Redesigning your book cover can make you a full-time self-published author

You’re lacking in sales, you’re not reaching new readers, and you’re running out of promotional steam. What’s one thing that could make all the difference in boosting sales and getting you onto the best seller list? Changing your book cover.

Getting sales

ahmadardalan_1 On July 29th 2014, an author named Ahmad Ardalan published a book titled The Gardener of Baghdad. He had been pushing to get it traction, sharing out the link where to purchase it, hitting the social media wave and working hard for reviews. But the success Ahmad had hoped for wasn’t clicking, a piece of the puzzle was missing.

He was ready to submit to the almighty Bookbub. The standards of Bookbub are high, which is why it makes it such a successful platform for self-published authors to get new readers through. In order to be accepted your book has to be at a decent standard, have a good concept, well written blurb, and a cover that doesn’t look DIY.

Ahmad tried three times to get into Bookbub, but he couldn’t crack it. He approached the KindleBoards for help and the problem seemed immediate- his cover wasn’t good enough, he needed something new.

Your story doesn’t matter if your book cover sucks

I know how hard it can be to be in the constant push to get your book into a consistent tide of sales, and sometimes affording a cover designer just isn’t on your list of priorities when you’re publishing. We can only invest so much, and if we have a few spare dollars of change it normally goes into editing and polishing so that the book reads well. That’s the most important part of publishing a book, isn’t it? The story?

Not if no one wants to pick it up in the first place. Your cover is what sells your book, not your writing. After you get a reader hooked, you’re in, but you have to get them to purchase it in the first place.

Remember, your readers aren’t just spending their money, they’re spending their time which is much more valuable. So does your book cover promise hours of adventure, heartbreak or conflict? Or does it say ‘I spent about as much time editing my book as I did on this cover-so that’s what you should expect’?

When authors go full time, thanks to book cover redesigns

M. Ward redesigned her book covers and her life changed overnight; she shared her experiences with us about it on our blog. When she changed over her books to a more genre specific cover for her romance books, she blasted her way onto the New York Times best sellers list.

Were the covers traditional publishing quality? No.

Did they do the job? Yes.

So what was the problem with H. M. Ward’s original covers? They weren’t genre, or audience, specific. They were creative, and beautiful, and the quality of them was stunning. But they weren’t reaching her intended audience. They weren’t genre specific enough.

Your potential readers are looking for books that:

  • Are in the genre they like reading
  • Hold a concept they are familiar with
  • Have a character they could relate to
  • Is “like this other book they just finished”
  • Looks interesting

The job of the cover: Sell the book

When I saw Ahmad’s plight at reaching new readers for The Gardener of Baghdad, I reached out. The cover needed an overhaul so that the audience knew:

  1. What to expect
  2. The genre
  3. Who it is targeted to

I offered the chance to redesign his cover which he graciously accepted, and got started on some new designs. His original concept made use of a painting but the concept wasn’t clear enough. He wanted to show the light and darkness in comparison to the past, and the present, in Baghdad. The beautiful Garden of before to the war torn city of now. I really liked that idea and thought it just needed refining, needed to be presented in a new way.

The concept he approved does exactly that, by using the bright beautiful garden against the contrast of a dark modern city, with simple, soft text we have grounded the design.

ahmadardalan_2The target demographic: people who love historical fiction, mainly women. By using the pastel colours and painted effects, combined with quiet typography, we have nailed the historical/literary fiction genre. We don’t need to tell the whole story, just make it look interesting and give the audience a sense of what’s coming, to get them onto the blurb.

Ahmad submitted the book with his new cover for the fourth attempt this week. He was accepted.

If your sales aren’t working for you, consider the cover. Reach out to a designer, consult with your self-publishing community for feedback, don’t be afraid to change it up. Covers aren’t permanent, even the professionals don’t get it right first try! Authors like H. M. Ward have proven it could mean the difference between working your regular job, and becoming a full-time author.

Why wouldn’t you change it?

How does a book cover look in the early stages?


You’ve been waiting for it all week… the first visual concepts from your book cover designer… and they’re going to be AH-MA-ZING. You’ve seen everything else they’ve done and this is just going to be the icing on the cake.

A ping in your inbox; it’s here! You open it up and… what the hell is this?

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Imagine that designing is just like writing (because it truly is).

The first drafts are always, always the worst.

You’ve been dreaming and imagining for a while now, expecting you’ll be overwhelmed with the first magical round of design, but that’s not how design works. Design is a collaboration, and requires input from two people: The designer and the client.

Step 1: Your expectations are too high

The first obstacle is that you’ll already have something in mind. Something that crosses all boundaries of standard design. You’re imagining the Willy Wonka magic ticket and setting yourself up for disappointment.

Willy wonka golden ticket

How to fix it: Enter your partnership with your designer knowing it is art, and art requires time, feedback, and development. Don’t expect your designer to create something off the bat that is 100% what you want because you’ll be writing yourself into a corner. Talking about, and working with the design, is normal.

Step 2: You lose trust in your designer

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The second obstacle is losing trust in your designer. Because your perfect book cover hasn’t immediately happened, the trust and confidence you had in your designer dims a little bit. You start asking yourself,

“How did we get here?” [Naturally. This is a part of the process.]

“Why did they misinterpret what I wanted?” [They didn’t. More communication is needed.]

“Should I have gone with someone else?” [No.]

How to fix it: Understand that this is part of the process. Remember, design is like writing. The first drafts are never the perfect ones, and the designer needs to start somewhere in order to work towards the final result you really love. You have to make the first step before getting to the top of the mountain, or something like that…

concept_rough_examples_scarlettrugers

Step 3: It looks low res and choppy

You were expecting perfection and it’s possible you got something with watermarks, low res images, and a whole lot of collage-like mess. They might have sent over three or four different designs, but they all look like this.

How to fix it: Let it go. If you’re responsible for purchasing stock images then the designer has to work with what they can (i.e.: low resolution, watermarked stock images) before you commit to the final concept and they can buy the high resolution images. Trust the process.

Step 4: There’s been a lack of communication

This cover isn’t what you were expecting at all. It has totally different concepts. You wanted people; they’ve put on scenery or use symbolic images.

I specifically wanted salmon

How to fix it: Did you tell them you wanted people? Did you share with them other covers you like that have models on them? Did they read the brief properly? It’s just down to communication. Before jumping the gun and telling them they did it all wrong, perhaps ask them to explain the concepts to you and why they went in this direction. They might just change your mind.

 

All of these conflicts can be solved with communication. Remember talk to your designer, ask questions. You aren’t expected to know how it works, that’s the designer’s job. And remember that design is an artistic job and will always need your direction and feedback to end up where you are totally happy with it.

Have you had a shock when dealing with designers? Ended up with something totally different? How did it work out for you?