Book Covers: Some thoughts for Self-Publishers

Eoin Purcell

A lot of traffic
Comes to this site looking for answers about book covers. Generally, I’m guessing, this is more from self-publishing authors than traditional route publishers. I say this because it is rare for traditional publishers* to leave cover choice to the authors.

I thought I would add some thoughts for those visitors. Feel free to ignore it or to get in touch with questions.

Essentially there are five steps

1) Decide what genre your book fits into
I don’t want to hear that your book is unique. To some degree all books are. Responding that your book is unique indicates either laziness or lack of knowledge of the market you are writing for. Should you be going ahead with this project if that is the case?

Take some time to investigate the market, search for books that have similar themes or writing styles and try and think how you can fit into those genres. The questions you need to ask yourself are, is this a definable genre? That could be as broad as General Fiction if you like, or as narrow as 19th Century British Merchant Shipping if you prefer. But make sure you know what it is.

2) Figure out how you are publishing the book
This may seem trivial, but it will have a direct impact on your work-flow. Some publishing routes are easier than others, some may require you to have cover files ready earlier than internals, some may not offer you customized covers.

Whatever way you choose find our how they want cover files submitted. This will be be as .jpg, .tiff, .psd or perhaps even .pdf. Be sure that they also tell you what DPI and size the image/file should be. All of this information will be vital to making the cover look perfect at the final stages.

I’d use this opportunity to ask them about paper weights and make decisions about gloss, matt or demi-gloss stock. No option is necessarily the right one, but each has its uses. As with 1) take some time to search out the types and styles of covers that your competition favours.

3) Write a designer brief
I’d counsel drawing up a draft designer brief to give to whoever is designing your cover, even if that person is yourself. Why?

Just putting together the details about the book will help focus on the task at hand. I have drawn up a very loose sample you can use if you like. It’s here.

4) Hire a designer
You probably say this one coming but here goes. Many people who are pursuing self-publishing feel that they should be free to design their own cover, and indeed they are. However, the cover is THE key selling tool your book will have. Online and in-store, the cover is what the buyer sees first.

With that in mind, a professional, pitch perfect cover will sell more copies of your book than any other factor. Search for a good designer and pay them for their work. Don’t even dream of paying more than you need to though. A good design should cost you between €600 and €900 and not more.

There are cheaper options available and places like elance.com are great sources of freelance ability.

5) Allow time for a proof or even a rethinking of your cover
Whatever your timetable is, make sure that you plan all of these steps to ensure you have sufficient time to rethink a cover. Perhaps when your designer is finished you will not be happy with their work, or it will need serious tweaking.

Don’t be too worried. Even trade publishers rethink and comprehensively rework jackets at the last minute.

Wrap up

I am speaking from a trade perspective. I have heard that some academic houses do allow for authors to decide on covers if they don’t want a plain or series cover. I think the money is better unspent on the authors part in such cases.

A lot of this advice is only worthwhile if an author is intent on selling copies to a wide audience. If the market is limited to a few friends, then feel free to designer your own cover in whatever way suits!

Tired but happy to be finished driving for the weekend,
Eoin

Our Grannies’ Recipes Launches

Eoin Purcell

Something web-to-print sir?
About eight weeks ago we had a brain wave in work. Why not publish a book of favourite traditional Irish recipes, the recipes that our grandmothers, mothers, fathers and grandfathers cooked for us when we were young (or even when we were older and just home for some spoiling).

The issue then became, how will we collect all those recipes? And with a bit of help from the rest of the team at Mercier I realised, you use the internet. Thus was born: OurGranniesRecipes.com which has gone live today with two new posts.

Rapid launch
From concept to site has taken about eight weeks. After thinking the process through i thought it best to use freely available templates and software and to customise a theme rather than design a whole new one (if only because I have not yet even close to the level of confidence I’d need to do that). As this is the first project by Mercier on its own on the web, it has been a fairly steep learning curve. It has been enormous fun and I think it will continue to be as well.

There is more to come
Mercier is not the first to use web to print (not even in Ireland) and I’m sure others are doing cooler, better things than we are. On the other hand, this is exactly the type of project that people can get involved and excited about.

It is also exactly the type of project that publishers (even the least web savvy) can get involved in. It takes a little learning and maybe a little stress but it is time hungry rather than capital hungry and the support of the web community can be rewarding and exciting.

Here’s to hoping it comes together
Eoin

PS Feel free to submit a recipe here

A Christmas Baking Slideshow

Long sentences alert!
In what is rapidly becoming a tradition Blathnaid and I bake a mountain of mince pies from scratch (including making our very own mince meat). This year we threw in some gingerbread men (and women, not to mention children), sugar cookies, macaroons, pecan fingers and in spite of my bad handling of the cooking of them, some rather fabulous florentines.

This year also took some nice pictures! Hope you enjoy them.

Full of festive spirit,
Eoin

Back in the new year with thoughts on e-books, kindle, the Irish trade and Black Swans!

5 reasons why I blog

Eoin Purcell

Litlove tagged me. As I tagged her recently it would be rude not to post so here goes:

1) To make sense of a confusing period of change in Publishing: By far the most important reason for me is to sort ideas in my mind, write them down have others discuss/argue them and basically make sure I know what I am thinking when it comes to publishing.

2) To find out what others are saying about Publishing: You know it sounds like one but actually it is different. Commentators on this blog have led me far and wide in my search for the changes and the changers that are shaping the industry I hope to work in for many years to come. Reading other blogs has also opened doors to other perspectives.

3) To be part of the conversation: the last thing I’d want is for these changes to happen with no input from me. That way massive shifts might occur without me having any impact. Sure there is little I can do as a single individual but I’d still like my view to be heard and my opinion to be considered. Blogging helps that happen.

4) To help build my profile: This is a guilty one because who likes selling themselves. Let’s face it though, the world is a big place and the more you can build your profile in it the better. I won’t pretend for a second that I am making waves but at least some people are paying attention.

5) Because its fun: I enjoying it. Need I say more?

And I tag: Blathnaid, Kieran and Richard.
Eoin

Change: What’s been taking up my time

Eoin Purcell

Reading Fiction
Is a surprisingly large part of my job. Although Mercier only publishes a very few fiction titles and those are of a very good standard (For Example), many of the submissions we get are fiction so for the first time I am reading fiction with a critical eye (i.e. Is it good? Can we sell it? Will it make money? Is there a good hook for the retailer?). I read one over the weekend that I loved but the questions still pile up.

Anyway this is a post more to talk about change more than anything. Change in strategy at Snowbooks. Where Emma Barnes has posted a very detailed analysis of how tricks are going for them:

Our top ten (out of 50 live) titles account for 65% of our total margin.
Our second best selling line in terms of volume, value and margin is Boxing Fitness.
We made exactly the same cash gross margin on Living the Good Life as The Crafter’s Companion, yet Living has sold only 38% of the volume of Crafters.
10 books have made more than £10,000 gross profit.
Our average gross profit per unit is £1.31.
Our average cost per unit is £1.20.
Our average sales value per unit is £2.50.

Change at if:book where Sophie has finally launched:

Sophie’s raison d’être is to enable people to create robust, elegant rich-media, networked documents without recourse to programming. We have word processors, video, audio and photo editors but no viable options for assembling the parts into a complex whole except tools like Flash which are expensive, hard to use, and often create documents with closed proprietary file formats. Sophie promises to open up the world of multimedia authoring to a wide range of creative people.

James has a good initial review.

Change too at LibraryThing which has launched LibraryThing for libraries:

What is LibraryThing for Libraries?

* Give your patrons exciting new content, including recommendations and tag clouds.
* Let your patrons take part, with reviews, ratings and tags. Keep the control you want.
* Enhance your catalog with just a few lines of HTML. Works with any OPAC and requires no back-end integration. Really.
* Draw on the collective intelligence of your patrons and LibraryThing members.

And if the words of those from mercier are true a sense of change in publishing too. There seems to have been a great amount of positivity and energy at LBF this year. Sounds good to me.

Enjoying a nice weekend
Eoin