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Why Great Book Covers Are So Important

Everyone knows the cliche, “Don’t judge a book by the cover.” Guess what? People judge your book by the cover. If you want people to take a chance on an author they haven’t heard of, you need to have a great cover. Author Susan Rodgers shares her experience with having her book covers designed, and why it is such an important part of your self-publishing and book marketing journey.

You have to admit – some of the best little bubbles of excitement in the self-publishing world come from the anticipation of new cover designs. Wondering what your book baby’s new cover will look like is comparable to that magical moment at the theater when you’re waiting for a thrilling new film to light up the screen. It’s a blank canvas just waiting to be filled with glorious color and creative composition. Right?

I’m blessed. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for Alanna Munro, the Vancouver based cover designer of my contemporary romance Drifters series. I found her through my son. Alanna was a fourth year student of design at Emily Carr University of Art & Design, so I knew she understood design, and I hoped her services would be affordable. Hiring her was one of the best decisions I made in my self-publishing journey. My covers are constantly praised, they win awards and, more importantly, they sell books.

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Great Covers Sell Books

One of the best gifts you can give yourself as you enter the world of self-publishing is the time to find a cover designer who understands design, who allows you the freedom to weigh in on the images and their composition, and who ‘gets’ your story and what message you need to impart to potential readers.

Also important is for you to step back when necessary. If your designer has training and ability, he or she can be trusted to understand elements of design that, let’s face it, are not your training. Negative space had to be explained to me when I started out on my first book, A Song For Josh.  Fonts had to be understood; color and consistency within my series were aspects of design with which I trusted Alanna.  She’s not always right the first time – in book one the model’s sweater was red, and her eyes needed to be the distinctive eyes of my character, Jessie’s, which are a pale ice blue. In short, she listened to what didn’t work and happily complied to make the image be what it needed to be. She is a dream. In return I try, with each new cover, not to give her grief. I know what I want in general terms, but she’s the trained designer who realizes my basic vision in stunning covers that help sell my series.

Get a Real Designer To Do Your Covers

I pay for my covers. I believe Alanna is reasonably priced, and as a writer I am happy to pay for the services of a creative professional whose work is valuable to me.  You can scrimp and save or design a cover yourself, but you need to ask a fundamental question. Do I understand design?  Chances are you might on some level, but hiring a professional who has studied design will hopefully guarantee you better covers composed of elements such as fonts and graphics that are pleasing and that tell your story in a way that will hook new readers.

Great covers are not a luxury. They’re a necessity.

I found it interesting that this book won the RONE Award, because A Song For Josh doesn’t feature your typical six-pack male model on the cover. Early on I did ask Alanna how she feels about featuring ‘Josh’ on one of the covers, and her reply was to let the readers sort Josh out for themselves. In the end I agreed, partly because her covers are gorgeous works of art in themselves despite the lack of hunky men, and partly because I like the idea of readers creating their own Josh based on the information I’ve given them.

Book Cover Advice

My advice to you is not to compromise on your covers. What’s the point of having a great story to tell if your covers are convoluted or badly composed or, well, just not working for you? Think of your covers as an extension of all that hard work you’ve put into writing your book. Think of them as art in and of themselves. Stand out from the crowd. Dare to be different, and to walk your own path. You just might find that your books are more discoverable because of it.

Happy writing and happy designing!

Susan Rodgers’ journey into writing started with a regular gig on the crew of ‘Emily of New Moon,’ the television series. Susan then journeyed into writing novels, and was thrilled and inspired by her selection as a Finalist in the 2011 Atlantic Writing Awards for her as yet unpublished first novel, A Certain Kind of Freedom. The Drifters books were next – eight so far, and four new releases will be out this spring.


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