Self-Publishing and Book Cover Design

Books covers are a tricky issue when you are self-publishing.

They are also a personal gripe of mine! There are some absolutely amazing book covers out there, but just as many (if not more!) utterly terrible ones. Overcoming this hurdle as a self-publisher is quite a difficult and very technical task. Like it or not, most folk do judge a book by its cover, so this is one of the first things you really need to get right (as well as writing an absolutely amazing book, no pressure!).

There are a lot of companies and artists now springing up on the internet who specialise in the design of book covers for self-published writers. This is a great idea in my opinion. It helps artists get their work out there also, and as long as you are both thinking along the same lines there is a lot of potential. Having said that, some of the offerings I have seen out there probably would not grip me and convince me that I have to read this book immediately. It’s very tricky.

My advice

So…my first piece of advice is to be really careful when approaching the issue of your book cover. As we have established, it’s a massively important task. You want to ensure you have something professional that really captures the spirit of your book, reflects yourself as a writer and stands out to prospective readers.

Book cover design

I’ll be honest – I’m still not entirely happy with my own book cover. It’s sort of an ongoing project – I’ll fiddle with a few ideas every so often, send various designs to people and ask their opinions, before going back to what it was originally, with a few minor tweaks. I have images in my head of what I would love it to look like, the absolute dream book cover, but as I am not willing to spend tons on a professional designer and don’t have the full creative know how or computer programmes to create it myself, I have to keep it simple for now.

I spent some time recently looking for a ‘pre-made’ cover. There are some pretty good ones out there, but none of them quite ‘fit’ with the book and ultimately I came up empty. It is still a possibility for me though, when I find the time to really hunt for my perfect book cover, so if you find yourself lacking in creative book design skills and have a little money to spend on this, please do consider the artists out there who would love to do the work for you!

If however you are like me and really want to do it yourself, you need to get a little bit technical. I have spent days agonising over pixels and image size. It has to be right, or you will be assigned a little exclamation mark until the quality is good enough! There is tons of information out there to help you through, so be sure to read up on this in advance.

Though the cover process for eBook sites is generally pretty simple (in theory), it may take you more than a few attempts to get your image at the correct alignment/image quality/size, etc. (it goes on!). However, once this bit is done and you are happy with the way it looks, the image will look the same to other people as it does to you on your screen.

Real life prints are a different story however!

If you are publishing through a site like Createspace for example, the cover stage can be really complicated if you are uploading your own image. This is why it is so important to order a proof of what the book will look like in print, as many times as it takes to get it right. This way you can make sure you are happy with the colours, image dimensions/layout and quality of printing. I had a bad proof in which part of the front cover had printed onto the spine, which was definitely not the look I was going for!

Other things that might happen include the colours being printed darker than expected, image/text being pixelated or stretched, and the general quality of the pages not being good enough (for example, my glossy finish cover curled badly at the edges immediately, so I instead went for a matte finish – problem solved!).

I won’t lie, it can be a really time consuming process if you don’t get it right first time. The money adds up when ordering your proof copies, but it is definitely worth your patience and pennies to ensure the best outcome. Iron out the niggles in the proof stage before you put it on general sale to the public. You’ve worked this hard to write a book in the first place, so you want to finish it off perfectly, don’t you?

Christina Crook