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.
In fact, Google is too smart for most black hat marketers. On average, Google changes their algorithms over 500 times a year. Why do they do this? Well, mostly to make sure that websites that are focused on content farming and other black hat SEO tactics don’t climb up the search engine ranking.
People will ask me all the time, “Why do I need a publicist?” If you have to ask the question, chances are you probably need one. Why? Because there are too many stories, too many angles, and too many opportunities you might miss by not knowing the rules of the game, so to speak. Authors, speakers, small business owners (turned authors) often launch headlong into their marketing campaign with little or no regard for the steps and the process of getting media. Some authors stumble into success after success and that’s great, but it’s often not the norm. Why? Because in our zeal to tell the world about our story, we often stumble over our own efforts. Sending pitches that are too long, or sent to the wrong person. Getting a media person on the phone and fumbling your elevator pitch. All of these things can rob you of the chance to really get your book out there.
For any author—and publisher—navigating the sea of digital-book retailers is no easy feat. Amazon, iBookstore, and Barnes & Noble are the well-known giants, together accounting for an estimated 95% of the ebook market. But what about those other e-retailers making a splash: Kobo, Samsung, Sony, Google Play, and Baker & Taylor? Below we dive into these emerging markets: