When co-authors Bob Stuckey and Ken Cooper contacted me about designing their business book, The Control Catastrophe: Why your organization is wasting money and how to fix it, they gave me a brief description of their manuscript and identified their target audience—corporate executives, managers and supervisors.
The Design Process
I began my process by looking at other books on business topics. I found that all of them had put the most important word—the subject—at the top of the cover in bold type, so it would grab the reader’s attention immediately. The best ones had images that captured the book’s theme with a single, clever image that told a story.
All of those design principles would work with this book. Next, I had to decide on important elements, such as which fonts, colors, and visuals would not only make an impact but would also make clear what the book was about.
I looked for images that would work with a text-heavy title and subtitle and presented three layouts with different photos to the authors: 1) a wastebasket with crumpled cash; 2) a pile of burning money; and 3) crumpled money in a dustpan. Numbers 1 and 3 could be outlined to eliminate the background, which was a selling point. The authors chose layout number 1. The visual was self-evident; crumpled-up bills in a waste basket clearly showed a way to waste money.
Front Cover Details
In this case, because I thought the fonts should be strong to convey the importance of the book’s subject matter, I chose a bold sans serif typeface. The final cover design had the title centered at the top; the first line was gray, and the word “catastrophe” was red. The subtitle emphasized the words “wasting money” in all caps. The author’s names were set in white on the bottom of the cover. The authors liked the design. But, as always, there were small tweaks made to the final cover layout, such as reducing the size of the trash can and placing it under the title and subtitle.
The front cover of a book is the first thing a reader sees, the spine makes it stand out on a bookshelf, and the back cover entices the reader to buy. If the front cover catches their attention, they will turn the book over and read the synopsis.
Back Cover Details
A compelling red headline starts the book description on the back cover. The lower part of the page has a list of benefits, followed by a bold italic, call-to-action statement. The text is broken into two “chunks” to make it quick to read the synopsis and bullet points. Another graphic element—one crumpled dollar bill—was placed under the text.
The back cover is a billboard that tells the reader everything he needs to know: what the book is about, why they want to read it, who you are, and why you are qualified to write this book, perhaps an endorsement or two, and the price. (The author’s explanation / why he wrote this book; and bios are in the interior pages. He did not have endorsements or a price yet.) That may seem like a lot of information to fit into the back cover, but good design makes it readable and attractive.
Making a Wise Investment
Bob Stuckey and Ken Cooper obviously know all the ways in which companies waste money, so they were determined not to fall into one of those traps. Book marketing experts say that hiring a professional book designer is a wise investment. The authors were very pleased with the finished product and seemed to feel their money was well spent.
From the authors
“We didn’t “seem” to feel that our money was well-spent with professional book designer Nehmen-Kodner, we definitely know it was well-spent. We were able to totally focus on our book, and let Peggy work her magic making it look great and present well. Peggy is more than just a service. She’s also been an advisor with all kinds of great ideas to help us with the publishing process. And it’s paid off. This book is now the centerpiece of a large-scale consulting intellectual property sale directed at top executives. The book, from cover to content layout, creates instant credibility.