The original post was published a couple of months ago but I decided to update it.
Well, for Book 1 of my upcoming trilogy, "Jack," I decided to go with a professional illustrator from Georgia (not the state but the country near Russia and Ukraine). She's currently illustrating the cover and then needs to illustrate at least ten other pages for Book 1 so I won't reveal her name just yet. She has enough work to do at the moment. When the cover is complete - any day now I suspect - I'll post it on my Wordpress site or this one or both. I'm curious to see how people will respond to her work.
Although I had a wonderful children's illustrator - Jennifer Taylor of Victoria, B.C. - for my book, The Lucky Lobsters, (second ed. published last month) and would encourage anyone looking for a children's illustrator to contact her, I thought I needed someone with experience illustrating adult fiction. Like me Jennifer is a diver and so has this great sense of the underwater world. That was a big factor in hiring her. Just thinking about diving and I cannot wait to return to Jamaica, St. Thomas or Costa Rica - even Thailand although I dove in the wrong places there. Don't dive around Coral Island because - although the name sounds great - there's not much coral left. Phi Phi Island (not too far from Phuket- is much better. Anyway, I'm excited at the prospect of helping to bring back the great illustrated novel mode of the past and my Georgian illustrator is excited about the work. A good and possibly great illustrator who is excited about the content - must be a winning combination. However, some if not many of the world's great novelists didn't sell many books until after they died - what a drag! Anyway, below is the original post. One of the reasons I'm reposting this old post is that I read one of the more expert bloggers recently who blogs about blogging and he said don't let your old posts - which may be jewels - wallow in the past. Repost. Good advice I thought.
That's me in Thailand. You can see my wife -- well just part of her cheek (I had to cut her out of the photo because the content (I forget what it was) required just me).
Okay, here she is (she's cuter than I am, I know).
That's Uraiwan when we were exploring some 2nd Century Hindu caves in India a few years ago.
You want your book to sell in big quantities, right? In my last post I discussed the importance of perfecting (as much as is practical) your novel or soon-to-be-published book on your hard drive before uploading to Create Space. This post is about cover design-in particular, whether or not you should fork over hundreds of dollars for a professional illustrator to design your cover or if you should undertake that project yourself. A good cover can help sell your book as it is the first thing that a reader will see. First impressions can be a door opener or a door slammed in your face.
You can certainly design your own cover if you have artistic talent or use a photo, drawing or other artwork that you can upload to Create Space (an Amazon company) using the company’s on-line cover design creator. This is actually a pretty good application although it works far better, in my opinion, if you are providing the artwork and incorporating it into that program rather than using the company’s free stock cover designs with photos, etc. which I do not recommend unless you just want the book for a few friends and are not really interested in selling it. The company also offers competitively-priced illustration services.
What do you want your cover to convey to readers is the essential question and what image-photo, drawing or other artwork-will accomplish this task? Is your choice a sound marketable one or is it more of a sentimental attachment? Maybe you are attached to a 1940’s photo of your favorite aunt and feel you just have to use it and that others will have the same feeling about her that you do when, in actuality, your potential audience could care less about your aunt or the picture. A good cover artist should be able to assist you in designing a cover that will produce sales-otherwise what is the point? Writing is about communication and so, if you write something that nobody will read, then the whole purpose is shot. If you have friends or relatives who are avid readers, they may be able to steer you away from a costly mistake in cover design so do run your ideas by them.
It took me a long time to decide on a cover. I had some funds budgeted for it but really didn’t want to spend the money. I wanted my daughter-who has lots of artistic talent but little or no time-to illustrate the cover. Finally, as the book was nearing completion and after being unsuccessful for two years trying to get her to illustrate it, I looked through her drawings of various women she had already done and one of them-the one I used for the cover-was perfect. Thank you, Mikaila. Of course she was thrilled that I wanted to use it. While the drawing was hers, I added the reddish color to the image using the free downloadable Picasa program. I wanted to convey a feeling of strength but also vulnerability and even desperation in this woman. Along with the title selection-Comrade Anna-the image fit perfectly into what I was trying to convey. The reader hopefully would get the message that this was a young woman-a Communist or Socialist-who, in the pages of the novel, was going to encounter something nightmarish, that she had strong determination, a resister or rebel even, and that she was a survivor. I wanted the image and title to convey to readers that they would experience something deep and powerful by reading the book. I chose the cover colors of red and black to suggest those of Nazis Germany.
If you do not know what you want in a cover design, a good thing to do, perhaps, is write a few paragraphs about what you want your cover to suggest to the reader and what images might do this. You may also want to draw the cover free hand and make notations or draw what is called a mind map using one larger circle in the middle with spokes leading to other smaller circles and filling in the circles with ideas. Next I suggest checking out a few dozen bestselling books in your genre and see what it is about the covers or jackets-both front and back-that seem interesting and, more importantly, that convey something vital to the reader. Once again, however, what appeals to you may not be what appeals to your audience so it is best to test your cover idea with people who read a lot or read books about the genre you have chosen for your book.
A non-fiction cover is probably easier to design than a fiction cover but, still, it is advisable to get advice from other readers. One of them may even give you a great idea for a cover, making you wish that you had thought of it first.
The rear cover is almost as important as the front cover so do not underestimate this very important location to promote your book. In that space, you get to give the reader a snapshot of what the book is about. But if it’s a novel, be sure to not give away too much of the story line. The idea here is to give readers enough to tweak their interest but not so much that they have lost their sense of curiosity or wonder that you have built up on the covers.
According to the AuthorHouse website-one of the many self-publishing companies on the web-there are more than 200,000 new titles published each year. “Bookstores have books featured everywhere-stacked on the floor, standing on end caps and sitting on tables, not to mention the rows of shelves,” the AuthorHouse site states. “This mass of inventory provides a wonderful selection if you’re a book buyer but, if you’re an author, this book-laden landscape proves to be highly competitive as each product vies for the browser’s attention and investment. In the few seconds they have to catch the eye of a potential reader, authors are leveraging the power of an engaging cover design to help the book stand out and rise above the competition … Even if you can spin a story as suspenseful as the best of the literary greats, your book must have an attractive exterior. If not, readers are likely to pass it by without giving a second glance. Great covers are strategically designed to catch the eye of a book buyer.”
The writer of that blurb nicely captures the importance of having a book cover that can pull the reader into the book. If it doesn’t do this, then your book may not be competitive because it will not hit its potential readership. Marketing starts with your book cover. It seems that readers these days will judge a book by its cover, especially on line when it is so easy to just click away to another book or subject.
Even if you spend $800 to hire a professional book cover designer, there are no guarantees because how your book is marketed is at least as important as all other considerations even if the content is great. While promoting your book and marketing it to your target audience is the subject of later posts in this series, you must take your audience into account when designing the cover and what it is you want to suggest to that audience. The marketing does not begin after you write the book but must be prevalent all throughout the writing. A good book designer will be able to help you to convey something vital about what is inside the book-provided he or she reads it-and why a reader should buy it. But you, the writer, should be able to communicate the essentials to the designer.
Here are some of my favorite sites on self-publishing that you can check out for more valuable information about cover design and generally how to publish your book.
First of all, let me say that I definitely recommend Create Space as an efficient and cost-effective way to construct a book, especially if you have a meager budget. In fact, I expect to use Create Space again for my next book-Jack-which is nearing completion at least in the writing phase. Like most things undertaken for the first time, there is a fairly substantial time commitment in putting together your first book from cover to cover on Create Space but it actually can be fun. The more time you put into it, the greater the investment you have and the more interesting the project becomes so it makes sense to exercise care.
That brings me to the one of the most important things that I learned about the evolution of a novel and that is to have patience and not rush it to completion especially after you have put perhaps more than a thousand hours into it. There comes a time when you know it’s ready to put before the public. If you do not have that sense of readiness, that definite intuition, then I suggest holding onto it longer. It is very tempting to want to see it in book form before it is actually ready and this must be resisted.
Of course it is advisable to get several soft cover proofs at different times because you will definitely see mistakes, omissions and places where you need additions that were not obvious on the computer screen. But obtaining a soft cover proof is not the same as publication. I was actually impressed with my own ability to not be hurried by the prospect of holiday sales, etc. or be pressured by other artificial deadlines. Ten years earlier I probably would have rushed it to publication and would have been sorry for it later. I had actually believed I was very close last summer to the actual publishing. I had begun the book in 2000. Well, in September, I decided to rewrite the beginning, add several new characters and construct new scenes-that in addition to a hundred hours or so of redesigning pages and adding more photos which inevitably, for me at least, caused other unwanted changes downstream in the book. I was several hundred hours away from finishing and hadn’t realized it back in August, 2012. The book turned out to be much better as a result of the waiting and the changes. Another big bonus is that I now have a fairly good working knowledge of the Create Space program and am confident that the next go at it will take less than half of the time that I actually spent designing and formatting Comrade Anna, my historical fiction novel about the Warsaw Ghetto published on December 19, 2012. There are so many little things that you learn in the process. For instance, it took me many uploads of my revised files onto the Create Space platform before I realized that uploading a PDF instead of a Word Document was going to save me a lot of time. The Word document always seemed to be changed when uploaded. Annoying things would occur such as a chapter starting in the middle of the page prior to the page that it was supposed to start on, or pictures would magically change position and would be too close to the gutter or on the wrong pages.
That all changed when I realized that I should revise my novel files in a Word file on my hard drive, then convert the file to an Adobe PDF and then upload the PDF to Create Space. I literally had uploaded my book about 50 times before I was finally satisfied with the results but, for the first 25 times or so, the uploads were via word documents and each of them was costly in terms of time. I finally realized that I needed to do all of the work practically in Word and PDF files and only when it was almost perfect did I need to upload to Create Space. I learned that I had to be revising and editing much more on my hard drive and converting Word files to PDF files and that this was so much more efficient. It should have been obvious in the beginning that that was the best way to proceed but it wasn’t to me. There also is the temptation to want to see your work in three-dimensional digital book form that Create Space affords but, the fact is, it is much more efficient to do 99% of the work between Word Documents and PDF files and forget about uploading to Create Space until almost all of the errors, omissions and additions have been attended to.
With Create Space, you cannot revise and edit on line so it doesn’t make much sense to upload your files unless you know (by reading your PDF files in particular) that the book is pretty much done. If you uploaded to Create Space and invested 20 minutes to a half hour in the process each time and, for instance, then found out that an apostrophe was going the wrong way and you just had to change that, then you must start the process over again. It’s so much easier to catch that mistake in the PDF or maybe even in the word document and change it in those files before it ever gets uploaded to Create Space.
Be sure to read my next post on the Create Space process. Happy writing.