By Anita B. Carroll

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Discover how the cover design directly affects your book sales by going behind the scenes with a designer

How important do you think your cover design is? Is it worth it to spend the money on a professional designer? That’s a good question and you would expect me, a designer, to push for hiring a pro.

However, when you look at the facts, the question really is, can you afford not to hire a designer?

A book cover re-design project, analyzed.

Let me show you a cover re-design project I worked on with self-published author Glen Romero for his novella “Welcome to the Fight: Silent Wars”.

Some months ago, I was invited by Mr. Romero to review his cover, which he himself had designed.  To be more accurate, he did the typography, not the illustration.  Here is an image of what the cover looked like, with Romero’s type design:

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My initial thought was that the typography was weak and perhaps a bit on the amateurish side.  I found the cover art rather intense.  I immediately I felt the itch, and could not wait to get to work.

Designing a book cover is quite a close partnership between the writer and designer, and I always approach each book cover design project the same:  I have to read the book, for both novels and non-fiction.  What I have found from experience is that the client is not always able to articulate their vision and reading the story helps me better understand the type of story the author is telling and the mood/ambiance they’re going for. I am a visual reader, so when I read I visualize myself in the story and go wherever the story leads me, and new questions for the client will develop.  So, I keep my sketchbook close by and begin drawing concepts or make notes of things that I feel inspired by.  Something that I feel a connection with and believe I can create a unique, fresh interpretation of.  I never know where my focus will end up; if it will be a specific moment or event, or a specific trait in the main character, or something that represents the whole story.

My design style is minimalistic and I tend to gravitate toward using one simple focus, something that is a visual representation of the message, to help attract readers of that specific genre.

Also, sometimes the cover I create is not what the client initially asked for, but I think it is important to propose it, because at the end what counts is making a cover that best represents the story.  … I have yet to be told no.  My process may not work for everyone, but it seems to be the right approach for the clients I’ve had so far.  It is my job as the designer, to create a cover that fits the story and help the author’s vision become a reality.  Having a sellable cover will essentially determine the success of the book.  So, I put a lot of my soul into each project to ensure that I do.

An understanding of Romero’s story began to develop as I was reading, and I was immediately grabbed by the intensity of it, and could now see why he picked this specific cover art.

The effects of type

Sometimes the author wants to go with a specific photo or artwork for their cover.  The focus then becomes entirely on the typography, and creating type that compliments and sometimes enhances the existing artwork.

For Romero’s cover re-design project, I decided to keep the artwork and removed the type he had created, and added what seemed a more appropriate typography design. The book and the cover image are intense, and I thought his original choice in typography was too timid, and therefore inconsistent.

Here it is, a fresh take on “Welcome to the Fight:  Silent Wars”.

anita 3A close up of the type.

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It’s in the numbers

The most intriguing part about this cover re-design project was when Romero contacted me several months later and shared his exciting news on how this new design had changed his book sales, completely.  Up until then I had no idea of what his sales had been. So as you can imagine, I was quite surprised once I learned that prior to the implementation of the new cover design, he had had zero sales.  0 sales.  Nada.  Null.  No sales.

Romero agreed to share his sales numbers with all of you.  Listed by month, the following graph displays Romero’s book sales from November 2012 through October 2013.

Book sales Nov. 2012-Oct 2013

Book sales Nov. 2012-Oct 2013

Can you guess when the new cover design was published?

Since Romero published the new cover design, he’s experienced a substantial increase of book sales.

Here is a message from one self-publisher to another, from author Glen Romero:

I noticed that my distribution had dropped off so I wanted to find a better image to use for my cover.  I attempted to add the title to the image and the effect was horrible.  My cover went from bad to mediocre at best.  Anita took the image I had and made a great cover out of it.  My distribution increase from an average of 8.5 downloads per month (0 in the previous 7 months).  To an average of 21.1 downloads since she fixed my cover.  The difference was immediate and measurable

When I finish the next installment of my book series, I’ll be going back to Ms. Carroll because of the experience and results.  The one thing for a new writer to remember is that you can have the best story out there but no one will know if you don’t have a good cover.  By going to a professional, you are going to get a good cover and get your story read.

The best advice

As a cover and branding designer professional, the best advice I can offer self-publishers is to know that the quality of your cover design is the single most important thing you can invest in when marketing your book.   Always keep in mind that your book cover is a representation of your work as an author.   It is part of your brand identity.  Most readers will see the cover before having the chance to read an excerpt from the book.

Learn more about Branding and the Importance of Cover Design for Authors in the Self—Publishing Industry. 

Romero’s re-design project offered me a valuable insight, and it felt great to actually see the work I do as a cover designer validated.    As a design professional I understand the magic behind having a good design and the positive results it will offer.  … But for some, actually seeing it is believing it.


About the Author

anita b carrollAnita B. Carroll is a visual design consultant and owner of Race-Point.com, supporting self-published authors and publishing houses with all their business brand identity design needs, and offers a FRESH take on book cover design.  Anita has over 17 years of experience within the visual design field, starting out managing creative initiatives for Fortune 500 Businesses in Silicon Valley, California.  She is specialized in Heuristic Evaluation, Web User Interface Design with focus on online usability testing, a valuable skill when designing book covers for the rapidly growing digital market.  Anita is also an avid reader. Discovering book cover design has provided the opportunity to combine her works in photography and graphic design skills.  In her free time, she enjoys traveling and exploring what Mother Nature has to offer with her family. … You might spot her at one of the U. S. Cape beaches, biking the National Sea Shore trails.

To connect with Anita and see more of her work, we welcome you to visit her Portfolio Website, and you can easily connect with her on Facebook and Twitter (@RacePointUS).

Anita enjoys connecting with self-published authors of any genre, so please feel free to contact her directly at: anita@race-point.com with any cover design questions and needs.  Let her know you read her article on Kobo!

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