How can you tell the difference between a Saturday night B-movie on the SiFi Channel and a Hollywood blockbuster like Ridley Scott’s Prometheus?
Simple. Production values. The blockbuster has the budget and the special effects wizards to create a world that appears real and plausible. We are drawn into it. The B-movie creates a world that might have provoked us to say, “Man, that’s fakey!” when we were kids at a matinee. It distances us from whatever merit the script might have.
Keep that in mind when it comes time to self-publish your book. Too many self-publishing authors, sometimes due to limited budgets, use cheap template-based software or a “design factory” which will give them one of its stock covers The result is like a B-movie.
“The first outward sign that your book is self-published is a crappy cover design.” said Guy Kawasaki, APE: How to Publish a Book.
Working with an experienced book designer to create a unique custom cover for your book can make a big difference in its success. Chip Kidd, of Alfred A. Knopf, who designed the cover for Jurassic Park among other bestsellers, explained the designer’s role in a recent TED Talk. After reading the book the designer must be an interpreter who translates its essence into a cover. Kidd says, “The book designer’s responsibility is three-fold to the reader, to the publisher, and most of all to the author. I want you to look at the author’s book and say, ‘Wow! I need to read that.’”
With the growing popularity of ebooks it may be necessary to design two covers which will capture a reader in this way – one for the physical book and one for the ebook. The difference is that the ebook is bought online usually on a page with many other books on it. Simplicity, clarity, brightness and information must jump off the screen. A simple and arresting graphic element and bold clear text for the title and author must be easy to pick out in the small online image.
Peter Bowerman in his book The Well-Fed Self-Publisher advises, “ …it is categorically impossible to overstate the importance of a good cover….Hire a professional designer.”