Recently I was contacted by an author who had just won several awards for a book he had self-published. Ed Morler, a psychologist, is the author of a number of award-winning books, a real contribution to his field.
The author was getting ready to issue a revised third edition of one of these books—Finally Growing Up—but he was unsatisfied with the original cover. Since he had also decided to change the title of the book to more accurately reflect the direction of the new edition, he contacted me about re-designing the cover from scratch.
Although the author had contracted with a local artist to produce the original edition, the cover showed many of the flaws common in self-published books. I’ve written often about these cover design mistakes and how to avoid them, and this cover gives a good way to look at a number of problems all at once.
Here’s the original cover:
(By the way, the artist who produced this book may be just fine at all kinds of graphic design. Books are something of a specialty, although to the unaided eye they look dead simple.)
Here’s what I saw:
- Amateur typography
- Questionable use of stock photography
- Lack of relevance to the target reader
- Almost zero impact on a casual browser
- Confusion of elements on the cover
The luckiest thing that happened when I began the re-design was that the author decided to change the title. This was a huge benefit, since the old title contained almost no useful information and did not seem very relevant to the potential audience of this book, a serious work of psychology.
The new title was much better at communicating the offer of the book. After spending some time looking through the book and thinking about the new title, Leading an Empowered Life, it seemed to me that the most powerful word in the new title was “empowerment.” I wanted to show the transformative power of the ideas in the book, and somehow imply the changes a person could experience by adapting them.
I wanted a clean and refined look for the book, which would also now have the imprimatur of three separate book awards on the back cover.
Using images from iStockphoto.com, I created a series of designs that attempted to express what the book offered, while also drawing the viewer in visually.
Here are the initial designs I came up with for the new edition:
As usual, during the design process there was a lot of going back and forth and trying different things. Eventually we narrowed the choices down and started to concentrate on what looked to me like the strongest cover of the four. The most powerful images are usually of the human face, and the direct eye contact of one of these images was striking. Eventually, all the elements fell into place. Here’s the final version as it went to press:
What’s interesting to me is that the “before” and “after” versions of this book cover contain exactly the same elements: Title, subtitle, author name, blurb, photograph of a man.
Yet what a difference.
Investing in your book by getting a professional cover design is one of the best things you can do for your long-term success. This is especially true now that so many hundreds of new self-published books are coming out every day.
It’s even harder to make your book stand out. You’ll want to have an outstanding book, the best you can produce, of course, to start with. You’ll make sure your book is properly edited.
The next thing, and maybe the most important in terms of marketing and sales, is to get a cover that will help sell the book.
You know, it doesn’t cost any more to print your book with a great looking cover than it does to print an ordinary one. The design cost of your book cover is a one-time expense that can potentially be repaid quite quickly with increased sales.
Add to this the increased confidence you gain as you market and promote your book, and the advantages of a cover re-design can be quite real and very effective in helping you get your message out to the greatest number of people.
More on Book Covers
Book Cover Design, Fiction and Nonfiction: What’s the Offer?
15 e-Book Covers: Success and Failure in the Kindle Store
Top 8 Cover Design Tips for Self-Publishers
Complete list of all Cover Design Articles
Ed Morler’s Sanai Publishing Website
Photo by iStockphoto