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So, it’s time to design your book cover? Here’s a story of what not to do!
When I published my book in January, I was on a high. An emotional and spiritual high because I had done something I had always wanted to do. I took full control of the process, watched every YouTube video, read every article, and wrote out a plan and cost compared until I was blue in the face.
In hindsight, there are some things I would have done differently. Today I want to share my experiences and the realization of how critical the cover of the book is.
Some might argue that the cover is even more critical than what lies within.
If you’re setting out to write a series, 2-4 books, it’s a wise idea to look at other book series covers. See how they flow together, take note of the designs and colors. How do they look sitting next to each other? Does it draw the eye?
My original cover was neat and uncomplicated, and quite inviting. However, it gave off more of an old-fashioned grandmother-knitting club vibe than that of a middle-aged woman who is totally dependent on coffee but still believes in magic…but I was still pleased with it.
The issue was that the design didn’t match my idea for the series as a whole. I hadn’t considered how the book cover would look paired with the other titles in the collection. I also didn’t think about how it would look sitting on the top shelf of a bookstore.
My book jacket was as vague as the fog on a chilly autumn morning. Creams, browns, and grays, some decorative writing, and absolutely no bling.
Think 1930’s Great Depression.
Think foggy fall morning on the ocean shore.
Think your grandma’s cream couch that she has had since the 1950s.
That is what my book reminds me of.
When my cover artist sent me the first mockup of the cover, I jumped all over it. I said “Yes, to the dress”, because I was caught up in the excitement of seeing my name on a book. I impulsively accepted it without considering the contents or giving it a 24-hour wait period.
Never make a big purchase without a 24-hour waiting period!
I learned this past weekend when I headed to the local brick-and-mortar bookstore which agreed to sell my masterpiece.
I walked in with my head held high, confident that someone would recognize me as an author. I couldn’t help but imagine the scene of 15 people scrambling to purchase my book. Or maybe I would find someone curled up on a chair, my book in their hand, as they sipped a cup of coffee.
That’s not what happened.
After a 20-minute scavenger hunt, I was torn between disappointment that they had already taken it off the rack and excitement that they had sold out their stock.
I couldn’t find the damn book anywhere! Not on the first floor where all the ’employee favorites’ are, or in the ‘up and coming’ section. Not in the ‘your local artist’ area. Not in the YA area- even though my editor swears it is YA.
Climbing to the second floor, dragging my feet, I headed to the fantasy section.
Then I slowly crawled to the fiction section- and the clouds parted.
I found it! Where you might be asking? On the top shelf, blending into the soft vanilla-colored bookshelf itself because it is a plain cover. I almost missed it because I am short and couldn’t see that high, so my eyes skipped right over it.
The spine had nothing that screamed- “Pick Me Up!”
Tears. Large, unfiltered tears because I knew in the deepest part of my heart that I would never pick up my book as a reader because it looked boring. The book spine looked like a dry research manual found in a forgotten library.
My husband thought it was amazing. My sister even took pictures of it and quickly moved the books to a more pleasing area of the bookstore. The support I received from them was awesome, and I will always be grateful for it.
But I knew.
As writers, we know…. the first glance sells!
So I had to go home and rethink my whole life and my book cover.
And that started a two-week battle that left me with persistent migraines and heartburn.
Changing book covers can be a very time-consuming and expensive endeavor. Not only do you have to pay for the redesigned cover design, but you also need to wait for the various online platforms to review and accept it before it can be published.
All your social media accounts need to be updated. You have to re-promote. You need to explain why your early supporters had one edition, but another exists.
So, what can you do to save yourself from this heartache?
Go to the bookstore NOT to buy books. Take a look at your favorite authors’ earlier titles. These will not be found front and center- but rather tucked away and stacked up against the thousand other books.
What does their spine look like? What do you like? What do you not like? Walk up and down the aisle and take pictures. Which one calls to you?
NOW- take that idea home and think about what you as a reader want to see and mesh it up with what you as a writer want to see.
Get an artist, or a company, or design it yourself. Get three different versions and hang them on your fridge. For at least 48 hours, every time you open the door or walk in to grab another cup of coffee see which one draws your eye.
Don’t rush this process – as much as people may deny it, books are judged by their covers.
Friends, this was a difficult lesson because I had a lot of support for my book cover. But I wasn’t being true to myself. Your first book is going to be the most difficult book you will ever write because you want to please everyone.
You want validation because you are taking a huge leap.
But be careful when looking for approval. Are you allowing your friends and family to have the power to create a book that they want to see, or are you giving them a sneak peek?
There is a big difference.
My family does not read the same genre as I do. They are amazing because they will read my work- but it’s not their favorite.
And that is fine…. but I wanted their approval. I gave them the power to sign off on my creation. Because I didn’t want to fail. And if I gave them a piece of the pie, and the book failed, it wouldn’t have all been on my shoulders.
Take that power and leap into the unknown.
Let’s be realistic. What if it fails?
What does it matter? Just like painters, authors can go back to the drawing board and rework.
I know this is true because I redesigned my cover!
But it’s all going to work out and the only person who sees the stress and heartache is us. Readers don’t know. All they know is that they are curling up to a good book by a fantastic author and for a few minutes, they can escape this crazy world.
So there you have it. A personal experience with the cover of a dread book. Looking back, I am adding this to the bulletin board of mistakes I have made over the last 7 months. It’s a large board! Full of mistakes and ‘oops.’
What are your thoughts?