Once upon a time, self publishing print books was a costly and risky endeavor. Minimum orders, inventory risks, and lengthy lead times were not self-publisher friendly. Then, print on demand came along. POD creates one-off and entire print runs of bookstore-worthy hard copies from a “print-ready PDF” hours after an order is placed (i.e. when you place an order with the printer or when a customer purchases a copy on Amazon).
The ease and affordability of digital publishing makes for a great starting point for self publishers, but there are plenty of reasons to go print as well. To name a few...
Not everyone has an e-reader
Most self-publishers are concerned with book design for a few months during the production of their book. Book design is a specialty within the field of graphic design, in the same way that packaging design, or the design of signs are specialties. What this means is that there are a lot of conventions, a vocabulary and a set of practices and assumptions that underlie most professional book design. Since self-publishers only need to navigate this territory once in a while, I've frequently maintained that it's better to learn how to hire a book designer than it is to learn book design yourself. But since design is important to the eventual success of your book whether you attempt to do it yourself or hire it out, it pays to know something about those conventions and assumptions. After all, we don't want anything getting in the way of your communication with your readers.
The covers we choose for our books are much more significant than many authors think. Over the years I’ve seen everything from a finely designed book cover, to one the author created himself. Now, there’s nothing wrong with designing your own cover - if you’re actually a cover designer. Otherwise, you should leave it to the pros.
I recently had an opportunity to sit down with my friend and colleague Hobie Hobart to talk about the importance of book covers. I think some of his answers will surprise you!
- How long does the average consumer spend viewing a book cover before they decide to buy or not buy the book?
Bookstore browsers spend an average of 8 seconds looking at the front cover and 15 seconds studying the back cover before making a buying decision where your book goes straight to the cash register, not back on the shelf.
Ebook Covers ≠ Print Covers
Ebook covers have different challenges than their print counterparts. Most readers will first see an ebook cover when it's a small thumbnail amidst a grid of ebooks on the digital storefronts. This is the critical moment where a reader will either notice the title immediately, or miss it. The small size of these thumbnails brings new challenges for your cover design.
Ebooks have revolutionized self publishing; opening the door to authorial success for anyone with a keyboard and an Internet connection. A myriad of marketplaces, each with their own special requirements, can raise some complications for the first-time digital author. So when first putting a title up for sale, it’s critical to make sure your ebook renders well across all devices. Save yourself from nasty comments criticizing poor formatting by easily avoiding these three big errors (learned through Vook’s own experience creating thousands of ebooks):
Error #1: Only designing an ebook for a specific device