Judging a Book By Its Cover: Why You Should Hire a Designer

“You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” goes the old saying. By itself, it’s good advice telling a reader not to form an opinion about the contents of a book based on the image on the outside. But a cover is a marketing tool, one that many self-published authors overlook. If a book’s cover is shoddy or poorly designed, potential readers will certainly be turned away, and sales of the book will suffer.
If there’s one piece of advice I have to give to indie authors or those looking to self-publish it’s to not skimp on the cover. Too many writers choose to design their book’s cover themselves, and their lack of design or illustration skills is evident in the final product.
Your cover should make your book stand out…
in a good way.
Of course, this isn’t an issue for traditionally published authors. Most publication houses have internal graphic designers, or at least trusted freelancers, that they turn to to design their authors’ book covers. This is a lesson that authors who choose to self-publish need to pay attention to.
If you choose to self-publish, the best thing you can do is find a graphic designer to create your cover, especially if you have no design experience yourself. You can always tell the designer your idea for the cover, what your characters look like, font styles you like for the title and by line, and let them apply their skills to the finish product. Most designers will listen to your feedback and make tweaks as necessary, so you can rest assured that you’re not stuck with the first image they come back with.
Now, I know most authors don’t go this route and opt to create the cover themselves because it’s an added expense they may not be able to, or may not want to, undertake. This, in my opinion, is a mistake. A well-designed cover is the center piece for sales sites like Amazon and Smashwords. You can send a thousand potential readers to your book’s page, but if the cover looks like it was designed in Microsoft Paint, many, if not most, will simply click away to something that looks more polished. It may not be fair to you or your work, but it’s the reader’s money and they’re entitled to spend it how they wish.
Part of me wants to share examples of bad cover design from Amazon, which would not be difficult to find. But I also don’t want to shame any indie authors for the choices they’ve made. Being an author is difficult; dedicating your time to write a story that you hope others enjoy is daunting by itself. These people are opening themselves to criticism with every word they write and when they get that criticism, it cuts like a knife. They don’t need the added embarrassment of being told their book cover is bad. I’m sure that in some cases they even know it.
Instead, feel free to browse Amazon yourself. At least one example of bad cover design will leap out at you. Just like porn: you’ll know it when you see it.
“Sure, this is great advice,” you might be saying right now, “but how am I supposed to pay for a decent cover design? I work full time and live pay check to paycheck and write whenever I can find time. I’m not Stephen King over here!”
Well, of course not. Stephen King’s publishers pay for his cover designs.
Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash
Joking aside, I hear you. I get that. It’s pressuring to have to incur an extra expense to publish your book. But you’re a writer, so use that skill. There are numerous job boards out there looking for freelance writers. ProBlogger, for example, has a list of jobs available for blogs for websites covering a variety of topics. There’s also BloggingPro which lists not only freelance jobs but also contract and full-time writing jobs, for those who are looking to make a career switch.
Besides those, there’s also Fiverr. Fiverr allows you to list your skills and let others come to you. Let’s say you have a keen eye for editing. You can post your information on Fiverr for jobs looking for manuscript editors, set your price and your turnaround time, and let people come to you with jobs. You get paid, which you can in turn use to pay a cover designer.
If all of those seem too overwhelming, or you don’t have the time to work on multiple paying projects, maybe you can work on the barter system. Maybe there’s a designer or illustrator out there who has an idea for a children’s book or a comic book, but can’t hammer down the details or the plot or the dialogue. They may be willing to swap specialties; they will create a cover for the book you’re ready to publish while you outline and script their story idea. This option is a little more limited as it requires finding a specific type of person in need of your specific skills, but it’s always a possibility.
I’m not saying that finding and paying for a good book cover is easy; it’s not always. But it is in a writer’s best interest to make sure their book looks as good as it reads. You don’t want to have spent months or years of your time to create something that you’re proud of just to have people dismiss it out of hand because the cover looks like it was made by a kindergartner. Make sure you have the same amount of pride in the cover as you do in your book, even if that means hiring someone else to make it for you.