Tim Lewis: I’ve left recording this episode rather late. It’s currently Tuesday morning and as you may know the show goes out on Wednesday morning. I was planning to accelerate this guide by doing a few chapters at a time, but today you’re only going to get one about covers. I’ve actually just ordered a predesigned cover and got it turned around in about a week, so that I could put my new social media book, Social Media Networking, on pre-order on Amazon. I have got some very fresh experience with cover design and working with cover designers, so this is very much in my mind at the moment. Anyway, over to the next chapter of the audiobook.
Tim Lewis: It’s often said to not judge a book by its cover, but the thing is that for a lot of people that is the first impression they have with the book. If you’ve got a poorly designed, or strange, or inappropriate looking cover then that can really affect book sales. So, my first piece of advice is, unless you’re a professional book cover designer I wouldn’t try and design the book cover yourself.
Tim Lewis: I mean, if you’ve got absolutely no money and you’re not bothered about the fact that your book will look shoddy and amateur, then maybe it’s worth considering trying to create a book cover yourself. But for most people unless you’ve got quite a considerable amount of design experience you’re better off to purchase an eBook cover from a professional book designer.
Types and costs of covers
Tim Lewis: Now, there’s a whole range of prices and options available, but I’d expect a book design to take at least a week, probably more than a week to turn around, even if you’re buying a predesigned cover. The most important thing, obviously, before you get a cover design is what you want to call your book and what you want to appear on the cover. Now, this is going to be easier for a eBook cover than with a paperback cover, which is why I usually recommend people starting with the eBook version, because you can take an eBook cover, which is basically just the front of what a paperback would be, and then use that to create a paperback design with the back cover.
Tim Lewis: Now, I’ve usually actually gone ahead and got the designers to create the spine and the back as well, but the creation of a actual paperback or hardback cover is more complicated, and can’t be done quite as far in advance as an eBook cover. Now, the reason why covers of paperbacks and hardbacks are going to be more complicated is because you need to do the front, the spine, which is the side of the book, and the back of the book.
Tim Lewis: You won’t necessarily know the spine width, how wide that side of the book is until you know how long your book is. And, you won’t know how long your book is until you’ve had it formatted into the size of the book that you’re going to be creating, for your spine width would be different if you had a large book as opposed to a small book. So, that’s why it’s often easier to start with the eBook cover if you’re going to be doing pre-orders, and then get the actual final cover created as a paperback version when you’ve actually got that available, and you know how long the book is and how long roughly it’s formatted size wise for.
Look out for unlicensed stock photos
Tim Lewis: Another thing to be aware of with covers and dealing with designers is that if you go for very cheap designers, or maybe untried, or let’s say they’re people who are not familiar with doing book cover design, you may have issues with stock photography rights. Now, the whole area of photo rights is quite a large one, but generally speaking, just because you can find a picture on Google doesn’t mean that you’ve got rights to use it on anything. In fact, there are some companies that place images in the Google Image search just so that they can sue people for using them. This is a little bit unscrupulous but this sort of thing does happen.
Tim Lewis: When you’re working with a designer and they come back with a wonderful design, especially if they’re on the cheaper side, do ask them about the images, and what rights, and whether you need to buy image rights to be able to use that book. Most decent designers will tell you about where they purchased the rights and how many copies sold they would have before you would have to be buying extra rights and things like that.
Tim Lewis: It’s just something to be aware of with cover design, that you need to be careful about where your designer is using the images on the book from, because a lot of images will be available for personal or non-commercial use, but if you’re using it on a book cover and you’re selling that book cover then that’s a commercial use of an image, so that’s something to be aware of.
Testing book cover ideas – potential social pitfall
Tim Lewis: Another thing to be aware of, and I see people doing it, and I don’t necessarily disagree with this as an idea, is where people put a post up onto Facebook or social media saying, “Let me pick out my cover design for my book,” and they put four different variants of that they’ve been given. Now, I think this is quite a good thing, in as terms as much as, getting attention for your book, but unless your Facebook or Twitter followers are exactly your target audience of people who will be buying your book. You post it in a Facebook group about deep sea fishing, and your book is about deep sea fishing, then that’s going to be more appropriate than just sending it to your friends and family on Facebook, because they may like one cover, but that may not be the same cover that your target audience would like.
Tim Lewis: The other thing is that people tend to different consciously to the buying they make unconsciously. If you are going to try and sample various cover designs I would suggest actually running basically Facebook Ads or Google Ads for multiple choices. As if people were going to buy it, and then maybe say, “We’ll get back to you and give you a free copy. Here’s an email sign-up,” for people who click through, just to see how many people would actually click through and buy it for each cover design. That’s the only guaranteed way, I could say, of using this kind of AB testing to check covers. I’d be very careful about just saying, “Which cover’s the best one?” to your friends, because your friends may not be your target audience for your book. That’s just something to be aware of.
Tim Lewis: Something I mentioned before, and I’ve made use of a couple of times now, to get what I would call higher quality covers than I would normally be able to afford, is to use predesigned covers. Now, a lot of the more expensive designers, and also some of the mid-range ones, create what I call predesigned covers. These are covers that they’ve created on their own back, which are basically nameless cover designs. They’ve got your title here.
Tim Lewis: Now, if your book is very generic or very specific to a common genre, so things like thrillers, fantasy, more abstract concepts work very well for predesigned covers. Because, if you go to somewhere like Damonza.com, they’re quite expensive for their actual brand new cover design. It’s typically two thirds, half the price to actually buy just one of their predesigned covers.
Tim Lewis: You can get them to change the name to your book, and you can change minor details on their predesigned cover, but somewhere like that is a good way to get a cheaper book cover than you would be able to otherwise, and to a higher quality. Now, Damonza is quite an expensive book designer, and the cheaper book designers will be able to do cheaper predesigned book covers. It’s a case of, if you can find a predesigned cover that fits what your book is going to be about then that’s a very good option to save money on book design.
Finding book designers
Tim Lewis: In terms of finding book cover designers, you can either go by word of mouth, as in asking people in your author genre which cover designer they used. Most authors will be more than happy to tell you where their cover design has come from. Some people even credit them in the book themselves. The other option is to go to a service like Reedsy.com, where they’ve got book designers available. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend something like Fiverr.com, though I’m sure there are great book cover designers in there, but it’s a bit more of a Wild West, somewhere that’s that cheap.
Tim Lewis: There are services like 99 Designs, and there’s a few other services like that where they get designers competing for book covers. You have to be very especially aware of stock photo rights on sites like that because you do get a lot of speculative designers who are not necessarily as professional with their stock photo rights as some of the other ones. Because, it will be you that gets sued if you use a book cover that’s got inappropriate images in it, not the designer that you found on Fiverr.
Tim Lewis: Generally, my best advice with cover designers or other professionals is to be reasonable but to be clear about what you want. So, give it some thought, as to what you’re looking for before you approach a designer. Rather than them being given no design guidance at all, creating something that you say you don’t like, and they have to work out what you actually want. So, give it some thought, as to what you’re looking for. If they do say that, “I think this sort of cover would be better for your book,” then do consider it.
Tim Lewis: Book designers in general, the better ones, do have a very good knowledge about what kind of book designs work on books. Book designers have as much interest in the book being successful as you do. The last thing I’d say about book covers is that you can obviously change a book cover later if it doesn’t work. Some indie authors just change their covers every few years to give it a bit of life anyway, so it’s not a irredeemable decision if you create one cover for your book, you don’t have to be forced to stay with that cover forever. Those are my thoughts about book cover design.
If you liked this show then you probably will like Book Descriptions that Pop with Laura Petersen, Choosing the Best Categories and Keywords on Amazon and Book Publicity with Janet Murray