In our last blog post, “Turning Your NaNoWriMo Piece Into a Sellable Novel – First Steps,” we outlined the first two steps that a NaNoWriMo author should take upon completion of writing 50,000+ words during the month of November. The first step is book editing to ensure that the novel reads smoothly and to detect any spelling or grammar errors. Book editorial services can also include indexing and translation if the book will be published in multiple languages. The second step is to select a book cover design. A book cover design should be created by a professional designer and needs to catch the potential readers’ eye and give them a glimpse of what’s inside the book. Continue reading
By Michelle Antus, Bookmasters’ Media Design Specialist
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
While one of our culture’s favorite idioms is nice in theory, the reality is that it occurs more frequently than we may want. As consumers in a visually driven marketplace, we are constantly judging the contents of a package by its appearance. Think of the last time you bought an unfamiliar product brand. What made you pick it up? Chances are something on the outside of the package caught your attention. A book cover should be no different. It needs to stand out from the thousands of other books in the market.
The cover is the face of the book and is what will ultimately be used to promote the book. People shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but let’s be honest: it happens, and that means the cover needs to be designed well. Humans are drawn to a solid, eye catching design, whether or not they can articulate why. Having a true professional design the cover is worth the investment. A good artist will know how to design a quality cover that displays the emotion and theme of the book. The more information and inspiration the designer is fed, the better the cover will be.
Like any piece of good artwork, the cover needs to look good in a variety of situations. A printed, full color cover is only one of the aspects. It can be viewed in both color and black & white e-Readers, print publications, and websites. It also has to pack a punch when it is only 70 pixels wide. When a book is listed online in a search, 9 times out of 10, it will not have a description alongside it and it will be a much smaller version of the cover.
The cover has to be the magnet to pull in the potential readers and quickly and accurately tell them why they should give your book a chance. However, an overly complex design or overly minimalistic design does not always equal a solid cover. A potential reader will only look at a cover for a few seconds before he or she decides if it is worth picking up. If the cover is a mess or fails to engage the passerby, it will be looked over without a second glance. Exceptions to this rule are authors who have sold millions of copies and are a household name, such as J.K. Rowling or William Shakespeare. Once an author has made a name for his or herself, it is easier to bend the rules of design.
Do a bit of research before you jump in to designing your cover. Look at other titles and see what they did, and then don’t look at them again during the design process. Pushing the other cover designs aside makes sure that you avoid copyright infringement on another artist’s work and puts the focus back on your cover and book, and not imitating what others have done. Cover design is not always about having the flashiest and most trendy cover on the market. Let your book’s content dictate the cover. It is obvious when someone tries to force a certain type of cover on their book that doesn’t fit.
The key is to create a cover that fits your target audience and the book’s overall tone. Don’t have a dark, sullen, dreary looking cover if your book is a lighthearted photo collection of fawns frolicking in fields with fedoras. The cover also needs to be engaging to give potential marketers something to work with. The design of marketing material can only go so far to promote the book and the weight of the promotion cannot fall completely on the shoulders of the marketing team. Marketing designs and layouts should complement and enhance the cover, but should not be the focal point. The book cover is what really helps the design shine and is what people will remember most.
Just as the contents of the book are an extension of your brain, the cover needs to be an extension and reflection of the book. Since you can’t physically tell every person why they should buy your book, the cover needs to do that for you. A designer can help you give it a strong voice and let your book shine.
- Browse other titles in your genre. Look at what makes them succeed or fail. Just be sure not to copy a cover directly.
- Tell your designer what you like and don’t like about covers you have seen in the marketplace. The more you can articulate your wants and tastes, the better the cover will look.
- Don’t be afraid to shop around for a designer. Each designer has a set of strengths, so don’t settle for one that doesn’t fit your needs.
- Engage with a cover that fits the target audience and overall tone, but most importantly, acts as your voice to tell potential buyers why they should purchase your book.
- A minimalistic cover can be engaging; it just has to be designed well.
From the Writer’s Digest website:
Whether you’re a professional writer, a part-time freelancer or a self-starting student, here’s your chance to enter the premier self-published competition exclusively for self-published books. Writer’s Digest hosts the 21st annual self-published competition — the Annual Self-Published Book Awards. This self-published competition spotlights today’s self-published works and honors self-published authors.
Early Bird Deadline: April 1, 2013
Wondering what is in it for you?
- A chance to win $3,000 in cash
- Get national exposure for your work
- Catch the attention of prospective editors and publishers
- A paid trip to the ever-popular Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City!
Enter your book into one or more of these categories:
- Mainstream/Literary Fiction
- Genre Fiction
- Inspirational (Spiritual, New Age)
- Life Stories (Biographies, Autobiographies, Family Histories, Memoirs)
- Children’s/Picture books
- Middle-Grade/Young Adult books
- Reference Books (Directories, Encyclopedias, Guide Books)
One Grand Prize Winner will receive:
- $3,000 cash and a trip to the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City
- A priceless endorsement for their book from the Writer’s Digest Editors–10 copies of their book for submission to major publishing review houses.
- A one-year membership for Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), the largest not-for-profit trade association representing more than 3,000 independent book publishers, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
- Guaranteed acceptance in a special sales catalog and national representation through 1,800 salespeople who sell to non-bookstore markets, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
- A one-year membership to Author-U, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
- A copy of Show Me About Book Publishing and consultation with Book Shepherd Judith Briles (valued at $500), courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
- A guaranteed review in Midwest Book Review, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
Nine First-Place Winners will receive:
- $1,000 cash and promotion in Writer’s Digest
- A one-year membership to Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN), courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
- A guaranteed review in Midwest Book Review, courtesy of Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
- A one-year membership to Book Central Station where you can find lists of suppliers rated by previous clients, provided by Brian Jud & Book Marketing Works, LLC.
- An ebook titled Beyond the Bookstore by Brian Jud (with CD).
All Grand Prize and First Place winners will:
- Be featured on the Writer’s Digest website
- Receive a copy of The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 4th Edition by Tom and Marilyn Ross.
- $100 worth of Writer’s Digest Books
Honorable Mention Winners will receive $50 worth of Writer’s Digest Books and be promoted onwww.writersdigest.com.
All other entrants will receive a brief commentary from the judges along with a link to the entrant’s website (only if the URL is accurate) on writersdigest.com.
1. The competition is open to all English-language self-published books for which the authors have paid the full cost of publication, or the cost of printing has been paid for by a grant or as part of a prize.
2. You may register and pay online for faster service.
3. Entrants must send a printed and bound book. Entries will be evaluated on content, writing quality and overall quality of production and appearance. No handwritten books are accepted.
4. All books published or revised and reprinted between 2008 and 2013 are eligible. (Writer’s Digest may demand proof of eligibility of semifinalists.)
5. All books not registered online must be accompanied by an Official Entry Form. Photocopies of the Official Entry Form are acceptable. You may enter more than one book and/or more than one category; however, you must include a separate book, entry form and the additional fee for each entry.
6. We accept check, money order or credit card payment for the required judging fee. The early bird entry fees are $100 for the first entry, $75 for each additional entry must accompany submissions. For books submitted after the April 1 early bird deadline, the fees are $110 for the first entry, $85 for each additional entry. Payment must accompany submissions.
7. All early bird entries must be postmarked no later than April 1, 2013. Entries submitted for the regular deadline must be postmarked by May 1, 2013. All winners will be notified by October 14, 2013. If you wish to receive confirmation that your entry was received before the deadline, we recommend using certified mail or some other tracking method to send your entry.
8. Judges reserve the right to withhold prizes in any category. Judges reserve the right to re-categorize entries.
9. Books which have previously won awards from Writers Digest are not eligible.
10. Employees of F+W Media, Inc. and Book Marketing Works, LLC and their immediate families are not eligible. Books published by Abbott Press are not eligible to participate.
11. Writer’s Digest is not responsible for the loss, damage or return of any books submitted to the competition.
So you’ve finally finished your masterpiece, read and edited and proofed and reread the carefully typed manuscript, and now it’s ready for the two most wonderful words in a writer’s vocabulary: The End! And soon, you’ll be querying agents and sending off submissions, receiving an offer of representation, and watching a bidding war between all the top publishers in your genre. Hey, it could happen!
But before it does, and before you type “The End” at the bottom of your final page, you’ve still got some work to do. Because finishing the manuscript is just the start of the business of writing. Now you have a synopsis to write, and you may find it even harder than writing the work on which it’s based. And doing it right may mean the difference between landing a book deal and languishing in the slush pile of an agent’s office. Even if you’re intent on self-publishing, a synopsis is elemental to the success of your book.
So what’s a synopsis? And how do you write one? And what do you do with it once it’s done?
According to Peter Rubie, CEO of Fine Print Literary in New York, “A synopsis is a narrative summation of your fiction, telling the story rather than showing it.” It’s your story as told to a child, a simple description of the beginning, middle, and end of the plot and how the characters make it happen. If your story were a house, a synopsis is the way it would look without all the décor, emptied of furniture and rugs and knickknacks until it’s nothing but walls and doors and a roof overhead.
But why build a house only to deconstruct it? Because those agents and editors that you hope to impress are looking for something more elemental than a beautiful writing style – they are looking for a story they can sell and they don’t have much time to find it. With a synopsis, they can make a quick judgment about whether your book is the right fit for them. And for you as a writer, the benefit of gutting your careful construction down to its framing is that you can see where things are out of plumb or not nailed in just right. Are the plot progressions logical? Have you left a character with no way to get from point A to point C? Did the story in your head really make it onto paper? Without all the interior decorating, you can see where the house may have flaws – and fix them before you put it on the market.
Then once you’ve corrected the flaws and your book is signed and sold, the synopsis will serve another purpose, becoming the basis for book blurbs, press releases, and talking points for author interviews. The graphic artist will use it as inspiration for your cover design. The publisher and distributor will use it in their marketing to book stores and libraries. For most of the publishing professionals who deal with your book, your synopsis IS your story. The same is true even if you choose to self-publish your work, as you will still need blurbs and press releases and talking points as you take on the tremendous task of doing your own marketing.
The Fiction Writers Connection has a good step-by-step on how to write a synopsis at www.fictionwriters.com/tips-synopsis.html. As you did with your book, take your time to do it well, and you’ll have finally earned the right to proudly say: “The End!”
Victoria Wilcox knows how hard-won “The End” can be, having spent eighteen years researching and writing her historical fiction trilogy Southern Son: The Saga of Doc Holliday (Knox Robinson Publishing, London). A member of the Western Writers of America, Wilcox discovered the untold story of Doc Holliday while working as founding director of Georgia’s Holliday-Dorsey-Fife House Museum. Although the name Doc Holliday conjures images of the Wild West and the shootout at the OK Corral, before he was a Western legend he was a Southern son, born in the last days of the Old South with family links to Gone With the Wind. The first book in the saga is Inheritance (May 2013), set during the turbulent times of Civil War and Reconstruction, as young John Henry Holliday faces first love and family tragedy, honor and betrayal, and a violent encounter that changes his life forever. Learn more at www.victoriawilcoxbooks.com
Cover design has become a hot topic since the announcement of the forthcoming Harry Potter cover redesigns. To honor the 15th anniversary of the U.S. publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Scholastic recently unveiled a newly revamped cover for the first book in the series. Scholastic will be revamping all seven of the Harry Potter book covers just in time for a new generation to start their journey with Harry.
We’ve all heard the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we all know that it happens. Consumers browsing in bookstores or searching online are presented FIRST with the book, THEN with the synopsis. On average, a bookstore browser will spend eight seconds looking at the front cover and 15 seconds scanning the back cover. In other words, by the time you’re done reading this sentence, a reader would have already decided if they are putting your book back on the shelf or turning it over to explore more. Make sure your book is ready to grab the attention it deserves with an engaging cover.
Throughout March, we are going to explore inside tips for your next book cover, because it’s becoming more important to have a great one. With the explosion of eBooks, authors and publishers are forced to come up with a cover that is not only appealing at full scale, but also in thumbnail sizes. Check back for suggestions from Bookmasters’ designers for the latest practices in great cover design.