.  Customers will click the “buy” link on your site and Amazon will fulfill the order behind the scenes. You can still sell on Amazon through the POD channel, and also set up an Advantage account to sell direct.  Amazon Advantage also allows you to utilize many advertising opportunities that can help move copies.

Check back in the coming weeks as I go through my notes from Book Expo 2018 and bring you more insight into what’s going on in the indie publishing world!