My friend Sherry saw my Facebook post about the St. Louis Publishers Association’s webinar, “How to Publish Your Book.” I teach a segment on book design. Sherry was curious because she would like to write a book.
Here are the questions she asked about book covers.
Q. Do you read a book from cover to cover before making suggestions for a book cover.
A. Sometimes I will read the entire manuscript but not always. I ask authors to “tell me what your book is about in two or three sentences.” Similar to an elevator speech, authors should be able to describe their book quickly. Here’s an article I just read that relates to your question.
Q. Do you ask authors what they envision for a cover before you offer your ideas?
A. Yes. It’s important to know what the author is thinking and whether the author’s idea is headed in the right direction. Sometimes the author has a particular photo they have in mind for the cover.
Here’s a case study: Several years ago, an author asked me to use a world map image for her cover. I asked, “What is your genre?” She said it’s a murder mystery and a love story. I told her the image did not match the genre—she was not headed in the right direction. I asked her to identify other books in her genre so that we could look at the competitor’s covers and popular imagery.
Instead of using her map image, I found other images that were better for her cover by searching for photos on stock websites, such as GettyImages, iStockImages, or Shutterstock.
Q. My daughter is an interior designer, and she has a questionnaire she has clients fill out before choosing a direction. Is it the same with covers?
A. Yes, I have a very similar process. It’s important to gather as much information as possible about the book before I start designing. I ask about comparable titles. The author needs to know their* target audience and their specific genre.
Q. Or do most authors come with no preferences?
I think an author who has no preference does not understand her specific genre and target audience. It’s better to have an author who has an open mind and is willing to see creative ideas based on their genre. An author should do market research to know what’s selling.
Other authors are very specific.
For instance: Jim Laurie’s book — He wanted to use that specific photo for the cover.
Another example: Kyla’s book — She showed me images that did not match her genre. I searched stock websites for images that resembled a medical thriller.
Sherry replied, “Thanks, Peggy. All very interesting.”
I hoped Sherry’s curiosity was satisfied. I called upon what I have learned over the years to answer her questions. Of course, there is so much more to understand about cover design, but this was a beginning. I encouraged her to sign up for the SLPA webinar which is always informative for anyone who is curious about what is involved in designing an effective cover for their book.
Thanks for reading.