We asked three self-published authors about the importance of having a good cover and making a mark through branding…

Talli Roland

We’ve all heard the old adage ‘never judge a book by its cover’. As much as I try not to, I confess: I do, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Many times I’ve read a blurb that sounds intriguing, but when I take a look at the book’s cover, I go cold. Shallow, yes, but I want my purchase to have a beautiful cover that attracts me. Somehow, the cover taints the promise of the story inside.

When I was a traditionally published author, cover design was pretty much taken care of. My editor would send me a few designs, I’d make suggestions, we’d tweak them, and that was that. Although I was fortunate enough to be able to give some input, I trusted my publisher to come up with something to represent my novels effectively.

As a self-published author, you can kiss that goodbye! Suddenly, the task of choosing an appropriate cover is in your hands. While it’s exciting to be in control, it’s also very scary. Given what I’d learned through being traditionally published, I knew I wanted a cover that screamed out the genre (chick lit); that was fun; and that also had the same look as my previous covers (fonts, etc) so they all worked together to build on my author brand. Next, I had to decide if I had the skills to do this myself. We’ve all seen covers that look like they’ve been slapped together, sadly doing the novel no favours. I wanted mine to appear professional, and that meant hiring a cover designer.

When you look to employ a designer, have a clear idea of what you want. A stock photo, with lettering? Custom illustrations? If it’s a bespoke design, be prepared to pay for it – an artist’s work does not come cheaply. Go on Amazon and pick a few covers you love from books in your genre to give the designer an idea of the look you’re going for.

If you decide to create a cover yourself, make sure you show it to other people (besides friends and family, if possible), and ask them to be brutally honest. It’s hard to hear your creation may not be up to snuff, but it’s better to get the feedback before it goes out to market. And if your first cover isn’t working, don’t be afraid to try again! That’s the great thing about ebooks – your novel can have a whole new look in only a few hours.

The cover is your book’s chance to make a great first impression. Dress it up as best you can.

Talli Roland writes fun, romantic fiction with just a touch of snark. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine). Despite training as a journalist, Talli soon found she preferred making up her own stories – complete with happy endings. Talli’s debut novel The Hating Game was short-listed for Best Romantic Read at the UK’s Festival of Romance, while her second, Watching Willow Watts, was selected as an Amazon Customer Favourite. Her novels have also been chosen as top books of the year by industry review websites and have been bestsellers in Britain and the United States. Build A Man is her latest release. You can learn more about Talli at http://www.talliroland.com

Mandy Baggot

Some of you may hate it but building a brand is an absolute necessity for today’s author.

Just like Heinz and Kellogg’s are instantly recognisable in the aisles of the supermarket, books need to be eye-catching, professional and, once you’ve got more than one book out, there they need to be familiar.

What do the household names in writing all have in common? Answer, a brand. Most well-known authors have created a style that is expected and therefore familiar. Familiarity is important for readers, it’s comfortable and it means they can find their favourite author without having to look too hard.

When I set about thinking about creating a brand I looked at authors who wrote in my genre (contemporary romance). Three I liked the look of were Jill Mansell, Tilly Bagshawe and Jilly Cooper. What these three authors have in common is their name. The author’s name is the biggest bit of text on the cover and takes precedence over the name of the book. I know with first-time authors the book title usually gets the nod over an untested name, but if you are an indie author and hoping to build up a portfolio of books and attract readers to your work you have to connect with them and they need to know who you are! Your name, big, bold and unmissable should be your selling tool. You aren’t just wanting to sell that book to the consumer you want to sell yourself and if you want to be successful as a self-published author, believe me you really have to sell yourself!

So, having taken this all into consideration let me introduce you all to Brand Baggot!

 

Don’t they look lovely? Don’t they look like a matching set? Don’t they look so much better than my old covers? My name is big and bold at the top of each one in the same font, the titles of the books are in the same style and we have a silhouette theme going on that will continue with future books. The modern and distinctive romantic feel to the books also gives an appropriate flavour, a hint at the nature of the writing inside.

First impressions do count and if you haven’t enticed a reader to even pick up/click on your book with the cover they aren’t even going to bother to read the wonderfully edited words inside. Find your style, create your brand and then market your books to the world!

Mandy Baggot is a self-confessed Twitter addict who likes to do Lady Gaga impressions on You Tube. She regularly guests on writing blogs and is a featured author on innovative website loveahappyending.com. Taking Charge is her fifth novel. Mandy lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire with her husband and two daughters. Find out more at http://www.mandybaggot.webs.com.

Anna Bell

When I decided to publish my ebook Millie and the American Wedding I have to admit I didn’t give the cover a whole lot of thought, I naively assumed that it wasn’t that important. I thought it was always going to be obvious that it was self published and that I’d be pleased if I just managed to sell a few copies. I guess I didn’t want to spend a lot of money getting it professionally designed as I didn’t want to lose money on the book. So I designed a cover myself and I was pleased with what I came up with, and thought with a bit of tidying up it would do. I sent a draft over to Kirsty, the editor of the website Novelicious, and she very politely suggested that it should probably look like covers of the similar books on the market. She then kindly designed me the cover I now have.

When I saw the new cover it changed how I viewed my book, as all of a sudden it looked like a proper book, one that I would actually pick up off a bookshelf in a shop. I delayed the publication by six weeks to re-edit it, to make sure that the book inside was up to the same standard as the cover! I realise now it was absolutely the right cover for my book. When I see my book alongside other books on Amazon’s ‘Customers who bought’ section I feel not only does it fit with the other chick lit books on offer, but it doesn’t scream self-published. I would suggest to any author who wants to self-publish to take time looking at the covers on the Kindle store – spot the self-published DIY covers and ask yourself if you would buy that book?

Anna Bell is a reviewer for the Chicklit Club, she writes The Secret Dreamworld of an Aspiring Author on Novelicious and is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Assoication New Writers’ Scheme. Millie and the American Wedding is her debut novel and is available on Amazon http://amzn.to/xhS062

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