Showing posts with label case study. Show all posts
Showing posts with label case study. Show all posts

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 ( 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.


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 ( 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 where you can also see some cover designs for her series of poetry books that were courtesy of free templates offered by

Case Study: Why Important Books Get Ignored

Case Study;
Getting Professionalism Wrong
or The Gorgeous Books That Go Ignored
A long time ago, as time is measured in the publishing world, I received a beautiful hardcover book with a slick, arresting dust cover in the mail. Everything about it yelled “professionally published!” right down to the fact that it was written by the president of a well respected company. The trouble was, I hadn’t requested it, there was no personal note, and the letterhead on an enclosed sellsheet didn’t give me an e-mail address. I used the phone number supplied. A pleasant woman couldn’t answer my questions, took my number and I never heard back from either her or the author. I promptly forgot about it. Then I received a note from one of my SharingwithWriters newsletter subscribers who edited the book asking if I had received it. I told her I hadn’t so she had the author’s secretary handling the book send me another.
Horrors. I now had two copies of the book. I wanted to bury my head in the sand but instead I thought I’d admit my mistake like any good professional and maybe help the author in the process. Here is my apology and the letter I hope gave her the information she needed to help him:
Dear [Subscriber],
I apology for my part in a minor marketing fiasco. It is story we can learn from—a minor disaster that could be a major one if it is repeated many times. A minor disaster caused by an omission of contact information and a failure to followup on contacts. I hope we can both learn from this experience.
I received the second book you had your PR person send. When I saw it, I remembered that I did get the earlier copy. There was a letter in it both times, but it didn't mention you or our conversation we had. Though it is a beautiful book, I get about two or three unrequested and unexpected books a week and assumed it was one of those. Still, I take pains to try to contact people who send books to me as a matter of courtesy. There was no e-mail address so I called. There was no personal contact on the phone, either. Just a person saying they would give the busy author a message. I received nothing back. So, I did a little more than usual. I went to the Website where there was also was no personal contact information so I added the e-mail it provided to my contact list thinking that might work eventually. Apparently the author’s agency/handler did receive one of my e-mails and unsubscribed. So, I finally wrote off the whole experience as an impossible mess.
I don't know what contact/relationship you have with the company who promotes this book or with the author, but as professional as everything looks from the book to the letterhead, there are some gaps in this approach to marketing this book. I suspect the author cares enough about having his book read to pay a small fortune to get the word out there either by using his secretary’s well-paid time or hiring a PR agency. I also suspect he is a busy businessman depending on other professionals to do what needs to be done to get it read.
And this is exactly why I wrote The Frugal Book Promoter. That is, I want authors to be very clear that no matter who publishers their books, does their publicity, their marketing...well, the more authors know and the more hands-on the process can be, the better it works.
I hope you'll pass this long to that author if you are in a position to do so. The author is lucky to have you on his side His book does seem to be full of information that will help many. It is a book that is professionally edited and produced and would therefore make a handsome gift. Still, I can't help—make that don't have time to help--anyone who has chosen a publishing path so different from what works and that is to make it as easy as possible on the media and other gatekeepers to give them the exposure they need to sell books.. I only hope I am an isolated case. For his sake and the sake of his prospective audience.
I hope you can see I wouldn't have taken the time to write you this treatise if I didn't care. I am certain you care!
Very best,

Note: I believe that part of the problem this author had was misguided professionalism. He believed (as I do) in empowering employees and designating tasks. After all, no one person can do it all. However, that must be accompanied with the advice I once read in a little book in the 70s. I think it was called “Management by Wandering Around.”  I used this advice when I had gift shops in five cities and two states. It took a lot of traveling, but it was fun, too. And asking question (you might call that monitoring). If you designate, do a lot of training, checking up, holding people responsible, and retraining.

Carolyn has been a proud contributor to WritersOntheMove since its inception. 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. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor 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. Her next book in the HowToDoItFrugally series for writers will be Getting Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically.
Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 

The author loves to travel. She has visited eighty-nine countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is

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