Guest post by Suzanne D. Williams
The first impression any potential reader receives comes from the book cover. I have been known to both buy a book for its cover and to reject it. The book cover is also often the first sign of whether the author independently publishes or not. This is in no way derogatory of indie authors. I am one myself. However, there seems to be a trend toward passing off particularly ghastly work as great, and this is sad because it lowers the standard for all of us.
I certainly understand the need to save money. This is the primary reason people do it themselves. Graphic artists can be expensive. Yet having an ability to write and an ability to create graphic designs as well is rare. Most authors cannot do both and do them well.
I say this all the time, but if you’ve never created a book cover, don’t. It will be worth your while to hire somebody to do it for you. And when you hire, look at the designer’s other book covers and listen to their lingo first. Do they know what they’re talking about? Are they familiar with common terms such as layering and opacity? How many book covers have they created? Are they involved in the book industry? And what is their usual procedure for creating a book cover? The answers to all of these questions will paint a picture of the designer as a whole and make your decision easier.
Yet the best method for deciding whether or not to go it on your own often can be made by viewing professionally made book covers. Go to Amazon or another well-known book shop and filter through the best-selling list. Do the designs the artist you are considering hold up to those standards? Are they determined to create a professional cover or are they satisfied with something halfway because they don’t know how to do anything else? (And believe me, I’ve met those designers and read comments from people who said they loved it. Yet I could tell they had little to no knowledge of their craft.)
The clichéd saying goes something like this. Close only counts in three things: horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear war. Well, there is no “close” in your final book cover design. Set your standards high and keep them there.
Becoming a designer takes years of experience. You will not pick it up overnight and do it well. Like any sport or hobby at which you wish to excel, time is the best teacher. So if you aren’t familiar with it and have no idea where to begin, you’d best hire someone who does. Nevertheless, do not limit yourself strictly to school-trained designers. I have done graphic design for more than twelve years now, and I am self-trained. Some of the best artists I know are self-trained, and in reverse, some of the lousiest took classes.
Ultimately, your choice of whether to DIY or hire someone is up to you. But I strongly suggest you give good designers a look first before you plunge in on your own because once that inaugural impression is made, you cannot go back and fix it.
Suzanne D. Williams is a native Floridian, wife, mother, photographer, and writer. She is author of both nonfiction and fiction books. She writes a monthly column for Steves-Digicams.com on the subject of digital photography, as well as devotionals and instructional articles for various blogs. She also does graphic design for self-publishing authors.
MISSING is available at Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008DFT1VS. FOUND will be out in November and Love & Redemption will be out early 2013.