OK, so I can’t remember the last time I posted here. I’d love to post at least once a week, but designing takes so much time that I don’t know when I’d write! And there’s running the business, kids’ schedules, you know. 😉 Anyhow, I was recently interviewed by a colleague, Michael Dowling, for his newsletter, The Write Stuff. He’s a fantastic editor, ghostwriter, and publishing professional. If you’ve ever wondered whether book design is a luxury or necessity, you’ll want to read this article. http://www.michaeljdowling.com/newsletters/2014-08-three-things-success-book.html. You may want to sign up for his newsletter, too, as it always contains great info about publishing and writing.

I’d love to know your experience with book design, good or bad! And I’ll do my best to start posting here much more often. Thanks bunches and blessings to you. 🙂


"The Mystery Shopper's Manual" before and after cover designs

What happens when you want to take your back-of-the-room-only seller to a more mainstream market? It usually needs a redesign! That’s something Cathy Stucker knew when she came to us looking for a new cover. The original had all the right elements—prominent title, readable subtitle and author name, accompanying graphic—but there was nothing unique about the cover and it lacked dynamics. It needed an upgrade to reach a more competitive market.

We gave the new cover a fresh look with retro art, typefaces, and color palette to attract female shoppers—the majority of the book’s buyers. Each element, with its relative size and placement, work together to attract and move your eye through the cover’s space and directly off the right side of the page, causing you to open it up and see what’s inside. In the words of a Barnes & Noble rep, the new cover gives the book “curb appeal.” This cover is fun, reflecting the subject matter and bringing all-important enthusiasm to its potential readers.

– Tami

"99 Days to Panama" before and after cover designs

Why will the second cover sell better than the first? I bet it caught your eye in a captivating way. The second cover tells a story and asks the reader to participate. The first is difficult to read, has a subdued color palette, and uses a photo that is less than engaging. While white space can be a uesful tool, there is way too much of it in this case.

The use of native colors in the final cover emphasizes the location of the story. Incorporating colorful, descriptive photos in scrapbook-type borders shows that this is a journal and makes this inviting. Other hints that this is a travel journal include the parchment-type paper behind the title, relaxed typeface used for the title, and the burnt-orange edge on the left. A dynamic layout that moves the viewer’s eyes around the page ensures that each element will be noticed. Which would you rather purchase?

– Tami

Which is a more salable book cover? While the first has a striking photograph, the second is the better choice. A good — or great — photo does not make a great book cover. After grabbing your attention, the rest of the cover does nothing to encourage a sale. Many have asked if the girl is dead! The title is difficult to read and has no attention-getting value. The subtitle in the pink vignette is also difficult to read, cuts the bottom of the cover in half, and leaves nothing interesting below. Speaking of that dead space, where’s the author’s name?

The second cover is well-organized and has an attractive photo that’s encouraging to readers. The title is fun and highly readable. There are “girly” aspects to the cover without it becoming too soft and frilly. It’s a great balance between business-like (for the informative aspect) and attractive to the female crowd (a majority of its potential buyers/readers).

The question of whether to do it yourself has become much debated with the popularity of desktop publishing. Many people think that if they have the software, they can save money by designing their own book. Having the proper software does not make somebody a book designer any more than having a scalpel makes someone a surgeon. Software is merely a tool and only does the job properly in the hands of a skilled professional. If you intend to be successful in the marketplace, make sure your book is not only saleable, but reflects the care you took in writing it. Hire a book designer and spend your valuable time working on an outstanding marketing plan or writing your next book.

How do you find the professional expertise right for your publishing goals? You can do a Google search for “book designer” and get 60 million results! Don’t give up.  There is a way to find the perfect design firm and it doesn’t have to be a game of chance.

You must first determine your publishing goals—self-publisher vs. multi-author publisher, local vs. national audience. Then set a realistic budget. Do your research and plan wisely or you’ll end up with a team that doesn’t meet your needs. If you plan a national speaking tour for your next book, your budget should reflect the level of quality needed to compete at that level. Hiring an entry-level or amateur designer could be a waste of $500–$800, as the quality would brand you an amateur as well.

Professional designers have a range of expertise, fees, and services. Start narrowing the field of designers by finding those who belong to professional organizations. Notice national design awards on their resume, which can indicate respect from others in the field. What are their fees? Most often, higher-priced designers really are those who have the best grasp on producing a book that’s salable and competitive in the marketplace. They’ve earned a right to charge $1,500–$3,000+ for their expertise and unique designs. They know how to design for different genres and audiences. They’re aware of trends, printing options, and can save you money by avoiding novice pitfalls.

Expect several cover concepts and always sign a contract. Owning the rights to the cover isn’t necessary if you have unlimited use of the cover image for your promotional needs at no cost.

If you need guidance through the publishing process, know that some firms offer this while others opt not to provide consulting services. A design firm is an integral player on your publishing team. This may be a long-term relationship, so choose wisely. Of course, don’t hesitate to hire a different firm for your next book if the previous project didn’t go well. Your success depends upon every member of the team working toward the same goal.
If your book is intended for an audience of family and friends, not to be sold to the public, there may be no need to spend your money on a professional. If you want to learn the craft of book design, buy the software and learn from books, classes, and professionals, keeping in mind that this software has a steep learning curve. Alternately, you could hire a student for  up to $200 or even in exchange for the experience. Either way, learn the printer’s specifications before starting or it will cost more in the end.

The public image you portray as a publisher is very visual and the quality of your books’ covers will largely create that image. Take your time in selecting the right type of design firm for your publishing needs, knowing this is an invaluable investment in your company’s future.

(This article first appeared in the Writer Watchdog Self-Publishing Directory, a new resource guide to assist publishers in finding vendors and information to aid their publishing efforts: http://www.writerwatchdog.com.)

We’ve moved our blog space, so hello and thanks for visiting! The intention of this blog space is to provide useful information and dynamic conversations to assist those of you out there who aspire to be successful publishers. Whether you’re already published or just starting, we’d love to learn about your goals and help you reach them.

Blessings to you,
Tami Dever
Owner, TLC Graphics