OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
There are two things that are non-negotiable in my opinion for indie authors who want to sell books.
In today's episode, I talk about book cover design with Derek Murphy, who designs all my book covers, plus we discuss the importance of artists also being entrepreneurial.
In the intro, I talk about my writing updates on Gates of Hell and One Day in New York, as well as the STORY conference I am going to with Robert McKee. I also mention the Christmas thriller giveway – win 12 print books here. I'm speaking in Auckland, New Zealand on Tues 16 Dec, click here for more details, as well as at PubSenseSummit in Charleston in March 2015.
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Kobo’s financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and if you enjoy the show, you can now support my time on Patreon. Thank you!
Derek Murphy is an author, cover designer and entrepreneur at Creativindie.com, as well as working on his PhD in Literature.
- Derek talks about his background in writing, studying at Taiwan University and his life abroad studying and writing, as well as fine art. He explains how he started an editing business and then moved into book cover design. In terms of marketing, book cover design business builds by word of mouth, whereas many authors won't talk about the editing process. He's traveled a lot internationally although he is American, studying in Malta in philosophy and theology and is now doing a PhD in Literature. We discuss academia vs entrepreneurship, and how to foster the latter by learning over time.
It's important for artists to learn how to sell, as well as create, if they want to make a living from this.
- What are the trends right now in book covers? For non-fiction, Bebas neue is being used a lot, and in fact, using fonts and words is prevalent in non-fiction in general, instead of being image heavy. For fiction, it depends on the genre.
- A big mistake for fiction authors with covers – trying to convey the whole story of the book on the cover with aspects of every scene, so it is very over-complicated. You really only have a couple of seconds to catch attention, and that's the job of the book cover. It needs to convey genre, and be good looking so the reader knows they want more. If the reader is attracted, they will read title, book description and then get a sample.
Using a person on the cover vs using a theme on the cover.
- We've reinvented my Desecration book cover design to resonate more with genre and use a person on the front, but sales are inconclusive. Derek talks about a cover he did recently (shown left) which has a reinvented theme only in the center and then with a person added as well – which do you prefer? A person is relatable so it has some kind of emotional impact. But in the end, the quality of the cover will make a huge cover.
- We talk about the different cultural perspectives on covers – American covers vs European vs Asian. Cultural snobbery around literary covers in Britain does impact the design but may mean they don't sell as well in America. Think about your target market and browse the categories in the country store for that market and make sure that your cover appeals to that market. Right now, we can't upload different covers by market, but hopefully that will come at some point
- Big name author book covers and big name author websites – often they are not optimized to sell books, because those authors will sell books anyway. Over-complicating your covers and website is a bad idea for indies. The point of the cover is to get attention in the genre. The point of the website is to attract people to your email list and show up in search.
The most beautiful thing on your website should be your book covers.
- On color palette, emotional resonance and genre. It's basic color psychology, which works all over the place e.g. what colors are used in hospitals vs boardrooms.
- Top 3 bad things about indie book covers. Colors are a really obvious issue, and a color wash to neutralize the elements will help a lot. The font choice and effects are also important, and using drop shadows to make the font stand out is a classic error. You should use shading and font choice to make it stand out. An another issue is the amount of text on the cover. You don't want to cram it full of text, especially for fiction in terms of quotes, sub-titles etc. We talk about the eBook Cover Design Awards on The Book Designer which is a great site to find designers and see what works.
Finding and working with a book cover designer
- It's not necessarily about them being nice! You don't want to be the one doing the design, you don't want them to do what you want, because you don't know about design. Trust your designer because of their experience. I have a list of book cover designers here. To get a good cover design, you will be paying quite a bit.
- Derek has a lot of tools for authors who want to try it themselves. Here's how to make your own cover in MS Word, and here's a whole load of templates on DIYBookCovers.com.
On becoming more entrepreneurial
- This is critical for authors and artists. You need to think about the reader, the product, the marketing, the business side – once you've at least written that first book. Marketing doesn't work if you have a product that nobody wants. Think about creating value for other people. How can you improve other people's lives? How can you entertain, educate or inspire? Derek talks about some of the ideas he has at the moment – he's an entrepreneurial machine! We also talk about fear of failure and how you have to get past that as an entrepreneur.
- Derek talks about his own novel, Shearwater, and what he's doing with his own books going forward.