Showing posts with label book cover design. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book cover design. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Writers on the Move Contributor Carolyn Howard-Johnson Talks Book Covers


 
 To One Degree or Another

Why and How Your Book Cover Is Always Your Business 

Most authors start dreaming about their book covers well before their manuscript is ready to publish. They start paying attention to what they encounter of the internet, which is often more disinformation than something they can or should use. One of the least helpful tells them that if they are going the traditional route, they should expect their publisher will not welcome their ideas or expertise (if any exists) to be used under their trademark. In fact, an effort on the part of the author will be an annoyance. Basically, they are told to butt out. Actually, the professional thing an author should do when they have a question is to ask—in the publishing process or—even better—in the contract-signing process.
 
My series of books for writers is a case where these naysayers were wrong. The publisher of Modern History Press made an effort to work with the book cover designer I used when I was self-publishing the series. We ended up with his designer and both publisher and designer accepted most of my suggestions or helped me understand why it wasn’t viable. In fact, occasionally they asked me for ideas or suggestions.
 
That is the reason authors—no matter how they hope to publish or how they end up publishing—will benefit if they start considering what their book cover should look like beyond what they see in their dreams.
 
Here are five things that an author can do to better prepare them for whatever role they play in the publishing process:
 
1.     We can learn a lot about what makes a good book cover by just looking at the best of them--in airport bookstore windows and in our favorite bookstores.
2.     We can learn a lot about what not to do by looking at book covers on Amazon where they are often only thumbnail size. I got a reminder about the importance of bookstores as I was scrolling through the books offered on an online book promotion service as I was trying to decide which books to retweet to my 40,000 plus publishing industry followers. I had to bypass many that might have otherwise worked for me but for lack of a prominent author's name on the cover. A cover must feature the name of the author big enough to be seen from a distance or in an image shrunk to accommodate the layout needed for online bookstores’ formats. That author name should be defined by color, outline, font style and more to be read. You’ll see some with the authors’ name in three-dimensional gold foil! Keep in mind you, the author, may one day be a star and it will be your name people remember, not necessarily the title of the book.
3.     Even poetry and fiction authors should watch how poorly (and well!) some book covers use subtitles. It’s a good idea to jot down ideas that occur to you and put them into Notes or some other file.
4.     Pay attention to the way front and back covers blend into the design of the spine. Having a hard delineation for what can be an imaginary line can cause big problems for a printer. (You may end up publishing independently and will be ahead of the game if you’re aware of this before your select your professional designer. You will be her or his partner and boss.
5.     Pay attention to the covers of already-published books in your genre. It will teach you what you like and what to avoid. 

So here is the new book cover of my recently published  second edition of my booklet "Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers" (Modern History Press). I broke the "rules" and suggested a larger author name for my problematical name, a very, very long one. I quickly learned, all my “advisors” had been wrong. Victor Volkman, the publisher, was able to magically improve it by using what is widely regarded as the most easily read font of all, Times New Roman, using more contrast in color, and choosing a font that doesn't take up a lot of space—that is the letters are naturally narrower than in some other fonts. And he did it by using a readily available font—no special, expensive font design needed! And we were able to keep the retail price of the book down by using an appropriate image from an online catalog. They are sometimes reasonably priced, but they are often free. You’ll probably have to poke around a bit on image services to find the perfect one for your book.


Note: I am fussy about what I called “canned images.” Some authors select something that other authors found useful, many others. See the suggestion about paying attention to books in your genre that have already been published.
 
Now you can do this for the next book you publish with Kindle Direct Publishing or anywhere else that offers handy (and frugal!) cover templates. Remember what I tell my clients. "You may love Stephen King.  But quick! Name all of his books. OK, name three." You can see that your readers remember you better than they remember your titles--even if you are as famous as King. 
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. The books in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers have won multiple awards. That series includes The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor which won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically launched to rave reviews from Jim Cox, Editor-in-Chief of Midwest Book Reviews and others:
 
“How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically [and other books in the series] could well serve as a textbook for a college Writing/Publishing curriculum.”

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Sneak Peek in Next Book in the HowToDoItFrugally Series


Book Covers for Book Series Demand Extra, Loving Care
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning
HowToDoItFrugally series of book for writers

Considerations for covers for series aren’t really so different from any book except that an author and her cover artist must consider whether the elements can be sustained and there are several ways to do that with the cover.

One of the most sustainable elements of marketing a book series is the author’s name. New authors and artists without special training in book cover design often under emphasize their own name. I tell them to look at the books in the window of Hudson’s bookstores in airports. The authors’ names are huge. The authors’ names are sometimes gilt. The authors’ names are often embossed. That’s because (you’ve heard this before from me in my multi award-winning book, The Frugal Book Promoter), an author’s name is her true brand. Or soon will be. And an author planning a series is even more dependent on his or her own name for recognition and identification than most.

In addition to the size of the author’s name, authors of book series should consider repeating its position on the cover, using the same solid—very bright—color, that metallic look, embossing if the publisher can afford it, or all three.  The font should be repeated, too—preferably one that’s identifiable even if only subliminally.

Of course, it’s the overall look of the cover that interests most authors and that brings up genre. All the elements of all the covers in the series must evoke the genre. This is one time that being super-original may not be best for sales. The look must suggest to the reader exactly what he or she will find inside the book. Think Picault’s images for Danielle Steele’s books. They catapulted him to fame in the world of fine art. Internationally known Park West carries his originals and prints even after his death. We may not be able to name him on sight, but we know it’s his work when we see it and that when they appear on a book cover, they are Steele’s books.  To evoke a feeling of familiarity among readers usually means using the same artist on each of the books in a particular series—perhaps even across different series.

Note: Consider negotiating with your artist that he or she will do book cover art only for your series. This probably will require a renewable stipend for exclusivity, but it may be worth it.

These are all considerations for series written by nonfiction authors, as well. Notice the unique font/art developed by Chaz DeSimone (http://DeSimoneDesign) for my HowToDoItFrugally series. Those coins say something visually and they are memorable.

It’s not always possible to be that creative, though. Chaz said my frugal titles were like the perfect storm. Everything came together for inspiration. But that’s still possible, even without that once-in-a-career brainstorm. Consider the famous Dummy series. In addition to carrying through a specific, very bright contrasting color scheme (yellow and black).  These books also all place logo in the same place on every cover  (I plan to talk about logos later in this book to be published in 2018). Consistency in image placement is important, too. In the Dummy books, they use  realistic images-- usually actual photos or true-to-life illustrations.

The Dummy graphic designer knows that the font is still important. He or she uses two fonts in the titles and both have a kind of do-it-yourself character. “Dummies” is in every one and connotes a small child’s first approach to printing without using too-obvious backwards letters or mixed caps and lower case. The other part of the title very simply tells the reader what he or she will learn. Word. Home Buying Kit. Mortgages. And because it slants right in a sort of italic look and is black and white, it evokes a chalkboard and—once again—a new learner. These cover took a lot more thought than is at first apparent.

There are other tricks for books in series, too. The visual can be maintained throughout a series in a geometric shape—a circle, oval, triangle. By using blocks of color that repeat themselves. We mentioned overall color schemes in the analysis of Dummies.
Obviously much will depend on an author’s publishing situation. When an author is traditionally published he may have very little control over his covers or none at all. Still—if possible, he should let the designer know the genre, his preference for an artist or style, and that it will be a series. That means that he must work to work as a partner with the designer and the more he knows about covers, the better partner he will be.

Note: If your book lends itself to using a reproduction of a famous painting in the public domain, put that idea on your list to consider. It has been shown that these images increase how well a reader remembers the cover, title and content of a book.
One thing the author will usually have complete control over is the size (thickness or page number) of her books. If one is very fat and another very slim, much will be lost in terms of a cohesive brand.
As you can tell, I am big on using the author’s name as a major design element, but there are times when the emphasis may best be put on another element of the cover. Sometimes it’s hard for an author to be open to something different from their first concept. Many authors fear looking too commercial or are very shy and loathe the idea of making their name the main design element. Many authors have an artist they want to feature (a mother who does water colors or uncle who does killer charcoals). That would be nice and personal, but if it doesn’t fit the topic, they should be open to rearranging their demand. Beyond the basics, I believe in giving the most professional designer you or your publisher can afford full reign to allow her creativity to shine. Sometimes it’s easier to make suggestions and fine tune afterward, anyway.

After you and your designer have settled on the look of your cover, you want to carry the branding sensibility you’ve begun to the interior of your book. Many graphic designers can help you with that, too. And you’ll want to keep all of this branding you’ve done in mind for the entire marketing campaign. A prissy, wedding like launch party with canap├ęs doesn’t cut it for a series on caring for your car.

Note: If you are self-publishing and have decided to use a template like those provided by Createspace, be very careful to choose one with a structure that is most likely to be carried though for the entire series.

Those elements of your marketing campaign—Web site banners, the site itself, logos, business cards, bookmarks, signs for book fairs and on and on will become more apparent to you as you read the first
in my HowToDoItFrugally book series, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or partnering with your publisher (http://bit.ly/FrugalBookPromo). If this is your first book in a series, your campaign will grow as your plan—even if you are one of those who maps out the campaign carefully. A good map, though, will help you avoid having to make too many corrections as you go. That is both smart and frugal.

Note: Before making your final decision, reread the chapter in the flagship for of my #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter. There you will find what you need for writing the copy for our book’s back cover like the mini biography, the oft-ignored (sadly!) second subtitle, and the pitch or mini synopsis. This may be an area that you are better at than your designer, though many graphic artists or cover designers who have lots of experience with books are also excellent copywriters and marketers. So do ask for advice and listen to the answers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This article is destined to become part of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s fourth book in her multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers set for 2018. It will have a foreword written by her book designer Chaz DeSimone and the frugalish coin design of the How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews) where you will learn Carolyn’s secret to getting review from big journals by going through the back door and how to use reviews to access commercial catalogs.
first two will be carried forward to this book, too. Her newest book in the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers is

Learn more about Carolyn including her poetry and fiction at http://howtodoitfrugally.com where you can also see some cover designs for her series of poetry books that were courtesy of free templates offered by Createspace.com.

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