Continuing my posts from last week (part one and part two), today I’m looking at Steve Laube’s Defense of Traditional Publishing Part Four: Design. While cover design is a crucial element of the overall design process, it is not the only one. Decisions must also be made on the weight of the paper (did you know it comes in a wide variety of thicknesses?), the size of the pages, the font, the author photo, the color of the cover (for hardcovers), and whether or not to use deckled edges (click for picture and definition). All of these points add up to the entire design package and one reason having a team of experts one your side, especially experts who will be footing the bill, is a very good thing.
Especially since I’ve taken to browsing the Kindle store online, I have seen a lot of really beautiful covers. I’ve seen even more hideously ugly ones. Realy, really ugly ones where I’m left hoping and praying the author didn’t pay anyone to create that for them. While you may not always like the cover the design team of a traditional publisher creates for you, that doesn’t mean it will be an ineffective attractor. Despite the adage “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” we often do just that. Working in a bookstore I found beautiful covers often correlated to how invested a publisher is in the book’s success. I also learned I was more likely to enjoy reading a book the publishers were standing behind. Not always, of course, but it was true more often than not.
Like with editing, proponents of self-publishing can argue, “Well, I can hire a designer myself.” This is true. But did you know that when publishers hire freelance designers they usually pay between $3,000-5,000? Do you have that much to invest? No? Neither do I. Are there amazing designers out there who will work a lot cheaper? Yes. But Steve warns you can’t let your personal preferences get in the way.
Those who want to forego the traditional publishing route need to remember one thing, don’t let your own personal taste be the final vote. What you think is gorgeous may make another person heave. (A simple walk down the mall observing fashion choices is a case in point.) This is not the place to bargain hunt or be shallow with a comment like “I just don’t like the color pink.”
The packaging (which if you’re publishing in ebook only is just the cover) can create just as much buzz as the content. Good content without a stunning cover won’t give your book it’s best shot. The reverse is obviously true as well and will probably make readers feel as though they’ve been tricked. But that’s where editing should have come into play.
Because I found this fascinating, I’m re-posting the video Steve used to illustrate his point. This time-lapsed look at the making of a cover gives you incredible insight into the kind of time and energy gets invested in good covers.