You can’t tell a book by its cover. Oh, yeah? I do, all the time. I don’t buy a book unless I like the cover. I loved the cover of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild—a worn hiking boot—and that was the reason I splurged on the hardcover version of her book. I just had to have it. And I was right, I loved the book.
When I was starting to mull over the idea of self-publishing The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle I was first going to do the cover myself. A DIY cover that would show my creativity, right? Wrong.
While some authors can get away with their own covera, I knew I had to hire a professional. Especially after I saw some self-published authors’ book covers. They looked so…so…unprofessional.
And it is true that you get what you pay for. I figured that I was investing in myself and my career. I had to approach self-publishing the way you’d approach any business. I wanted to make the book cover be the best it could be. I ended up hiring designforwriters via Catherine, Caffeinated, Catherine Ryan Howard, who has amazing tips for self-publishing here. She suggested designforwriters.com and I loved the bold covers that Andrew Brown made for a variety of authors.
Andrew and I spoke and I told him about my book. It is a book about my journey across Canada and up into Alaska on my motorcycle with my husband on his motorcycle. It is a journey of self-discovery as well as a love story. He came back with this cover:
While it is cute and whimsical and…not to be picky and too geekily techno, but that is a pink Vespa with hearts and I happened to ride a BMW red motorcycle up to Alaska…I also knew I would never buy a book with a cover like that. I don’t like writing with curlicues. I don’t read books with titles that have curly letters. I like my fonts like my husband: simple and sleek. And I am my first reader. If I don’t fall totally in love with the cover of my own book, why would anyone else?
Also, the cover was remarkably similar to another cover…A few months earlier, I had asked someone to do a cover for me. I didn’t want to pay much money, and the designer had come up with this:
Doesn’t that woman look crazily scary? Would you have bought a book about a woman like this? She looks like she took off straight for the funny farm. I wanted a cover that would inspire you to take off on your own journey…whether it is to run a marathon or walk to raise money for cancer research or sit at home and try to write a book.
Part of the problem is that cover designers work from stock images. If you want a free image, then there are few photos to work with. This woman on a Vespa happens to be one of the few free images floating around.
Maybe I wasn’t getting my message across. Did I even have a message? Did I even have a reason to want to self-publish a book? (More on checking your motives in a future post.)
Then Andrew came up with this cover.
So, what was wrong with this? Well, I’m not a big fan of the colors. I wanted a real photo and not an image. From far away, it looks like a papercut. Also, seeing those words on the cover made me rethink the idea. What was I trying to say? I also realized that I have an aversion to the term “Empty Nester.” It sounds as enthralling as “Menopausal.”
Also, I realized that the motorcycle wasn’t really the message. I didn’t write Men and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Oops, I mean Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The motorcycle was part of the journey, obviously, but it was more than that.
So we went back to the drawing board and Andrew came up with this:
The catch was that I had to buy the rights to use the photo. So make sure when you do hook up with a cover designer you say that you are willing to spring for the rights to a photo or you are limited to free photo or art images.
I thought it was super until I showed it to my youngest daughter, Libby, who said, “Mom, did you really reinvent yourself?”
Ouch. She was right. While I did reinvent a vision of myself during the ride (read the book to find out) I didn’t turn into a 5-star chef or change into someone radically different. In point of fact, I became more me, which is a magical, radical concept. Also, the “reinvent” word didn’t feel authentically me. It seemed to be a word that was floating around the internet zeitgeist but it wasn’t my own. Plus, it seemed to wordy.
Andrew was very patient when I told him that I need another cover…and that is what you now see at the top of this page. I like it. I would buy this book. If I saw this book, I’d wish that I’d written it. And I am happy to say that I did.
The Most Important Self-Publishing Tip: When you are self-publishing, treat yourself like the CEO of your own publishing company and treat yourself as the primary author. Make solid business decisions. Invest wisely. Do not settle for schlock. Do not give self-publishing a bad name. This is your product. Treat it carefully.
What do you think? Does it make you want to buy the book? What are you experiences with cover designers? Did you do your own cover?
- International PenCraft Books to Assist Writers Become Published (prweb.com)
- The DIY Guide – A Good Book Cover (theindieexchange.com) This might help you if you still insist on making your own cover. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)