Well, release day is just around the corner (June 29th), and today, we’re talking about covers.
Covers are, of course, a subject of huge excitement and fear — especially if you decide to do it yourself, which is something you should never do, and I’m doing it. Why? Oh, why? Oh, why on Earth would I choose to do it myself? Well, here’s an interesting aspect of self-publishing — you have to think like a business person — twice.
The first time is like any self-employed writer — and if you’re ever considering quitting your day job (which you shouldn’t), you should know that you will have to think like a self-employed business person because that’s what you will become. A writer is, essentially, a content provider for publishers. The business contact we have is mostly business-to-business. But we also have to deal with promotions and some sales, albeit in a non-retail mode of operation. We have to negotiate contracts, weigh the investments of cons and speaking engagements, and even pay quarterly estimated taxes.
But the second time around is as a publisher. When you self-publish, you become the publisher, and you have to make many decisions with that hat on and not the hat of the writer. And this is where covers come in to play.
The fact is that short story collections are not big sellers. This should not be anything surprising and for most of our readers, I suspect this is old news. So, while the writer in me would love to pay an artist five hundred dollars to create something beautiful and eye-catching, the publisher in me knows that if I spend too much, I probably won’t make my money back. And let’s face it — I’m not doing this to lose money. If this were a novel, I would certainly shell out the money and more, but as a short story collection, I had to focus my funds on copy-editing and the like. So, I did the cover myself.
Of course, because I care a lot about this book, I didn’t just throw anything on the cover. I researched what was needed and acted accordingly. Here’s what I learned:
- Covers for printed books and covers for ebooks are different animals. Printed books go by the 3-foot rule — a book cover should be easily understandable from three feet away — in other words, the maximum distance for somebody walking by in the aisle. An ebook cover, however, needs to be understandable from the tiny scale of a thumbnail .jpg!
- So, big titles in easily readable fonts and colors are important — thus, my title is almost half the cover, and I’ve checked the cover out in the various thumbnail sizes used by amazon, bn, and others. As far as I can tell, it holds up well.
- Like print books, the author’s name should only be as big as the value of that name. In my case, my name won’t sell across the country, but it will sell to those who know my work (I hope), so I made it a decent size, though not as big as the title.
- Blurbs and extra-wordage are useless for an ebook. Really. Take a look at any of the book covers on this site. They are all far larger than you’ll get at the search/browsing level on amazon. Can you make out any of the blurbs or other words? No. Title and author are what readers will see.
- Finally, a single strong image that expresses the book is more useful than a more detailed image. There can be some detail. My cover for example has a single image — a brain — but when you see the larger cover, you can enjoy the “labels” that are provided. But overall, this is not good news for my illustrator friends who made a living painting sweeping planetscapes or massive cities and the like. Not that these will go away, but rather that the demand for such art will lessen (and according to them, has already begun to lessen).
Go to amazon and check out the book covers. Some of the print ones are beautiful in your hand but translate poorly to thumbnail size. You can barely read the titles and the colorful images are tough to see — especially on a b/w e-reader.
So, with all that in mind, I went to work and came up with what follows. It’s not perfect, but I think it’ll do the job. And in the end, one of the perks of ebooks is that should this collection sell better than expected, I can pay an artist for a new cover and update the file, instantly creating a new edition!
Without further yapping, here’s the cover:
And here’s the cover in one of the smallest thumbnail sizes (in fact, smaller than anything I’ve seen at the major ebook retailers) to illustrate what I’m talking about: