• Julie Gray

The Importance of a Great Book Cover Design

Updated: Mar 5

If you have the talent and drive to write a book in the first place, you are already amazing. I have recently become quite convinced that independent publishing is the best way to go for writers and I'll expand on that another time. But I have noticed that many independently published writers overlook the fact that you really must have a budget for your book, to include professional editing, interior design, and cover art.

It is self-evident that we humans are often first drawn to most anything by the way it looks - especially books. Design, branding, colors, font - all of these visuals have a powerful influence on whether we pick up this book versus that book. We all make snap decisions.

The title is also crucial, as well as the subtitle and whether your book has visibility at all, whether that be through your own self-marketing initiatives and the keywords and categories needed on Amazon or others, but the importance of a professionally designed cover is impossible to overstate. But even then, you do need to have your eyes wide open as to the cost and you have to choose not just a designer but a book cover designer.

The cover of my first book, Just Effing Entertain Me: A Screenwriter's Atlas was professionally designed yet, it's complicated; the design did not help the book sales. I used a wonderful artist, whom I heartily endorse and love but my designer was not specifically a book cover designer. So the end result is very artistic and fun and unusual - but a bit too much so. It's hard to tell what the heck the book is about by glancing at the cover. Now, mind you, this was a niche book, a how-to guide about writing scripts for films, and so the audience for the book was (and is) a relatively small one - people interested in screenwriting, and people who knew and had worked with me or taken one of my classes. But still. I wish I had gone about that cover differently.

When I finished writing my book, The True Adventures of Gidon Lev, I knew for sure that I'd need a really evocative, professionally designed cover. I would also need that cover and design work to use for my social media, photo shares, and the ebook cover. But I also knew that the cover really had to tell the story of the book through its visuals. So I decided to give 99Designs a try. The cover that I wound up choosing cost about $850 and with that I got all of the social media images that I needed as well.

I am pleased with the outcome and I found that working with 99Designs was mostly a good experience, though I am not sure I would recommend the "contest" option, as you get quite a lot of designers competing to "win" and get the gig working for you. I found the process of communicating with each designer who submitted a bit overwhelming, arduous and time-consuming. I also found that not all designers are created equal - duh. What I mean by that is that even though they had guidelines from me; color scheme, photos I wanted to use, the title, font suggestions, some designers turned in work that was wildly off base. Other designers didn't communicate with me very well when I made small suggestions. I think that is a case of my not speaking the "designer" language. There really is quite a lot of back-and-forth when working with a designer and I had to remember that while I had my emotions very tied to my book and how it would look to the world, I am a writer, not a designer.

I am an editor by trade and I know that working with editors like me is not inexpensive. But I also knew, when I wrote The True Adventures, that I absolutely had to invest time and money into not just the editing and interior design but the "brand" of the book itself. I'm very happy with the results and while a nice cover is no guarantee of a book doing well, a bad cover is pretty hard to overcome.

In the world of professional book cover designs, there is everything from "premade" covers - templates - and that might be fine for your book - all the way up to very skilled, very expensive designers you can choose from. I needed the perfect combination of affordable, unique and artistic and I think I achieved that. Google "book cover designers" and have a look through what comes up. Just remember that you do get what you pay for.