Sunday, December 21, 2014

Adventures in Self Publishing - Covers Part Two

Before going to the nuts and bolts of making covers (or rather, I link to people who can actually explain things), let's take a look at some of the cover elements.  For physical books in a physical store, covers were like miniature billboards that first got the reader's attention.  Things aren't too much different today, but now we're looking at thumbnail images on Amazon.  This means that your image needs to look good at this size, and (most) text needs to be readable.  Let's look at some particular elements.

Simple enough.  Just make it readable.  Even if readers already know the title, it looks bad to have some kind of smudgy nonsense on the cover.  The title can also be the major visual element of the cover.

If you look at bestsellers, the author's name will be bigger than the title.  That's because Stephen King or James Patterson or whoever can sell a book on the basis of their name/reputation alone.  You are nobody.  Nobody will buy a book because of your name.  One could make an argument that if you put J.O. Nobody on the cover you could fool people into thinking you're more important than you are, and sadly that me be true.  For me, I'll say that the author's name is the least important element of an ebook cover for beginning authors.  If someone is looking for you, they'll find you through the search box, not by browsing covers.  And your name will pop up anyway below the cover in those coveted "You might like" thumbnails.  You do want to have the author's name there somewhere, though, as some retailers require it.  Smashwords has kicked back my stuff sometimes for not having it.

These are optional, but are often used as a way of sneaking more keywords into the Amazon metadata.  Here's where you'll have your "In the tradition of a [enter real book here]", or "If you liked [actual writer], you'll love [your crap]".  Or my favorite, "By the Bestselling Author of a Book That Made it to #99 on the Free Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Settings/Mountains list for two hours that one time".  I hate those techniques, but they probably work.  You are excused for something like "A Curvy, Were-Walrus Menage Fantasy" or the like.  If you want to put it in the "Subtitle" entry when submitting it to KDP or wherever, it needs to be present on the cover.  Note that if you're just using a subtitle to get in more keywords, it might not be as important to have the text readable at thumbnail size.

One difference between physical books and ebooks is that readers may be more critical of ebook covers.  If a book is in a store, there's an implication that it's passed some kind of editorial scrutiny before getting there.  An ebook, not so much, and the competency of the cover may be a warning sign for the rest.

Keep in mind, you can change your cover whenever you want.  I've done so several times, and it takes mere seconds to upload, though it does sometimes take several days for the changes to take affect on the various websites.

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